R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Feb 14 - The problem of failure to start the work of repairing the breached and damaged embankments and complete it before the onset of monsoon occurred yet again this year because of red tapism in Government departments. Only recently, the process of plugging the breaches of the embankments started and it is unlikely that all the works would be completed on time. Ideally, the work should start immediately after the flood waters recede, but almost every year, there has been delays because of red tapism and the people have to suffer because of that.
Official sources told The Assam Tribune that the working season for such works in Assam is very limited and the ideal situation would be to start the work immediately after the floods are over so that the works can be completed before the rainy season starts. But it has become a common practice in the State to start the work very late, which resulted in the failure to complete the works like plugging of the breached portions of the embankments and strengthening of all the flood control structures on time. There have been instances when quality was compromised because works had to be completed in a hurry. This year too, the situation is no different despite assurances by the Government to release funds on time and official sources admitted that the Water Resources Department would have to work on “war footing” if the breaches are to be plugged on time.
Sources said that 26 major breaches of embankments took place during floods last year, while there was need for strengthening and repairing the embankments in many places to ensure that such flood control structure withstand the fury of floods. The works should have been started by the month of November to ensure that those are completed on time. But because of red tapism in Government departments, the work orders have been released only recently. Sources revealed that about Rs 250 crore would be required to plug the breaches and to implement other schemes for strengthening the embankments. The money is to be spent from the State Disaster Response Fund and there was delay in getting administrative approval for it from the Revenue Department. The process expedited only after the intervention of the Chief Minister and “only recently the Water Resources Department got the administrative approval to issue work orders. It is too early to say whether the works will be completed before the rainy season starts and we can only hope that rainfall does not start early this year,” sources admitted.
It may be mentioned here that the Chief Minister is scheduled to review the progress of the works of the Water Resources Department within the next few days. But the Department will also be hard pressed to complete the assigned tasks on time because of the delay in receiving the necessary clearance for issuing work orders.
Meanwhile, 40 anti-erosion schemes have been taken up under the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund with money provided by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) as erosion is not covered under the State Disaster Response Fund.
Another problem that is affecting almost all the departments in undertaking development works is due to the failure of the Finance Department to release funds on time, because of which, substantial amounts due to the contractors are also pending.