Thiruvananthapuram: The Indian Air Force has sent a bill for Rs 113.69 crore to the state government for the massive rescue operations carried out by the force during the floods in August 2018.
However, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has expressed the state’s inability to pay it.
The IAF had deployed helicopters and aircraft to rescue hundreds of people stuck in the flood-affected districts in the state. The effort of the Air Force came at a price which is evident from the hefty bill handed out to the state government.
However, official sources said defence forces sending bills to state governments for rescue operations was a normal procedure.
“Someone has to pay for the resources used by the IAF for rescue operations. Either it has to be from the funds given to states by the National Disaster Management Authority or from the funds set apart by the centre for disaster management. The government has made it clear that it is not in position to foot the bill in the current situation,” said Dr V. Venu, CEO Rebuild Kerala Initiative.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan shot off a letter to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh requesting him to exempt Kerala from paying the amount to the IAF. He reminded the minister that Kerala was struck back-to-back by Ockhi in 2017 and the floods in 2018.
It resulted in extensive damage to life and property besides creating stress on the fragile financial situation of the state.
The chief minister pointed out that the UN in its Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report had stated that Rs 31,000 crore was required for restoration of infrastructure and to meet other losses. However, the additional assistance received from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) was only Rs 2,904.85 crore. The amount was too little compared to the total recovery needs.
The government had launched the Rebuild Kerala Initiative (RKI) to ensure better standards of living for all sections of society. The government requires additional resources for this purpose and it has to be met from different sources.
Vijayan said that in these circumstances, it would be difficult to mobilise such a huge amount due to the IAF from the State Disaster Relief Fund. He urged the union minister to exempt the state from paying the dues to the IAF.
It may be recalled that last year the centre had informed the state government that the latter owed Rs 291.14 crore for rescue operations, operational expenses of IAF and the foodgrain provided by the union government to Kerala for the flood- affected people.
Experts say the armed forces do not have special budget to meet the expenses on rescue operations. The defence forces’ budget is meant for their own requirement as they do not carry out disaster management activities on a routine basis. Therefore, the money utilised by the forces for such operations has to be repaid by the state government or the centre from the SDRF or NDRF which has a special provision for meeting such expenses....