FINANCE MINISTER HOLDS EMERGENCY MEETING
BANKS AND FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS DIRECTED TO PROVIDE IMMEDIATE RELIEF IN EARTHQUAKE HIT AREAS
The Union Finance Minister, Shri Yashwant Sinha held an emergency meeting to plan and review the action and measures taken to provide relief to the earthquake hit State of Gujarat, here today. While expressing deep anguish at the unprecedented misery caused by the earthquake, Shri Sinha expressed his fullest sympathies for the suffering people and instructed the departments/organisations under Ministry of Finance to take immediate measures to provide relief and rehabilitation assistance to the victims of earthquake on war footing.
Shri Sinha directed that the branches of the banks and financial institutions located in affected areas should start functioning immediately, if necessary through temporary or tented accommodation. Bank employees from other regions of the country should be pressed into service in the State of Gujarat and it should be ensured that the necessary financial assistance and banking services are provided to the affected people in accordance with the standing instructions of Reserve Bank of India for people affected by the natural calamities, he instructed. The officials have been advised to go out to the people and ensure delivery of assistance to them. Public sector banks, including the National Housing Bank have been asked to put up a control room to provide and propagate information on the assistance available.
The Finance Minister was informed by the Indian Banks Association(IBA) that the Public Sector Banks of the country have decided to make a donation of Rs.20 crore to the Prime Ministers Relief Fund for victims of the earthquake.
The National Housing Bank(NHB) has come out with two programmes comprising Rs. 500 crore for financing the repair and reconstruction of houses in Gujarat. Out of this, Rs.200 crore is to be given by way of refinance to banks and housing finance institutions and Rs.300 crore as direct finance to State Housing Boards and other agencies at State level.
Further, under a Special Fund, NHB has earmarked Rs.25 crore for loans upto Rs.50,000 to help the under-privileged category of affected persons for repair/upgradation at concessional refinance rate of 7% p.a.
As instructed by the Finance Minister, an urgent meeting of the banks has been called by Banking Division of Ministry of Finance on 29th January to chalk out relief and rehabilitation strategy including implementation of standing instructions of Reserve Bank of India and further necessary relief as required. A team of senior officials of banks and financial institutions is also being sent to Gujarat.
FINANCE MINISTER INSTRUCTS INSURANCE COMPANIES TO PROVIDE IMMEDIATE RELIEF TO EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS
The Union Finance Minister, Shri Yashwant Sinha held an emergency meeting to consider immediate relief measures for earthquake affected people of Gujarat, here today. The meeting was attended by, among others, the Finance Secretary, the Revenue Secretary, Special Secretary (Insurance & External Finance), Special Secretary(Banking), Chairman, LIC of India, Chairman, IBA and Chairman, National Housing Bank.
The Life Insurance Corporation of India has announced the following as immediate relief measures to provide relief to the earthquake affected people of the State of Gujarat.
1. Death Certificate issued by any authority will be accepted for settlement of claim which means a substantial relaxation in procedure.
2. In case of non-availability of Death Certificate certification by an LIC agent would be enough for payment of claims.
3. Special cells have been set up in the city of Ahmedabad and other places in Gujarat for expeditious settlement of claims.
4. Remission of interest for a period of three months for policyholders who are not able to pay their premiums in time.
5. Duplicate policies would be issued free of cost in case of policyholders that may have lost their policies only on the basis of Letter of Indemnity.
6. Revival of policies would be done on the basis of just Declaration of Good Health with remission upto 50% of interest.
7. Relief Camps are being set up in various places to provide relief and food packets to the individuals/families affected by earthquake.
8. Agents and employees are being mobilised to fan out in affected areas for participation in relief measures.
9. Set up tents for people who have been rendered homeless in cities like Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Bhuj etc. that are more severely affected by the earthquake.
10. LIC Housing Finance Ltd. will act as an agency of the National Housing Bank for initiatives that have been taken for individuals whose houses have been affected.
The Chief Executives of National Insurance Company, United India Assurance Company, New India Assurance Company and Oriental Insurance Company are reaching Ahmedabad this evening to take stock of the situation. On 29.1.2001, in consultation with the local staff, they will devise a strategy for quick settlement of insurance claims like motor cars, homes, medical etc. Among the action proposed for quick claim settlement are
CUSTOMS, EXCISE AND INCOME TAX EXEMPTION MEASURES FOR
RELIEF AND REHABILITATION OF EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS
The Union Finance Minister, Shri Yashwant Sinha today reviewed the situation arising consequent to the Gujarat earthquake with the Chairmen and Members of the Central Board of Direct Taxes and Central Board of Excise and Customs.
