Country-wise details of 2018 and 2019 flood relief donations to Kerala Chief Minister Disaster Relief Fund (CMDRF) are not available with the state government, reveals an RTI document.
In a reply to the queries sought through the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Kerala Finance Department reveals that bank statements provided to the Centre for Development of Imaging Technology – a government of Kerala institute entrusted to process the payment – by various banks handling the CMDRF account for issuing receipts to donors does not specify the country of the donors.
“Therefore, donation received from different countries couldn’t be categorized,” the RTI reply states.
The CMDRF is an emergency assistance release mechanism granting immediate relief to families and individuals distressed by calamity, loss of life due to accidents, and chronic diseases.
Queries asked through the RTI were: how much money was credited to CMDRF 2018-19 flood relief from foreign countries and to list the countries from where the fund was credited to CMDRF.
Additionally, questions were also asked on the amount of funds credited to CMRDF 2018-19 flood relief from Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain.
Stating that the finance department does not have any categorised data, the RTI revealed that around Rs 17 crore was received through portal donations for 2018-19 floods using the international gateway.
However, to a specific question asked on how much money was credited to CMRDF from Indian Social Clubs in Oman, the RTI reveals that the Kerala finance department does not have transaction details of money credited from Indian Social Club in Muscat, Sur, and Salalah, all three social clubs in Oman.
But the RTI answer adds that Indian Social Club Sohar had credited around Rs 9.19 lakh to the CMRDF 2018-19 flood relief fund.
Funds From Oman Missing?
Meanwhile, speaking on condition of anonymity, a Keralite resident in Sur, one of the main towns in Oman, said that he is aware that the Indian Social Club in Sur had collected OMR 8000 (approximately Rs 15 lakh) and handed it over to Indian Social Club officials in Muscat, which is considered as the parent social club in Oman.
“I know that the money was handed over to the Indian Social Club in Muscat. But whether it has been transferred or not is not clear. If the RTI states that money has not been credited from Sur, then where is it?” the Keralite asked.
When The Lede wrote to the Indian embassy seeking more details about Keralites’ claims in Sur, PK Prakash, Counsellor (Culture) at the Indian embassy in Muscat, replied that “the Indian Social Club Oman is an organization registered with the Ministry of Social Development of Oman. Though it does not come under the Indian embassy for its administrative and financial functions, ISC and its Wings work very closely with the Indian embassy for all cultural and social events concerning the Indian community in Oman.”
The official added that The Lede can write to the Chairman, ISC, or the Ministry of Social Development in Oman regarding the query.
On August 26, The Lede had written to Indian Social Club chairman Satish Nambiar asking how much money was raised by Indian Social Clubs in Sohar, Sur, and Salalah as 2018-19 flood relief and credited to the CMDRF.
The Lede had asked about the Sur Keralite’s claim too.
However, until this report was filed on October 21, no reply has been received from the Indian Social Club chairman.
On 28 August 2018, the Indian Social Club chairman and his deputies had convened a press conference in Muscat and had stated that “they had started collecting donations for the rehabilitation of flood-hit Kerala.”
The chairman had stated that the set target was Rs 5 crore.
Quoting the ISC officials, Oman Observer, the state-run English newspaper in Oman, reported that the donations will be used to adopt one of the villages that are torn apart in the deluge and rebuild the same from basic infrastructure to a better stature than before, adding that donating the fund to the CMDRF is also under active consideration.
In a video interview given on August 29, 2018, to Muscat Daily, an English daily in Oman, Satish can be seen stating that a panel has also been set up to move ahead in Kerala flood relief assistance.
UAE Funds Under Scanner
However, Keralites in Oman alleged that they are not aware of any credible step taken by the Indian Social Clubs in Oman regarding the Kerala flood relief assistance.
“Now we are doubtful. There are news reports that funds donated by Red Crescent to Kerala flood relief were also mismanaged,” a Keralite in Muscat said.
Red Crescent, a volunteer humanitarian organisation in UAE which is affiliated with Red Cross, had given Rs 20 crore to Kerala as flood relief.
The money was provided to a construction company in Kerala through LIFE Mission, which is an entity under the Kerala government entrusted to build affordable homes for the homeless in Kerala.
Media reports though claim that mediators have taken commission of Rs 20 crore and the project is not progressing as planned.
The CBI had initiated a probe citing Foreign Currency Regulation Act violations into the LIFE Mission commission claims, but the Kerala High Court had stayed it last week.
The infamous UAE-Kerala gold smuggling case suspects who are under custody of different central probe agencies are also connected to the LIFE Mission project corruption and Red Crescent fund acceptance.
Following the floods, which damaged properties worth Rs 35,000 crore claiming some 550 lives, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had visited Gulf states, seeking financial support to rebuild Kerala.
And in June 2019, the Kerala CM had told the Assembly that the government had spent Rs 4.25 lakh for the CM’s visit to the Arab Gulf to raise money to rebuild Kerala.
(This report’s original version mentioned the Muscat Daily as being a “defunct daily” which is incorrect. The Lede regrets for the error.)