People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXVI

No. 27

July 08, 2012

 

ASSAM

 

Too Little Relief Announced for Devastated Flood Victims

 

Isfaqur Rahman

 

DEVASTATING floods and erosions have created havoc in Assam and claimed at least 80 lives since June 23 last. As per official figures, the recent floods have taken the toll of 77 lives and badly affected 24 of 27 districts in the state. Besides, a total population of more than 19 lakh in about 2,500 villages have been affected and thousands of people are rendered homeless. In all, over six lakh hectares of crop area have been affected. The authorities have set up 768 relief camps to shelter the worst-hit people. A total population of 4.85 lakh has been sheltered in the relief camps as per the official figure. The rural economy and infrastructure of the state have been damaged extensively.

 

The districts affected by the current wave of flood  include Barpeta, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Jorhat, Golaghat, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Nagaon, Morigaon, Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Nalbari, Bongaigoan, Chirang, Baksa, Sonitpur, Udalguri, Goalpara, Cachar, Kamrup and Karimganj.

 

The river island of Majuli has been hit the hardest after the main protection dyke was breached on June 27.  Over one lakh people of more than 80 villages in the island have been affected. More than two lakh people were affected in the three districts of Barak Valley --- Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi. The toll in Cachar district alone stands at six, according to the official sources.

 

There seemed to be a slight improvement in the overall flood situation in the state with the respite from the incessant rains. The Brahmaputra and most of its tributaries are maintaining a receding trend. However, the mighty river is still flowing above the danger mark in three of its six gauge stations at Nimatighat, Guwahati and Goalpara.

 

Most of the flood victims are spending sleepless nights without food and shelter. Thousands of people are still marooned at different places in the state. Acute food crisis has compounded the woes and sufferings of the people. The administration has done precious little in providing relief materials. The governmentís relief measures are quite inadequate and mismanaged. Even the people in the relief camps are facing acute shortages of food, safe drinking water, medicine and other essential commodities. The rescue operations are also distressing to a large extent. Spontaneous protests are mounding in several places against the failure of the state administration in providing relief and conducting rescue operation. The army, IAF and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), along with SDRF, are also pressed into services. But their operations were hamstrung by inadequacy in disaster management and lack of preparedness on the part of the civil administration.

 

The state committee of the CPI(M) has strongly criticised the failure of the state government in conducting relief and rescue operations. The state government and the centre have largely been responsible for the worsening flood situation. The CPI(M) has demanded adequate relief and rescue operations to be conducted on war-footing. The party also questioned the wisdom of the Assam chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, to visit the United States of America at a time when the state was reeling under flood fury. The chief minister, along with the minister in-charge and top officials of the disaster management, has chosen the time to visit the USA when there was an impending danger of floods in Assam. The chief minister and his team returned to the state on July 2.

 

On its part, the CPI(M) has called upon all its units to extend all possible help to the flood victims. It has also called upon the party committees and all sections of the people to organise protest actions against the governmentís failure in providing relief  to the people.

 

PRIME MINISTER

VISITS ASSAM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, along with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the chief minister Tarun Gogoi, made an aerial survey of the flood scene in Jorhar, Dhemaji and Lakhimpur districts on July 2 and saw the extensive damages. Prior to the prime ministerís visit, no central team or union minister had cared to visit the state in spite of the untold miseries unleashed by the Brahmaputra and its tributaries.

 

The prime minister admitted that Assam has been suffering one of the worst ever flood in recent years and announced a central grant of Rs 500 crore to the state to tide over the crisis. Addressing media persons at the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati, Dr Singh also stated that additional funds would be given to Assam after receiving the report from the central team which is assessing the damages.

 

On the other hand, chief minister urged the prime minister to immediately release Rs 11,316 crore as immediate and medium term assistance to the bail out the state from the crisis it is facing due to floods and erosions. The chief minister demanded Rs 1,100 crore for rehabilitation of the affected families as part of the total amount of Rs 2,526 crore as immediate support. Medium term assistance of Rs 8,790 crore has also been sough for strengthening and raising of embankments and for National Highway projects and also mitigating flood related waterlogging in Guwahati city.

 

Various political parties and organisations have sharply criticised the central government for its apathetic attitude towards the problems of floods and erosions in Assam. Considering the huge damages and devastations, the central grant of Rs 500 crore announced by the prime minister is too little to address the gravity of the problem. The state and central governments have failed to spell-out long term scientific measures for finding a lasting solution to the problem. Adhoc measures alone cannot fulfil the hopes and aspirations of the people. The perennial problem is yet to be declared as a national problem.