KERALA

Mani contests Centre's claim

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, AUG. 14. The Revenue Minister, K.M. Mani, today contested the Union Home Ministry's claim that it had refused to consider Kerala's plea for more drought relief on account of its failure to spend funds released earlier for the purpose.

In a statement here today, Mr. Mani said that Kerala had submitted a memorandum in January this year seeking special assistance of Rs. 1,359.03 crores to meet its additional commitment on drought relief. It had submitted a memorandum in April revising its plea for drought relief to Rs. 2,845 crores. However, the Central team, which arrived in the State to assess the loss on account of drought, recommended Rs. 49 crores as per the first memorandum and another Rs. 29 crores on the basis of the second memorandum. However, the Central team's assessment did not have any connection with the actual situation in the State.

Calamity Relief Fund

He said the State was eligible for Rs. 81 crores this year from the Calamity Relief Fund. The amount, of which Rs. 61 crores comes as Central assistance, would be utilised for drought and flood relief for the current year. He said the State usually approaches the Centre when its share from the Calamity Relief Fund becomes insufficient. The Centre shying away at this juncture was unfortunate, he added. He said the Centre usually released funds that were much below the amount the State was entitled to. It would have spent the amounts, if the entire amount had been sanctioned, he pointed out.

He said the charge that the State had failed to submit the accounts for the funds released earlier was also baseless. The Centre had released Rs. 31 crores in April on the basis of the accounts and utilisation certification submitted by the State Government for 2003-04. The State had already submitted the accounts to avail itself of the first instalment this year in May.

The next instalment is due in November, he pointed out.

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