Kerala, After The Flood: Locals sceptical of intent and outcome as Pinarayi Vijayan ropes in KPMG for rebuilding state

Former chief minister Oommen Chandy has urged the chief minister to cancel the trip of his ministers and instead ask them to camp in the districts and oversee the rehabilitation programme.

TK Devasia September 03, 2018 09:41:00 IST
Kerala, After The Flood: Locals sceptical of intent and outcome as Pinarayi Vijayan ropes in KPMG for rebuilding state

Editor's note: Described as one of the worst since 1924 by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the rains in Kerala have left 483 dead and rendered thousands of people homeless. According to the latest tally, 80,000 have been rescued so far. Over 1,500 relief camps have been set up across the state that currently house at least 2,23,139 people. In a multi-part series, Firstpost will attempt to analyse the short-term and long-term impact of these unprecedented floods on the lives of the people, economy of the state, and the environment.

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The decision by Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan to appoint global consultants KPMG to prepare a master plan for reconstruction and send ministerial delegations to 14 countries, where Keralites live in large numbers, on a fund-raising drive has raised apprehension in the minds of different sections of people about the government’s intentions.

Kerala After The Flood Locals sceptical of intent and outcome as Pinarayi Vijayan ropes in KPMG for rebuilding state

File image of Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Getty Images

KPMG CEO Arun Kumar’s statement that they will help the state government build a modern Kerala as per global standards has confounded the apprehension. Earlier, the opportunity given by ruling CPM to three anti-green MLAs to speak in the Assembly by sidelining two legislators, who were critical of the government’s handling of the rescue operation, had created doubts about the party’s commitment towards sustainable development.

Joseph C Mathew, IT advisor to former chief minister VS Achuthanandan, has pointed out that the current disaster was the result of the modern development that the state has been pursuing for the last 50 years and added that the government’s decision to leave the task of planning the post-flood reconstruction to the global agency would send a wrong message.

“People from all walks to life are coming forward to generously contribute to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) after seeing the miseries of the people displaced by the flood. They may not continue to support the reconstruction if the government is planning to create concrete jungles with the help of international agencies,” he added.

Mathew said what people need is a new Kerala in harmony with nature. He said he is hopeful that everybody will support the government if it comes out with a clear policy and strategy to build the state in an environment-friendly manner. People will doubt the rebuilding process if any multi-national agency comes forward to support it that too free of cost, Mathew added.

John Samuel, former head of UN Global Programme on Democratic Governance Assessment, said local level consultation was the ideal approach for rebuilding a region devastated by calamities. With many efficient men in the Planning Board and strong local bodies, Kerala has a large pool of in-house talent to rebuild the state better than an external agency, he said.

Moreover, Kerala has already developed a strong foundation for decentralised development through the participatory people’s planning and the subsequent decentralisation of powers to the local self-governments. This may help the government in reconstructing the state in a decentralised manner.

CV Ananda Bose, former chairman of UN Affiliate Habitat Alliance and current advisor to Meghalaya government, said there was no harm in seeking the help of international agencies if they go by the government’s policy and directions. However, if they are allowed to transplant international models it may not suit the state.

“Even while wreaking havoc, the flood has opened myriads of opportunities to Kerala. It has washed away all pollutants, including pesticides from our rivers and water bodies and cleaned them. The silt and sediments brought by the flood water have made our land fertile. If we make use of these natural resources we can regain whatever we have lost in the flood,” Bose told Firstpost.

He said that an external agency need not understand the resources locally available to rebuild the state. The Netherlands, which is the globe’s number two exporter of food, has a lot of similarities with Kuttanad region, the rice bowl of Kerala, and perhaps they could help in reviving the agriculture sector.

“Netherlands has revolutionised agriculture by adopting innovative methods of organic farming. Kerala has already made a start in organic farming. The flood can give a big boost to the organic farming and this will in turn spur agri-entrepreneurship,” he said.

The agri-entrepreneurship can bring the youths who are looking for white collar jobs back to agriculture. This may also help Kerala to absorb millions of Keralites working outside the country whenever crisis push them out. He said a massive exodus from West Asia can be expected when fusion energy replaces oil in the near future.

“When we rebuild a new Kerala, we must plan for next 100 to 200 years. The world population is expected to rise above 10 billion by 2050. The planet needs to produce more food in the next four decades than all farmers in history have harvested over the past 8,000 years,” he said.

Bose, who has served Kerala in various capacities, said that Kerala can convert the impending crisis into an opportunity if it plans the rebuilding strategy with farsightedness. If the state creates the required infrastructure, investments will flow in a big way.

He does not think that mobilisation of the fund for rebuilding the state will be difficult since there is enough money locked in various departments. “The government only need to converge them. Apart from this, there are also many international agencies plush with money. If they are approached with well-prepared projects, the government may not need to send its ministers abroad for collecting funds,” Bose said.

Former Planning Board member and head of the department of Economics in Kerala University BA Prakash said donors may not give funds without empirical study report and a proper strategy. He said that the foreign trip even before assessing the loss and estimating the fund required for the reconstruction would be a futile exercise.

“The donors may also not like to place the fund in the hands of the government if it is planning to undertake reconstruction under the existing bureaucratic network. A separate fund for rebuilding and a special purpose vehicle to implement the project may inspire confidence among the donors,” he said.

Many have also criticised the move to send the ministers abroad before rehabilitating the displaced people. The chief minister has already left for the US for medical treatment. If the ministers will also leave the state it will throw the rehabilitation haywire.

Former chief minister and senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy has urged the chief minister to cancel the trip of his ministers and instead ask them to camp in the districts and oversee the rehabilitation programme. He said the relief and rehabilitation have been in total disarray after the government took over the control of relief camps.

"Today, the most important thing to do is to see that the rehabilitation of the displaced people is done quickly. The state needs the ministers to take the lead in ensuring drinking water, clean and safe homes and availability of critical healthcare facilities to the affected people,” Chandy said.

NRKs have also termed the trip at this stage unwarranted. “In all the countries where the ministers proposed to go, NRKs have launched relief campaigns and have collected as much money and relief materials as possible,” said Thomas Joseph, who lives at Jeddah.

Sharjah-based Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust chairman KV Shamsudheen said this was not the time for ministers to undertake foreign trips. “They should sit in their office and coordinate the relief and rehabilitation works. The money earmarked for the trip should be used for providing relief to the victims,” he said.

Shamsudheen said that the government could invite members of the Loka Kerala Sabha and representatives of the NRK organisations in various countries to the state and give them targets for mobilising funds instead of the ministers going to them.

Updated Date:

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