R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, July 13 - There is no shortage of funds to provide relief to the flood affected people, asserted Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. However, he admitted that strengthening the old flood control structures in the State would take some time and the ambitious road-cum-embankment project would be implemented in a phased manner.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, Sonowal said that at a time when the State is reeling under the fury of floods, the immediate goal before the government is to provide relief to the affected people and to rescue the marooned whenever required. He asserted that there is no shortage of funds to provide relief to the affected people and the government has released funds to the deputy commissioners in advance so that relief operations are not affected. He said personnel of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are also working round the clock to rescue affected people. He said the deputy commissioners have also been instructed to pay ex gratia to the next of kin of those killed in floods and landslides within 24 hours.
The Chief Minister said officers of all levels in the administration are working round the clock. He said there is no shortage of food items, medicines, baby food, etc., and officers and employees of the veterinary department are also working in the field. “We are monitoring the situation round the clock and control rooms have been set up in all the districts. I have also been monitoring the situation at least twice a day,” he added.
Sonowal said Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to him this morning to know the details of the flood situation. “I briefed him about the overall situation and he promised that the Centre would extend all possible help to Assam in this hour of crisis,” he added. He also said that only after the flood water recedes, the exact extent of the damage can be assessed and based on that, the State government would submit a detailed report to the Centre. In such cases, the Centre sends a team to assess the situation on the ground before releasing additional funds, he said.
The Chief Minister said the State government has also requested the NITI Aayog and the 15th Finance Commission to include erosion in the list of natural calamities.
Sonowal pointed out that the Central government has already formed a high-level committee headed by NITI Aayog vice chairman to carry out a comprehensive study of the problem of flood and erosion in the Northeast, and hoped that the committee would be able to submit a report with recommendations soon so that works for permanent solution of the problem can be started.
He said Assam has around 5,000 km of embankments and most of those are 60 to 70 years old. Strengthening all the embankments would take some time, he admitted. He also said that the ambitious project of construction of road-cum-embankments has started and it will be implemented in a phased manner.