Rs 14000cr eludes flood-hit Assam

Guwahati: The Centre is yet to sanction Rs 14,000 crore sought by the Assam government under the National Disaster Response Fund to repair the damages caused by floods in 2016 and 2017 even as an inter-ministerial team concluded a spot assessment on Sunday.

Sources in Dispur told The Telegraph that the ministry of home affairs had released nearly Rs 500 crore under the State Disaster Response Fund for immediate relief, but the requests for funds to reconstruct the damaged bridges, culverts, roads, embankments and compensate farmers have still remained on paper.

A source said Dispur had sought Rs 10,000 crore in 2016 and nearly Rs 4,000 crore after floods wreaked havoc across the state last year, but funds have not yet been approved by the Centre.

“A sum of Rs 500 crore was released under the SDRF for immediate relief such as ex gratia of Rs 4 lakh to each of the victims’ family, to the injured and for reconstruction of damaged houses. But our efforts to reconstruct the roads, bridges, culverts and repair the embankments have been severely affected because of shortage of funds,” the source said.

A seven-member inter-ministerial team led by joint secretary (rehabilitation division) of the Union home ministry, A.V. Dharma Reddy, visited Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Majuli, Cachar, Karimganj, Hailakandi, Nagaon, Morigaon, Barpeta and Dhubri districts between Thursday and Sunday for “final assessment” of the damages caused by last year’s floods. The team held a meeting with chief secretary V.K. Pipersenia in Dispur on Sunday morning before leaving for New Delhi. Another inter-ministerial team had visited the state in July last year.

Nearly 150 people were killed in severe floods between July and October last year that wreaked havoc in 29 of Assam’s 33 districts. A central team which visited several flood-hit districts had described the damage “unprecedented” as embankments, roads, bridges, culverts, schools and hospital buildings were destroyed. Nearly 4 lakh hectares of cropland were damaged. A similar floods in 2016 had affected 28 districts.

The source said Pipersenia during Sunday’s meeting had requested the team to sanction funds as early as possible because funds crunch stopped the long-term rehabilitation measures. State agriculture minister Atul Bora on Thursday had told the Assembly that last year’s floods caused Rs 226.05-crore loss to agriculture, but compensations for the affected farmers had not yet been released even four months after the floods. Though Bora said the delay was because of the government’s decision to transfer money through bank accounts, sources attributed it to funds shortage.

Convener of Swaraj Assam Bhaben Handique said it showed the Centre’s neglect towards the state’s floods.

SUMIR KARMAKAR Telegraph India

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