The Centre has given a shot in the arm for relief efforts in flood-battered Kerala. Rs 600 crore (more than $85.9 billion) will be released to the state and emergency supplies will be exempted from both customs duty and Goods and Service Tax (GST).
Kerala endured one of the worst calamities in its history this summer as severe flooding hit the state. The disaster was triggered by unusually high monsoon rains, leaving lakhs homeless and more than 400 people dead in its wake. The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), sitting for a sixth consecutive day, agreed on the Rs 600 crore package for the beleaguered state.
The waiving of customs duty and GST will enable further resources to come in from other Indian states and countries such as the United Arab Emirates, which has pledged Rs 700 crore to help the state rebuild in the aftermath of the disaster. Until now, customs duty remained in place. This reportedly prevented several consignments of aid relief from reaching Kerala while import taxes were still in place.
The Government of Kerala has sought a Rs 2,600 crore aid package to aid it in its recovery from the violent floods. “India stands with Kerala in its hour of need,” Finance Minister Piyush Gopal said in a Tweet.
The Union health ministry has already announced its plans to step in to help the state prevent and control any potential outbreaks of infectious diseases. To this end, 3,757 medical camps are being established to help victims of the flood and supplies of medicines to treat diarrhoea and fever are being dispatched to the state.
The announcement of financial aid from the Centre will no doubt come as a relief to authorities coordinating relief efforts. Additional reserves of food, fuel and drinking water are also being sent. Efforts are also underway to restore power supplies.