GUWAHATI, May 25: With the Centre tightening its purse strings when it comes to restoration of roads, bridges, embankments etc damaged by the devastating floods in Assam last year, the State Revenue and Disaster Management Department has long been in a fix. Despite the BJP leading the coalition at Dispur and the NDA government at the Centre, no financial support from the Centre is forthcoming for the restoration of the damaged infrastructure in the State.
Some are tempted to call this a rerun of sorts of what the Congress-led coalition government at Dispur and UPA government at the Centre did in the past several years in the matter of restoration of infrastructure damaged by floods in the State. The present dispensation at the Centre, for reasons best known to it, seems to be carrying forward this legacy.
After floods ravaging the State last year, Dispur sought Rs 4,358.81 crore for the restoration of infrastructure damaged in the State. However, that seemed to have fallen on the deaf years of the Centre. Even as the season of floods is approaching the State with pre-monsoon rains lashing the State, not a single additional penny has been received from the Centre for the restoration of the damaged infrastructure in the State as yet.
A news report emanating from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that a high-level meeting at the MHA with Home Minister Rajnath Singh in the chair recently ‘approved’ Rs 480.87 crore for Assam under the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), caused a flutter of resentment at Dispur. However, the Centre is yet to let Dispur know anything about the amount. The State Revenue and Disaster Response Department has communicated with the Centre on this issue, but no response is forthcoming. When contacted, an official from the Centre verbally informed Dispur that no fund for restoration of damaged infrastructure under NDRF has been approved for Assam as yet. The Central Government official has let Dispur know that the recent MHA meeting has only assessed the flood damage in Assam.
The floods in 2017 left a trail of damage, affecting 31 of the 33 districts and as many as 6,151 villages in the State. The death toll in the floods was 160, the highest in the past several years. Besides breaching 26 embankments and 307 roads, the floods also damaged 1,730 roads, 67 Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) bridges and 66 approach STP bridges.
The question of the story, therefore, is: Is the assessed flood damage of Rs 480.87 crore for Assam a handsome amount for the restoration of damage of such a huge magnitude? If it is not, what has prompted this to happen in the first place, given the recurring nature of flood-related damages?