States start using Disaster Relief fund to help combat COVID-19

The Centre recognised the disease as a “notified disaster” under the Disaster Management Act but has limited disbursement


Kerala and West Bengal have raised serious issues of how the MHA is limiting disbursement under the current crisis cause by the COVID 19 outbreak.

India, like many other countries across the world, is facing an unprecedented health crisis. In a situation like this it is expected that all the States along with the Centre make concerted efforts to combat the COVID-19 epidemic.

The Central government, recently, declared COVID-19 to be a “notified disaster” under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. This means that states can make use of the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) in taking measures to combat the disease. The SDRF is constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and is the primary fund available with state governments for responses to notified disasters. The Central government contributes 75 per cent towards the SDRF allocation for general category states and UTs, and over 90 per cent for special category states/UTs, which includes north-eastern states, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Hence, it is clear that states are receiving financial aid from the Central government to help them mitigate this crisis. There are however, specific guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on the specific use of this fund and the states can only use the fund for those specific purposes.

The letter from MHA can be read here.

This letter is however, a partially modified version of an earlier letter which had included beneficial provisions. This would have let states pay compensation to the families of the victims of the disease. Kerala Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, was disappointed with the deletion of the clause. “By deleting these clauses, the spirit behind relief/ assistance intended by the State Disaster Response Fund is defeated,” Vijayan said in a letter sent to the Central government. The letter further said, “The deleted two clauses being those that directly benefited and provided relief to the Covid-19 affected families need to be restored. I request you to reconsider the partial modification and restore the earlier one in its entirety”. Meanwhile, Kerala is set to use up 355 of the SDRF available to it to help in combating COVID-19.

Mamata Banerjee, the CM of West Bengal has voiced her grievance that her state has not received necessary assistance from the Centre and it was dependent on its own resources to tackle the crisis. “We are not getting enough help from the Centre. We are procuring necessary things by roping in self-help groups,” Banerjee said. There was no mention of utilising funds from the SDRF.

Including Kerala, other states like Telangana, Odisha and Himachal Pradesh are set to use the SDRF for dealing with the COVID-19 epidemic.



Lives of the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in the times of Corona

Is it time for Universal Basic Income in India?

Statelessness a greater fear than COVID-19?



Related Articles