'An interview to say 'no funds?': TN Finance Minister flays Nirmala Sitharaman for insulting state

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had responded "in an egoistic tone, the language she knows", Thennarasu said in a hard-hitting statement.
TN Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu. (File Photo | P Jawahar, EPS)
TN Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu. (File Photo | P Jawahar, EPS)

CHENNAI: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has insulted the people of Tamil Nadu, who were in the grip of a calamity, by "discourteously declining" to provide funds as requested by Chief Minister MK Stalin, state Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu said on Friday.

She has responded "in an angry language of waging a war on an enemy country", Thennarasu said, referring to Sitharaman's press briefing in the national capital on Friday faulting the state administration's handling of the flood situation.

The state government had sought the Centre to declare the rain-affected districts as a "calamity of severe nature" and disburse Rs 21,000 crore as relief to Tamil Nadu." But the Centre declined.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had responded "in an egoistic tone, the language she knows", Thennarasu said in a hard-hitting statement here.

"You all know that Chennai, Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur, and Chengalpattu districts received heavy rains on December 4 and Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Kanyakumari and Tenkasi districts received very heavy rain on December 17 and 18, resulting massive floods," he said.

A tragedy was averted only because of the precautionary measures taken by the Tamil Nadu government.

Every area was now gradually recovering due to post-rain relief measures being taken, he said.

The state government announced a relief amount of Rs 6,000 and started disbursing it to the affected.

"Rescue and relief work continues in some places in Thoothukudi district. I don't need to elaborate further as the people in the flood-affected areas and also those in other parts of the country are aware of this through media reports," Thennarasu said in the statement.

During the 20-minute meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 19, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister explained about the adverse impact of the rains and submitted a memorandum.

"Accepting the memorandum, the Prime Minister had said 'I will fulfill all your requests. Nothing matters more than this,' the Prime Minister had assured the Chief Minister," Thennarasu claimed.

Stalin demanded an interim relief of Rs 7,033 crore and Rs 12,659 crore as permanent relief for relief and rehabilitation works in Chennai and suburbs.

As for the four southern districts of Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Kanyakumari, and Tenkasi, he sought that the Prime Minister provide Rs 2,000 crore as interim relief.

Also, the Tamil Nadu government urged the Centre to declare a calamity of severe nature in the affected districts.

The Union Finance Minister stated that it cannot be declared a national calamity, he said and added that she failed to take into account the concerns and sufferings of the affected people.

"Her press briefing is like mocking people when they are suffering the most," Thennarasu said and accused her of using the media to create a false impression on the Tamil Nadu government by uttering "lies and making false allegations".

He expressed disappointment that Sitharaman had not called for the briefing to announce the disbursal of funds for Tamil Nadu. "Why give an interview to say 'no funds?'" he asked.

Stalin went into a huddle with INDIA bloc leaders when TN battled against rains: Sitharaman

Earlier, Sitharaman had hit out at CM Stalin for taking part in INDIA bloc meeting here on December 19 instead of being with the people when Tamil Nadu was pounded by torrential rains and battered by floods.

"When the state was going through a disaster, Chief Minister Stalin was holding discussions at the INDIA alliance meeting in Delhi," she said.

Speaking to reporters, the Union Finance Minister demanded to know why Stalin did not give 'priority' to southern Tamil Nadu at a time when it was pounded by very heavy rains and instead he chose to participate in the alliance's meeting in Delhi.

She said he should have conveyed to INDIA bloc leaders that he would be with the people at the time of disaster and that he shall visit them later.

Whatever funding that is required to be released to the state by Centre, it would be done. Stalin, however, only demanded that the Centre release Rs 12,000 crore to Rs 14,000 crore for damage without being with the people on the ground, she said.

She raised questions over the state government 'spend' of 'Rs 4,000 crore' for flood mitigation, stormwater drain related work in Chennai and 'contradictory' claims, allegedly made by a Tamil Nadu Minister in connection with expenses.

While the Centre deployed NDRF personnel well in advance, the Tamil Nadu government officials did not act expeditiously, she alleged.

On Tamil Nadu's demand that the Centre announce TN rains-floods as 'national disaster,' she said that there is no system or practice in the Central government to designate a particular disaster in a region as a national disaster.

No disaster in any state including Uttarakhand has been termed a national disaster, she said, adding this has never been done by the government.

However, if a state government wished to term a particular disaster as a state-level disaster, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has issued guidelines in this regard. "Tamil Nadu can use 10 per cent of their state allocation for any local level disaster. This is with the state government." 

Stalin took part in the INDIA bloc meet in Delhi on December 19.

Southern Tamil Nadu, including Thoothukudi district, battled against very heavy rains on December 18 and 19, which commenced on December 17.

Asked if she sought Stalin's resignation, she said "I am not responding to this question." 

To a question on TN Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin reportedly asking the Centre if the relief fund to Tamil Nadu, "is your father's money," she said Udhayanidhi's grandfather late M Karunanidhi was a great Tamil scholar. 

However, 'their language' had all along been similar and it was seen in the Sanatana Dharma episode as well. The Minister should mind his language and speak responsibly as he is in a responsible position, she insisted.

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