Kerala is trying hard to stand up and emerge strong, wading through flood waters, debris, snakes and slush. The government led by Pinarayi Vijayan is fighting for the 'yet-to-be-confirmed' funds of Rs 700 cr from UAE. The entire nation has come together with donations and relief materials aplenty. Even little children are forsaking their piggybank money saved for their dream items and depositing it into the Kerala Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund. Pinarayi's personal piggybank, however, is this - CMDRF.

Pinarayi and his cabinet had taken the decision to compensate the family of late NCP leader Uzhavoor Vijayan in July last year, a few days after his demise. Rs 25 lakh was sanctioned and released from the CMDRF with no prior, formal application, conveniently calling it 'confidential'. Misuse of CMDRF is not new in Kerala. When cyclone Ockhi hit Kerala in 2017, Pinarayi courted controversy by undertaking a chopper ride by diverting some of the relief funds.

CMDRF guidelines clearly mention that relief can be extended to families of victims who suffered an accident, natural disaster, etc. These funds can be offered to those below poverty line for treatment of certain diseases, free rations, etc. "If the party members donated money from their own pockets, they would have even amassed more than Rs 1 crore as compensation for the family of Uzhavoor Vijayan," said KS Padmakumar, member of political affairs committee, AAP, Kerala. Padmakumar knocked the doors of the governor with the government orders in place.

"The governor is still sitting on it," said Mathew Thomas, senior journalist, "That 25 lakh rupees is still great money for Kerala flood relief." CMDRF is nothing but gold mine for the Kerala government, he further said, pointing to the irony that Kerala is known to be the most literate State that is dancing to the tunes of bureaucracy.

The 'living martyr' of the 1994 Koothuparamba firing, Pushpan received Rs 25 lakh from the government. DYFI had initiated a collection drive and the money was handed over by Pinarayi himself without touching the CMDRF. "Had they done that here with this, we would not have questioned," said Padmakumar. Rs 5 lakh for the expenses incurred for Uzhavoor Vijayan's treatment, and Rs 10 lakh each for the children, have been offered. "This money is siphoned off so easily when there are several victims of the 2010 endosulfan tragedy in Kasargod still waiting for their compensation," said Thomas.

The supreme court had ordered the Kerala government to provide compensation of Rs 5 lakh to every victim within 3 months of the incident. "The government list shows that there are 5,848 victims of the endosulfan tragedy, and according to reports, over 3,000 people are yet to receive compensation," said Ambikasudan Mangad, professor/activist. According to him, even those who received compensation, haven't got the entire amount. Protests are still on, falling on deaf ears, and 2-3 are still dying in the aftermath.

If only NCP, the ally in the LDF, could knock some sense into the ruling government, at least to revive their image after two of their ministers - Thomas Chandy and AK Saseendran - were caught on the wrong foot.

As Kerala is reeling under the aftermath of flood and landslides, let's hope Pinarayi Vijayan takes a moment to acknowledge every penny for something he can be grateful for.

* With inputs from Sanjana Santhosh