This year’s floods in Assam are generally regarded as one of the worst in the last 50 years. We cannot recall any other floods that have been quite so destructive. The death toll in the floods this year has already gone up to 62 and the number of highways, embankments and bridges destroyed by the floods has exceeded the devastation caused by floods at any other time. The Brahmaputra is still flowing above the danger level at Neamatighat, Goalpara and Dhubri, though it has fallen margilly in Guwahati and has maintained a steady trend in Dibrugarh and Tezpur. Fortutely, apart from Dikhow, all the other tributaries of the Brahmaputra are showing either a steady or a falling trend. According to the Assam State Disaster Magement Authority, till Monday evening, 1.442 million people living in 19 districts of the State were still reeling under the effects of the floods.
It is at times like these that one expects both the State government and the Centre to swing into action without losing any time so as to reduce the loss of lives as far as possible and to provide shelter to families affected by the floods. This year, the floods have taken away even the last shelter of most flood-affected people, mely, the highways on which people eke out a subhuman existence until the floodwaters recede. This year, the floods have inundated most of the highways as well, thus taking away the temporary shelter of thousands of people. The Chief Minister of Assam has undertaken an aerial survey of some of the flood affected areas, and a high-level team from the Union Water Resources Ministry is expected to arrive in the State shortly to assess the havoc caused by floods and erosion. There seem to be conflicting versions about how well the State government is equipped fincially to deal with one of the worst floods that the state has experienced in half-a-century. Chief Minister had been saying that this State did not have the requisite funds to deal with the damage caused by such unprecedented floods. But Union Minister Sarbanda Sonowal told jourlists in Guwahati on Monday that the Centre had released Rs 1,656 crore for the State in April this year, and that instead of utilizing the funds for the immediate rescue and relief needs of the flood-affected people, the State government was blaming the Centre. Sonowal requested the Chief Minister of Assam to desist from politicizing even the flood crisis and to play his role according to the norms laid down in the Constitution. It has now been revealed that the State government has Rs 1,400 crore provided by the Centre, and that is why the Centre has refrained from releasing the sum of Rs 207 crore recently announced as a grant for the flood devastation by DoNER Minister Jeetendra Singh. But the Centre has also taken the initiative of getting Oil India Limited, ONGCL, NRL, IOCL and BTPL located in Assam, to pool their resources and create a fund to assist flood-affected people of the State. Such initiatives are beginning to match initiatives that the Centre had taken in the past to deal with devastation caused by floods in other States like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. It is a happy augury that at long last the kind of initiatives reserved for tural calamities affecting more populous States of the Union are being introduced for Assam as well.