The Central Government have already provided full exemption from excise duty to goods donated or purchased out of cash donations, for relief of and rehabilitation of persons affected by the earthquake.
In addition, a similar exemption has been provided from customs duty to imported goods intended for donation for the same purpose. Necessary notifications for the purpose have been issued.
The Central Government have also decided to extend the benefit of 100% deduction to donations made on or before 30th June, 2001 to charitable institutions already registered with the Income-tax Department for providing relief to the victims of the earthquake. The specific guidelines to be followed by these institutions in respect of such donations are being issued separately.
It may further be reiterated that donations made to Prime Minister's National Relief Fund or to the Chief Minister's Relief Fund of any State are already entitled to the benefit of 100% deduction from the income of the donor.
BHILAI STEEL PLANT SENDS DUMPERS, SHOVELS AND GAS CUTTERS TO HELP RESCUE OPERATION IN EARTHQUAKE AFFECTED AREAS
The Steel Minister, Shri B.K. Tripathi has appealed to Steel Plants to extend all help and co-operation to the victims of the earthquake in Gujarat. Bhilai Steel Plant has already sent 3 shovels and one dumper to Ahmedabad to carry out rescue and relief operation. The Plant has already sent 10 gas-cutters along with staff and allied equipment. Six more gas cutters will be sent tomorrow. The crane at Ahmedabad Stock Yard is already in operation to clear the debris.
The Steel Minister has also asked all steel plants to rush medical aid for the victims. He has urged the staff of his Ministry and all the Public Sector Undertakings to contribute one days salary for the victims of the earthquake.
WATER RESOURCES MINISTRY CONTRIBUTES TO EARTH QUAKE RELIEF
The Minister for Water Resources, Shri Arjun Charan Sethi has contributed 10 lakh rupees from the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Fund for the earthquake victims of Gujarat. In a message to the Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr. Sethi said that the employees of his Ministry have also decided to contribute one days salary to the Prime Ministers Relief Fund for the purpose.
MINISTRY FOR TRIBAL AFFAIRS ANNOUNCES RUPEES ONE CRORE GRANT FOR EARTH QUAKE RELIEF
The Ministry for Tribal Affairs has announced a grant of Rs. one crore for the relief operations in the quake-hit areas of Gujarat. In a message expressing grief and sorrow at the natural calamity, the Union Minister for Tribal Affairs, Shri Jual Oram also called upon the people to come forward to contribute generously for the people affected in the tragedy.
PRIME MINISTER APPEALS TO THE PEOPLE TO CONTRIBUTE GENEROUSLY FOR THE EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS
Following is the text of the appeal made by the Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee to the countrymen for contributing money to PMs National Relief Fund for Gujarat Tragedy:
"Dear Brothers & Sisters,
The country woke on the morning of 26th January, 2001 to the worst earthquake Independent India has seen. Thousands of people in the State of Gujarat have lost their lives and property worth crores of rupees has been damaged.
We cannot leave our brothers and sisters to the mercy of fate or the cruelty of vagaries of nature. At this moment, they need our help to tide over the calamity that has fallen upon them, to survive, to rebuild their lives as best they can.
The Union Government would be releasing funds from the existing schemes. However, given the magnitude of the calamity and the large number of people affected, the funds available are inadequate. You can help to meet the shortage by contributing money, no matter how small the amount, to the Prime Ministers National Relief Fund.
Last year it was your assistance that has enabled us to meet the challenge posed by the Super Cyclone that devastated Coastal Orissa. I am confident that this time too, you shall come forward to lend a helping hand.
Together, we can overcome even this adversity.
Two Naval Ships INS Sutlej and INS Nirdeshak are anchored ex-Kandla Port to treat the injured. INS Ganga is carrying injured persons from Bhuj to Bombay on its return journey. The ship has the capacity of carrying 200 patients. Jaslok and Hinduja Hospitals have offered free treatment of earthquake victims. 11.5 tonnes of medical supplies to treat the injured have reached Bhuj. Armed Forces have made arrangements to provide 340 bed facilities to treat the injured. Two ambulances and two surgical teams are already at Bhuj. Four additional Field Ambulances one each from Ambala, Secunderabad, Jodhpur and Gwalior have also reached Bhuj. One Medical Platoon from Bhopal is also on its way. Central team of 20 doctors, 10 doctors from Haryana, 17 doctors from PGI Chandigarh, 10 medical personnel from Safdarjung Hospital, 100 doctors from Maharashtra have reached Bhuj. 12 doctors from AIIMS, New Delhi are reaching Gujarat today. 711 medical personnel are deployed and 30 more are ready to reach. Ministry of Health is sending a special team to check any outbreak of epidemic.
