A file photo of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during an exclusive interview with Gulf News in Dusit Thani Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Thiruvananthapuram: In a major setback for the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala, the state electricity board has been accused of retaining Rs1.36 billion (Dh69 million), which it collected as aid after the 2018 floods, for nearly a year.

The revelation comes at a time when social media is abuzz with arguments and counter-arguments about whether or not it is better to directly donate to flood victims or contribute to the government’s relief fund.

Dh 69 million

collected during 2018 floods

A local television channel reported that Rs1.36 billion that the Kerala State Electricity Board collected until March 31, 2019, through a government-supported ‘salary challenge’ programme to aid flood victims was yet to be deposited into the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Funds (CMDRF).

Official figures say that in the three months after March 2019, an average of Rs146.5 million per month had been collected through the salary challenge initiative but only Rs102.30 million had been paid into the CMDRF.

The revelation is a serious image setback for the Communist Party of India Marxist-led government which is seeking funds to rehabilitate the flood victims of last year and this year.

The news is also shocking for the thousands of employees of the KSEB who had donated, on an average, three days’ salary per month for 10 months towards the flood affected.

In a strange defence of the power board’s stand, KSEB chairman N.S. Pillai blamed the financial position of the board for the delay in handing over the funds to the disaster relief fund. “The financial crisis of the KSEB is a factor,” Pillai said, adding that the dues from other government bodies like the water board was also a reason.

Pillai said Rs4 billion was due to the KSEB from the government as the dues payable by the Kerala Water Authority, and that the KSEB would pay up the funds collected for the flood relief fund as soon as this money was received.

On social media, the government received flak for the board’s action, with several people expressing anger over the government ill-treating flood victims by not even distributing the money that was collected on their behalf.