GUWAHATI, Oct 14: Arsenic and fluoride contamination in water continues to be a nagging problem in Assam. But then, this problem was the cash cow for those at the helm of affairs in the PHE Department from 2011-16, allegedly making a section of them richer with ill-gotten money.
The department had Gautam Roy as its minister for the first three years during the period from 2011-16. Sukur Ali and Chandan Sarkar led the department as ministers for almost a year each after that.
According to sources, during the period the department procured 33,600 filters worth Rs 83 crore meant for schools with an apparent purpose of ridding school teachers and students of the ill effect of arsenic and fluoride-contaminated water while in schools. However, the sinister undertone in the large-scale purchase of such filters is glaringly visible when one studies the manner of distribution of the filters. Only 39 per cent of the filters purchased were supplied to schools, and the supply was not need-based. The remaining 61 per cent of the filters had to be dumped in PHE godowns for years. This is not all. The department made a mess of the distribution of such filters among the schools in the State. Thousands of filters were supplied to schools that have no problem of arsenic and fluoride contamination and schools that are located in areas where there are no such contaminated habitations. The schools received the filters only to make them lie idle for years.
As though to cap it all, the department purchased Senco Pot filters worth Rs 25 crore only to make many of them rot in its godowns.
The irony remains that despite spending such a huge amount, arsenic and fluoride contamination in water continues to be a serious problem in the State. However, the present government in Dispur has seriously taken the problem of arsenic and fluoride contamination.
According to official records, the Hailakandi and Silchar 1 PHE divisions received as many as 1,275 and 1,350 such filters respectively even as neither of the two areas has arsenic and fluoride-contaminated habitations.
With friends like such people in the guise of ministers, who needs enemies?