RTI brings tsunami fund irregularities to light

Rs8 crore of money allocated spent in Kerala districts that have no coastline

THIRUVAVANTHAPURAM: Three years after tsunami hit Indian shores on December 26, 2004, the Kerala government has found that Rs17.16 crore of the relief money spent for rehabilitation programmes is unaccounted for.

Though a commission formed by the LDF government to probe allegations of irregularities in tsunami fund allocation submitted its report, prepared by former chief secretary M Vijayan Unni, in January, it was not made public till advocate DB Binu resorted to the Right to Information Act.

The commission also blamed the previous Congress-led government for diverting Rs8.3 crore for priorities other than tsunami relief and rehabilitation. The government spent Rs2.41 cr in Idukki, Rs2.94 cr in Wayanad and Rs1.13 cr in Pathanamthitta districts, which do not have an inch of coastline. Former chief minister Oommen Chandy’s home district Kottayam got Rs2.75.

Even in the tsunami-affected coastal districts, the expenditure was flawed. Thiruvananthapuram district got Rs5.33 crore, while Kollam, Alapuzha and Ernakulam got Rs3.36 crore, Rs 5.57 crore and Rs 1.94 crore respectively. Chandy had earlier said Rs36.25 cr of the Rs 40.2 cr received in the relief fund was spent. The state had also spent Rs88 crore received as central relief fund.

Though an all-party meet had suggested that the fund, received under the chief minister's relief fund, be kept as a separate head, the government brushed it aside as impractical.

The LDF government is also in an unenviable position with regard to the tsunami rehabilitation activities. The Catholic Church had accused the administration of misallocation of funds.

Alappuzha Bishop Stephen Athipozhiyil in a pastoral letter recently criticised the government for ignoring institutions under the Church while distributing tsunami relief funds among victims’ families.

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