‘Declare COVID a natural calamity; let SDRF help people’: Uddhav writes to Modi

Mumbai: Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as a natural calamity so that State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) be used to provide individual benefits to the affected.

A letter in this regard has been written to the Prime Minister, Indian Express confirmed in a report.

Earlier on Tuesday, announcing stricter restrictions in the state, Thackeray said that individual benefits can be given in the case of a natural calamity like earthquake, heavy rainfall and flood.

“We all have accepted this as a natural calamity. So, we are requesting the PM to give individual benefits that are given in natural calamities to the people whose livelihood has been impacted by the pandemic,” he had added.

Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte, as quoted by Indian Express, said that treating the pandemic as a natural calamity is a policy decision to be taken at the national level and the Centre has to take a call on it.

SDRF, which was constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, is the primary fund available with state governments when it comes to responding to notified disasters. While the Union government contributes 75 per cent towards SDRF allocation, a state contributes the remaining 25 per cent.

In Maharashtra, SDRF is currently being used for infrastructure building such as setting up COVID-19 centres as well as buying oxygen and medicines, among others, the report said, quoting officials.

On Tuesday, Uddhav Thackeray announced a financial package of Rs 5,476 crore for people of various sectors impacted by restrictions in place. As part of the Rs 5,476 crore relief package, the state government will supply 3 kg of wheat and 2 kg of rice per person free of cost for one month.

The state on Wednesday reported 58,952 fresh COVID-19 cases and 278 deaths. The state has recorded 35,78,160 cases till date and there are 6,12,070 active cases now.