National calamity tag elusive?

The classification would help State get assistance from the contingency fund



Designating the floods as a National Calamity would help in mobilising the necessary funds from the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF) for the much-needed relief and rehabilitation. “The idea is to get more funds rather than getting the tag. But if it is declared as a National Calamity then we will get more funds. However, it is left to the discretion of the Centre,” said a top bureaucrat.

Chief Minister Yeddyurappa recently wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealing to to declare the floods as a National Calamity and release funds to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore.

Central grants

Unlike Calamity Relief Fund (CRF), wherein the State government has to chip in 25 per cent of the funds, NCCF is purely borne out of central grants.
The earthquake in Bhuj in 2001 was declared a National Calamity. Even a two per cent surcharge was imposed on Corporation Tax and Income Tax to meet cost of relief and rehabilitation. The Kosi river flooding in Bihar last year was given a similar tag  purely at the discretion of the Centre.

Procedure

It works out like this: Following the receipt of the  memorandum from the State government, a central team is deputed for making on the spot assessment. The recommendations are then considered by a high-level committee comprising the Union Agriculture Minister, Home Minister, Finance Minister and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. The committee then decides about the quantum of assistance and release of funds from NCCF. The creating of NCCF is one of the recommendations of the 10th Finance Commission. However, the commission stops short of defining “National Calamity”.

The state has been getting funds under National Calamity Contingency Fund over the last five years for various natural disasters (See box), but no calamity has been so far declared as “national calamity.”

Special Representative of Karnataka in New Delhi, Dhananjay Kumar said he would take up the issue with the Centre soon.

The Centre could also relax the guidelines to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme so that the funds earmarked could be utilised for construction of houses. Funds should also be released from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund, he suggested.

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