MLAs pull up Majhi during Question Hour for schemes not sanctioned by the State Revenue Department under the Calamity Relief Fund (CRF)
By our Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, July 17: State Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Prithvi Majhi found himself in a tight spot during Question Hour in the State Assembly on Tuesday when MLAs, belonging to the Opposition parties as well the ruling party, cornered him for schemes not sanctioned by the State Revenue Department under the Calamity Relief Fund (CRF). In fact, the Minister had to face strong criticism for this.
During Question Hour, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) MLA Keshab Mahanta wanted to know how much damage had been caused by floods in Assam this year, how many people had perished in the floods and how much money was there under the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) and the Calamity Relief Fund (CRF). He also claimed that relief and rehabilitation measures taken up by the government had been “insufficient”.
Congress MLA Jayanta Malla Baruah expressed his anger over the fact that when MLAs gave priority to any road repair or embankment construction schemes under CRF, such schemes were usually not sanctioned by the State Revenue Department. “But when such schemes are taken up by contractors at the recommendation of MLAs, they are sanctioned by the Revenue Department without much ado. So does this mean that there is some tacit understanding between contractors and bureaucrats?” asked Baruah.
Prithvi Majhi, visibly angry, asked the Congress MLA not to make such “wild and baseless” allegations. The minister’s remark sparked off an uproar in the House, with MLAs of both the Opposition as well as the ruling party coming down heavily on the minister. They were unanimous in their view that many important schemes under CRF submitted to Dispur had not been sanctioned by the Revenue Department.
AGP MLA Padma Hazarika said, “I specifically want to mention that some schemes under CRF in Sonitpur district were sent for sanction to the Revenue Department. The schemes were not sanctioned and as a consequence, embankments could not be repaired. Floods inundated many areas in Sonitpur district this year. The committee which sanctions CRF schemes and is headed by the Chief Secretary, did not meet even once between October, 2011 and March this year. This itself speaks a lot.”
Congress MLA Anjan Dutta asked Prithvi Majhi, whether as a minister he was aware of these things. “It seems that there is President’s rule in Assam where bureaucrats work according to their own will,” said Dutta.
AGP MLA Prabin Hazarika said that the State Water Resources Minister had visited the Salmara embankment in his Biswanath Chariali constituency five times. Yet a scheme for the repair and maintenance of this embankment under CRF had not been sanctioned. As a result, he said, floods had wreaked havoc in the area this year.
AIUDF MLA Sherman Ali, Congress MLA Dr Bhumidhar Barman, BPF MLA Kamal Sing Narzary and a few other MLAs also criticized the Revenue Minister for the whole issue.
To most of the questions put before him, Revenue Minister Prithvi Majhi was seen giving vague answers and this left the MLAs more disgruntled.
Finally the MLAs demanded that a House committee should be formed to oversee the sanction of schemes under CRF by the Revenue Department. Speaker Pranab Kumar Gogoi also expressed concern over the whole issue and said that the government must take it up seriously. He also said that no government had treated the flood and erosion problem in Assam as a national problem. “An expert committee must be formed to see how the flood and erosion problem can be solved permanently,” said Gogoi. He also directed the Revenue Minister to form a committee, comprising members belonging to all political parties, to oversee sanction of schemes under CRF.
Congress MLA Jayanta Malla Baruah raised another question during Question Hour on Tuesday. He said that in Nalbari district many schemes under the State Water Resources Department had been taken up where, he alleged, the quality of work done had been rather poor. Moreover, on paper the progress of these schemes was shown as 100 per cent but a field survey showed a completely different picture. He asked State Water Resources Minister Rajiv Lochan Pegu to form a vigilance and monitoring committee with MLAs of all parties as its members.
Rajiv Lochan Pegu was initially hesitant to agree to form the committee but when the Speaker intervened and instructed the minister to do so, Pegu agreed to form a vigilance and monitoring committee.
Meanwhile, State Revenue Minister Prithvi Majhi informed the House that embankments in 53 places across the State had been breached in flood this year and 3,033 roads had been damaged. He also said that 109 persons had died due to floods and 16 in landslides, while 17 persons were reported missing.