Where has all the flood money gone?

BANGALORE: Last year’s floods in North Karnataka, the biggest natural disaster in the state in public memory, triggered the largest fund-raising exercise, generating about Rs 1,000 crore, including Rs 500 crore collected by state government agencies.

While chief minister B S Yeddyurappa has announced that he would make public the money collected and spent by the state government during the upcoming legislature session starting June 28, one wonders where all the other money has gone.

“We recently issued notices to various NGOs and social organisations, seeking a detailed report on how they spent or are spending the money collected for flood relief. But we have had little or no response,’’ said a senior officer associated with the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. He blamed the officials for it.

Waking up from its slumber, maybe just a little late, the state government is now seriously contemplating bringing out a policy to check large-scale bungling or misuse of funds collected to provide relief to victims of natural disasters/calamities. “There is an urgent need to frame a policy to keep a check on funds raised from the public for relief and rehabilitation work. I will soon hold a meeting with experts to see what best the government can do to prevent such scams,’’ said law and parliamentary affairs minister S Suresh Kumar. Home minister V S Acharya also expressed similar views.

A week after the worst flood of the century hit the state last September-October, politicians, NGOs and social organisations were quick to raise funds and gather relief material for the affected through padayatras, donation box in hand.

According to officials, crores of rupees collected during such sundry padayatras never reached the victims, and the funds were utilised for other purposes. Not only that, money collected by these societies has been allegedly misused for personal expenses of office-bearers.

An analysis of accounts shows that in 2009, a Bangalore-based social organisation collected donations amounting to Rs 2.16 lakh for flood relief, but spent only Rs 300 out of it. The remaining funds were diverted for other purposes.

Likewise, several lakhs of rupees collected by organisations in the name of tsunami, Orissa cyclone and Gujarat earthquake were also not sent to the victims. It’s not that everybody and anybody can collect funds from the public. There is a stringent law to check arbitrary collection of funds, and police officials have limited this authority only to keep a tab on fraudulent elements during Ganesha festivities.

As per law, those organizations that want to collect funds from the public for a special or noble cause should seek the permission of the police. While grating permission, the police should verify the track record of the organizations and also be satisfied with their commitment and integrity to the cause.


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