Government releases Rs 600 crore aid to Kerala

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New Delhi : The Centre on Tuesday released Rs 600 crore to the Kerala government for relief work in the flood-ravaged state and decided to waive Customs Duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) on relief materials being imported.

The money released included Rs 500 crore announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rs 100 crore by Home Minister Rajnath Singh during their visits to the state, said a Union Home Ministry statement.

The money was released after the sixth consecutive meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) chaired by Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha here.

The NCMC has been meeting since August 16 to review the rescue and relief operations in Kerala which faced the worst floods in nearly 100 years, leaving around 370 persons dead and lakhs homeless.

The meeting was attended by Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose via video conferencing in which he said that "the situation (in Kerala) is now improving by and large though there are some isolated pockets: still under water. But the "water levels are receding fast".

The Finance Ministry informed the NCMC that it had decided to "waive the Customs Duty and GST on the relief materials being imported to aid the people in the flood-affected areas in Kerala".

The Department of Food and Public Distribution said it had made additional allocation of 89,540 tonnes of rice as per the state government's request while the Consumer Affairs Department said it was sending additional quantities of green gram and Tur dal, in addition to 100 tonnes of pulses supplied earlier.

Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies have contributed Rs 25 crore to the Chief Minister's Relief Fund in Kerala, the NCMC said.

The Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has opened special points in the flood affected areas for Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) distribution and permission had been granted, in coordination with the state government, for non-certified vehicles to carry LPG cylinders.

The Ministry said it had also made available 3.2 lakh LPG cylinders and 2.2 lakh regulators.

Indian Railways said it had so far supplied 24 lakh litres of drinking water in addition to 2.7 lakh water bottles. Another 14 lakh litres water was available at Ernakulam district.

The Railway Ministry said it had also made arrangements for supply of bed sheets and blankets and that trains on all sections had resumed.

"Railways is also transporting relief materials from various states to Kerala free of cost," the NCMC was told.

The NCMC was apprised that an action plan had been prepared for restoration of power supply in all the affected areas. "About 94 percent of telecom towers have been made functional. Power supply to telephone exchanges is being restored on priority."

The Health Ministry said it would supply three crore chlorine tablets in addition to one crore tablets supplied earlier and that 30 tonnes of bleaching powder and 1.76 lakh sanitary pads had also been sent.

"Additional quantities will be sent in the next few days."

The Ministry declared that no major outbreak of disease had been reported so far.

The Ministry of Food Processing Industries said essential spices, salt, tea and coffee were being supplied as per the state government's requirement.

"As the rescue operations wind down, the state administration has started de-requisitioning the teams of Defence Forces and NDRF," the NCMC told.

The NCMC meeting was attended by secretaries of Central ministries including Health, Telecom, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Power, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Commerce and Textiles and senior officers of Defence Forces, Ministry of Home Affairs and National Disaster Management Authority.