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Assam assesses Rs 4,358 cr; Centre estimates Rs 480 cr

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GUWAHATI, July 6: Despite floods being a regular yearly phenomenon that causes deluges in phases across Assam, the funds that are expected from the Centre either arrive a woe bit too late or not at all. The prime reason for the failure of the Central funds reaching the State at the proper time is, of course enmeshed in red-tapism and rules. Nevertheless, political pressure from the State Government at the right time can definitely work as the magic wand.

In 2017, the State Government’s flood damage assessment amounted to about Rs 4,358 crore. The mandarins in Dispur even sent a memorandum to Delhi in this regard. After that year’s devastating floods when the death toll was 160 (highest in the last few years), Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a whirlwind tour of the affected areas in the State. A meeting on this issue chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh was held in New Delhi on May 14, 2018. It estimated that the flood damage in Assam amounted to only Rs 480.87 crore under National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF). Two Central teams visited Assam before the meeting to assess the flood damage. However, the fact remains that under the present situation not a single penny may accrue to the State exchequer.

As per rules, the Ministry of Home affairs (MHA) could release the Central fund under NDRF only when the respective State Governments spend the entire requisite amount earmarked in the SDRF (State Disaster Response Fund).
During the first part of the present financial year (2018-19), there was a total deposit of Rs 198 crore under the SDRF head in the State exchequer. Of that amount, Dispur has already released Rs 48 crore to the Deputy Commissioners of the flood affected districts. The released money is to be spent on various flood rehabilitation and damage control exercises. Accordingly, the State exchequer now has a remaining amount of Rs 150 crore under the SDRF account.

Meanwhile, the Central Government recently released Rs 239 crore to the State Government to be used in various SDRF work. Thus the total amount now in that account is Rs 389 crore. But the State Government already has a committed liability of about Rs 500 crore arising from the ongoing flood infrastructure repair or rebuilding work across the State. The amount arising from the committed liability would have to be released once the ongoing works are completed and the bills are sanctioned.

Hence, the Sonowal Government must make the move now before the next spate of floods creates havoc. In fact, Dispur should seek a special flood package as grant from the Centre.