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Maharashtra floods: CM meets officials from insurance firms, banks

Uddhav Thackeray asks officials to settle claims immediately, give loans at lower rates; seeks Centre’s intervention
UPDATED ON JUL 30, 2021 02:25 AM IST
BJP leaders Devendra Fadnavis and Pravin Darekar interact with villagers in Bhilawadi village at Sangli. Meanwhile, Sena legislators will donate a month’s salary for relief work. (Uday Deolekar/HT PHOTO)

A day after the decision over the relief package for Maharashtra flood-hit districts was deferred for want of clarity over the potential financial burden, the chief minister (CM) held meetings with officials from 11 insurance companies and bankers, asking them settle the claims immediately and give loans at lower rates.

CM Uddhav Thackeray asked officials from insurance companies and banks to take a lenient approach towards the flood-affected people. The insurance companies have been asked to release 50% of the cover of traders and citizens immediately. The companies have also been told to complete the procedure and release the insurance claims at the earliest.

Thackeray has also requested Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman to direct the companies to consider the assessment done by the state revenue authorities for the settlement of the claims. In a letter to Sitharaman, Thackeray said that the flood-affected people from Konkan and western Maharashtra have been waiting for the settlement of the claims against the insurance of their vehicles, shops and houses.

“The insurance companies have agreed to release 50% of the claim amount based on the assessment by the revenue department. However, they will need directives from the Central government to their headquarters and the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority. The Centre has previously given such directives during the floods in Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir,” the letter stated.

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Thackeray also asked banks to extend loans for the working capital at concessional rates to traders who have sustained losses in the floods. Banks have also been asked to give waiver to pay the instalments of their pending loans.

Thackeray, in the letter, has requested Sitharaman for directives to the banks, too. Banks and insurance companies have also been told to make the procedure consumer-friendly while settling the claims or giving loans. They have also been asked not insist on any tedious process and documentation, considering the situation.

State relief and rehabilitation minister Vijay Wadettiwar said that the government has asked the Centre to send its teams to assess the losses, at the earliest. He said that the disbursement of 10,000 per household as immediate assistance will begin from Friday.

Meanwhile, state environment minister Aaditya Thackeray faced the wrath of locals during his visit to Chiplun. A resident asked him what he has done as the environment minister. The resident pointed at the silted rivers which caused flooding and the prolonged work of the bridge on Vashishti river.

“You please ensure that the rivers are desilted so that they would not cause the flooding. What have you done as environment minister? You should tour the affected areas on foot to realise the plight of the people and visit us at least once a month. People are not intimated in advance while discharging water from the dams and it causes the whole problem,” the resident told Aaditya during their interaction.

He, however, heard the resident patiently and said the resident was right. Aaditya also assured the resident that take corrective action will be taken.

Later he said, “The residents have every right to express themselves freely as they have been suffering all these days. In fact, we have been touring to understand their plight and what they have faced.”

Thackeray also visited a few affected villages in Raigad district. He will visit flood-hit Kolhapur on Friday. After visiting the flood-ravaged villages in Raigad and Ratnagiri on Saturday and Sunday respectively, Thackeray was scheduled to visit Satara in western Maharashtra on Monday, but his helicopter could not land at Koyana Nagar due to bad weather conditions.

A few state and national highways are still shut for vehicular traffic. The Goa-Mumbai highway between Khed and Chiplun is partially shut for heavy vehicles and the Ratnagiri-Kolhapur highway is shut in Amba ghat.

Sangli collector Abhijeet Chaudhari issued a statement on Thursday warning citizens to take due care in the wake of the additional water discharge from reservoirs, keeping the forecast of heavy rainfall in mind.

“To regulate the water level and keeping the potential heavy rainfall in mind, there could be additional discharge of water from the dams, leading to the rise in the water level in Krishna [river] by around 2 feet. The water level in Krishna river may rise up to 42 feet. The villagers and farmers on the banks of the river are warned to take due care,” Chaudhari has said.

At 41.4 feet, the water level of Panchganga river receded below its danger level, which is 43ft, almost after a week. Its warning level is 39ft.

Leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis visited the flood-affected villages in Sangli on Thursday. He criticised the state government for the “delay” in the assistance to flood-affected farmers and villagers.

“The state government should immediately release the relief without waiting to complete the formalities. The government has been pointing fingers at the Centre to shrug off its own responsibility. During our government, we had given relief to the 2019-flood affected people on an immediate basis,” he said.

The death toll in the flood-ravaged districts since July 22 stands at 213, even as 52 people have sustained injuries and eight are still untraceable. Death of domestic animals stands at 398, while 60,882 poultry birds have been reported to have died. Around 435,879 people from eight districts have been evacuated to safer places, while 53,295 of them are staying in 349 shelters built by the government and NGOs.

Half of the NDRF teams have been withdrawn from the affected districts and 16 NDRF teams and two army teams are stationed in seven districts for disaster response work, including Kolhapur (with six teams) and Sangli (with four teams) , which still have heavy rainfall forecast.

The state government has deferred its decision of relief package to the flood-affected people as it is wary of the financial burden.

“The losses are expected to cross well beyond 5,000 crore from the preliminary estimates of 4,000 crore. We have already hiked the compensation given to the affected people. Surprisingly, the losses to the crops in districts like Nanded, where severity of the rainfall was not as high as in western Maharashtra, have been reported to be more than 70,000 hectares (ha). We have also witnessed in the past that the figures of the crop losses are inflated extensively.

In four districts of western Maharashtra, the losses to the crops, as per the preliminary estimates, is 111,648 ha, while it is more than 100,000 ha in eight districts of central Maharashtra. The total estimated crop losses is more than 350,000 ha.

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