In Fresh Centre vs States Row, Tamil Nadu Moves Top Court Over Flood Relief

In Fresh Centre vs States Row, Tamil Nadu Moves Top Court Over Flood Relief

TN Flood Relief: Tamil Nadu was battered by floods in December last year (File).

New Delhi:

The Tamil Nadu government has moved the Supreme Court seeking an ex-parte order to the centre to release Rs 2,000 crore as part of an interim relief package for flood-ravaged districts. The state – hit by floods in December – sought Rs 37,000 crore for damage from Cyclone Michaung and heavy rainfall.

The state has also claimed the centre has not released relief funds, something which the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has denied. The state has also accused the centre of differential treatment in release of funds, arguing it is tantamount to discrimination and violates peoples’ fundamental rights.

“Even yesterday Kerala had argued in the Supreme Court… that the union government ought to permit it to borrow Rs 10,000 crore. Karnataka also argued in the top court, seeking drought relief. We too kept asking for flood relief… but they didn’t give,” Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin said.

The centre has replied via Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

“Rs 900 crore was already released to Tamil Nadu via SDRF, or State Disaster Response Funds. Had they utilised this properly, much could have been averted,” she said, “Besides, Rs 5,000 crore was arranged to build storm water drains in Chennai. Let them first release accounts for this.”

However, she also acknowledged that “what has to be given… will be given”. A high powered committee of union ministers and bureaucrats had assessed damages in the state three months ago.

Tamil Nadu’s Supreme Court approach is the latest flashpoint as tensions grow – with the Lok Sabha election now less than three weeks away – between the BJP at the centre and non-BJP governments in southern states. The fight over the release of funds to the southern states – whether for disaster relief or as part of dues from tax devolution – also made its way to the Parliament in February.

Ms Sitharaman and the Congress’ Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury sparred over the latter’s allegations that non-BJP state governments are “deprived of (financial) dues” and allocations. An incensed Ms Sitharaman hit back, saying “devolution… happens as per Finance Commission recommendation”.

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This happened as Karnataka’s Congress government mounted massive protests in the state and in Delhi over claims the BJP had failed to release funds to combat drought in several districts.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left government in Kerala also joined that protest – led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan – as did MPs from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s Stalin’s DMK.

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Responding to the Kerala government’s claims, Union Minister V Muraleedharan said “whatever is due for, as per documents submitted, has been provided…”

In January, Telangana’s Bharat Rashtra Samithi also hit out at the centre, claiming “step-motherly” treatment. Senior BRS leader and former minister KT Rama Rao, who is former Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s son, said the BJP had not announced any new institution or funds for the state.

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