Kochi: Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who also chairs the State Disaster Management Authority, is entitled to use a copter under provisions of the Disaster Management Act 2005, which his predecessors have used in almost similar circumstances. Whether he could have spared the Ockhi relief fund to fly down for the scheduled December 26 meeting with the Central team, one month after the disaster, is an ethical issue.
Stung by the media expose over the copter ride, courtesy Ockhi fund, Government sources cite the precedent of former chief minister Oommen Chandy using an IAF copter and travelling to Idukki to visit Cheeyappara area on August 6, 2013, where a landslide had occurred the previous day. This cost `28 lakh and was met from the disaster management fund.
Mr Chandy’s trip, the very next day of the landslide, falls into the category of an unanticipated exigency whereas in the case of Mr Vijayan, the copter ride had come almost a month after the Ockhi disaster of November 29-30. The date of the Central team’s arrival was known days in advance, giving the CM ample time to schedule his itinerary, both official and non-official.
In this context, Mr Vijayan’s trip from Thrissur to Thiruvananthapuram and back, mixing party and official business, does not fall within an Ockhi emergency though the Disaster Act 2005 allows the extension of the emergency spell up to 60 days. But that is technical.
Under official guidelines the period of emergency is primarily defined as 30 days and the State Executive Committee has powers to extend it further to 60 days. Under Section 11 of the Guidelines, the State Executive Committee can utilise up to 10 percent of the State Disaster Response Fund for procurement of essential search and evacuation equipment including communication equipment for response to disasters.
A Government order of 2016 says the “financial powers of the State Executive Committee for undertaking disaster preparedness, response and mitigation as envisaged vide the Disaster Management Act, 2005 is hereby delegated to Additional Chief Secretary, Revenue & Disaster Management within the financial limits (presently Rs 1 crore) of administrative department.. for matters related to plan/non-plan funds of KSDMA, SEOC, State Disaster Response Fund, State Disaster Mitigation Fund and other Government of India grants and project funds received by Disaster Management Authority”.
Sources say the expenses for the search and rescue operations undertaken by the Navy and Coast Guard would work out to Rs 10 crore, which would also be met from the State Disaster response Fund....