Special Correspondent

All-party team might head for Delhi for assistance

State Ministers submit memorandum to Shivraj Patil

NEW DELHI: A Central team will visit Kerala later this week to make an on-the-spot assessment of the damage caused to standing crop by the rains that lashed the State over the past week, killing 14 people. This was disclosed here on Monday by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to separate delegations from the State which met them to seek immediate relief.

Most affected

Briefing mediapersons after meeting Mr. Patil, Kerala’s Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran said the State government had asked the team to visit Alappuzha, Thrissur, Pathanamthitta and Kottayam in particular as the crop damage was most extensive in these four districts.

According to Mr. Rajendran, the State government’s assessment of the damage is in the vicinity of Rs.150 crore and that is the quantum of Central assistance being sought.

‘Expedite process’

The Minister sought to impress upon the Centre the need to expedite the process so that the relief package could be released to the affected farmers in time for the next crop. Along with Transport Minister Mathew T. Thomas, Mr. Rajendran met Defence Minister A. K. Antony and Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed. Though they had sought an appointment with Mr. Pawar, that did not come through as the Agriculture Minister had to leave the city during the day. However, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) K. Muraleedharan managed to meet Mr. Pawar in the morning and get him to announce to the media that a Central team would visit Kerala this week itself. Separately, Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the evening to seek Central assistance.

As for Mr. Chandy’s contention that the State government had not invited the Opposition to be part of its delegation, Mr. Rajendran said an all-party delegation would have to be led by the Chief Minister. In their memorandum, the two Ministers submitted that paddy crop amounting to Rs.92 crore had been damaged in the rain. Besides, several cash crops including coffee, pepper and cashew had been destroyed along with vegetables. The memorandum also draws attention to the fact that the Rs.134.396 crore sanctioned to Kerala as assistance for flood damage has not been released till date.