The strength of the individuals from Army, Para-miilitary forces, Central Government and foreign countries involved in relief and rehabilitation measures is 5161. Another 840 persons are moving for deployment.
1.10 lakh tonnes of foodgrains including ready to eat foot is available for distribution at Bhuj. Hindustan Zinc is also supplying food packets. 36,000 blankets have already reached and 92,000 blankets are in the pipeline. 10,800 tents have reached and 2450 more tents are on their way to Bhuj. 3000 tonnes of GI sheets scheduled for various destinations have been diverted for Bhuj.
Air Force is carrying relief / rescue materials and trained personnel to Gujarat. 16 helicopters are located in the vicinity of Bhuj for relief and rescue operations and evacuating injured persons. Resources mobilized by the Army for relief operations include 23 trench digging and heavy weight lifting equipment, 7 heavy duty dozors, 49 generators, 8 Air compressors, 43 water supply equipments, 145 large portable water tanks and 200 sanitation units.
Railways are starting special trains for evacuation of injured persons. Instructions have been passed to use Railway goods shelters as shelters. To accommodate doctors and relief persons, one bogie of first class coach is being stationed at Bhuj.
The Department of Telecommunications has stepped up its massive efforts in the restoration and rectification operation in the quake-hit areas. 120 more channels have been added from Bhuj to Rajkot and Ahmedabad bringing the total number of channels now available to 240. A 2000 line exchange has been made functional and Gandhidham and PCOs have also been provided outside the exchange and people are now making calls from these PCOs free of cost. In Bhuj 7 PCOs have been provide at two locations with similar facilities. 8 INMARSET, 4 High Frequency Sets and 12 Radio Relay Detachments are augmenting communication support.
Governments of Russia, Japan, Germany, Turkey, Britain, Switzerland, Korea and Netherlands have shown their willingness to provide relief and rescue materials and trained personnel. From Turkey, 35 persons, 10 tonnes of rescue equipments and 1 tonne of medicines, from Britain 69 specialists, 4 search dogs and relief material, from Switzerland 45 persons, 1 team of sniffer dogs and from Russia 70 persons have reached Gujarat. Japan has donated 0.25 million US $ in kind and 0.75 million US $ to the Prime Ministers Relief Fund.
Central Government has provided full exemption from excise duty to goods donated or purchased out of cash donations for relief. Similar exemptions have been provided from customs duty to imported goods intended for donation for relief. Government has decided to extend 100 per cent deductions from income tax of donations by charitable institutions and individuals.
Banks and National Housing Bank have been asked to put up a Control Room to provide and propagate information on the assistance available. Public Sector Banks of the country have decided a donation of Rs. 20 crores to the Prime Ministers Relief Fund. Specials Cells have been set up in the city of Ahmedabad and other places in Gujarat for expeditious settlement of insurance claims. National Insurance Company, United India Assurance Company, New India Assurance Company and Oriental Insurance Company will function as a single co-ordinating unit.
TELECOM LINKS TO BHUJ RESTORED
The Department of Telecommunications has stepped up its massive efforts in the restoration and rectification operation in the quake-hit areas of Gujarat. 120 more channels have been added from Bhuj to Rajkot and Ahmedabad bringing the total number of channels now available to 240. A 2000 line exchange has been made functional at Gandhidham and PCOs have also been provided outside the exchange. People are now making calls from these PCOs free of cost. In Bhuj 7 PCOs have been provide at two locations with similar facilities.
The BSNL staff is atttempting to enter the main exchange building at Bhuj and Ghandidham. But this will depend upon clearance by a team of civil engineers regarding the safety of the building.
A total of 20 satellite telephones and 8 small size C-DOT exchanges have reached Bhuj along with a party of technical staff from Rajasthan. The satellite terminals will be used to connect major taluka headquarters. After the restoration of transmission systems, the small exchanges will also be commissioned. Parties are fanning out towards rural areas, to restore the functioning of the exchanges and transmission systems.