Union Minister Alphons Kannanthanam on Monday turned down the demand of Congress leaders to declare Kerala flood as a "national calamity" and said there was no provision in the Disaster Management Act 2005 to do so.
Responding to the statement of former Defence Minister and senior Congress leader A K Antony in this regard, the senior BJP leader said the Disaster Management Act was passed when the Congress-led UPA was in power at the Centre. Mr Antony had asked the union government to immediately declare the Kerala floods as a national disaster.
Declaring the Kerala floods as a 'national calamity' would help in garnering funds not only from the country, but also in getting aid from abroad, Mr Antony said.
On the relief sanctioned by the Centre, Mr Antony said Rs 600 crore was nothing as huge damage had been caused to the state.
Reacting to Mr Antony's remark, Mr Kannanthanam said "There is no provision to declare any calamity as national calamity. None of the calamities were declared as national by the Congress when it was in power from 2004-14."
Terming the statement of Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Mr Antony in this regard as 'stupid', Mr Kannanthanam said "does Mr Antony, who was the defence minister of the country for ten years not know the rules and provisions of the act."
Taking a dig at the Congress President, Mr Kannanthanam said "let us excuse Rahul as he does not have any administrative and political experience, but a statement like this from a senior leader like Antony was uncalled for, at a time when the people of Kerala are united to face the challenge caused by the floods."
The BJP leader said the aid of Rs 500 crore announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to flood-hit areas was only for immediate relief works.
The central team would visit the state again to assess the damage caused by the floods and would be extending more assistance, he added.
On the demand of the Congress to hand over the relief work to the army, Mr Kannanthanam said there was no provision in the Constitution to do that. In the event of a calamity, the army will assist the civil authorities based on their request, he added.
State Opposition leader and former KPCC President Ramesh Chennithala had demanded handing over of relief works to the army.
Mr Kannanthanam also said instead of making statements like this, the Congress leaders should ask party workers to go to the field.
"This shows the sorry state of affairs in the Congress party and I think, it is anti-people. Because, the state showed that they are one except for the Congress leaders who are speaking absolutely ridiculous things," he added.
There was only a provision to declare the floods a disaster of severe nature, the union minister said.
Over 200 people have lost their lives in the rains, floods and landslides in the state where over 7.24 lakh displaced people have been sheltered in 5,645 relief camps since August 8.
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