DATELINE Guwahati /Wasbir Hussain
Nearly 70 people have died in floods this season in Assam, more than 1.5 million affected, and, perhaps the first farmer suicide has taken place in the State as he lost his home, crop and everything he had to this annual tural scourge. The flood ravaged multitude has no proper food to eat, safe water to drink, or a place to light a fire to cook. To cap it all, the flood-hit have to hear our Chief Minister say 'we don't have enough funds to provide adequate relief to the affected people.' So, Assam's flood ravaged lot have to depend on divine intervention!
As a citizen, I don’t care whether the party in power at the Centre is different from the party in power in the State. The excuse being sought to be given by Congress veteran Tarun Gogoi and his colleagues is that the BJP Government in Delhi is not giving sufficient flood relief. If that is the case, Gogoi dangoria, please sit on a dhar in Dispur or Dhemaji or at Jantar Mantar. You may take along with you your son and MP, Gaurav Gogoi, who has proved to be a good speaker on tiol television, and can, therefore, articulate Assam’s case very well, or your key lieutents like Rokybul Hussain, Rekibuddin Ahmed, and even the PCC president Anjan Dutta. After all, for Assam’s interest, and even for the interest of the Congress party in an election year, a dhar for sufficient flood aid from the Centre is justified.
Now, enter Assam BJP MP Sarbanda Sonowal in the frame. The Union Minister on Monday made a startling revelation that the Centre had released a whopping Rs 1655 crore to Assam in April this year. Sonowal did not clarify whether this amount was released as flood aid, but while making the ‘disclosure’, he asked how Chief Minister Gogoi could now say the State Government does not have funds to deal with the flood havoc. In view of Sonowal’s claim, the onus certainly falls on the Assam Government to clarify, with honesty and sincerity, whether it really does not have funds to provide flood relief or whether it was simply trying to score some political brownie points to corner the BJP Government at the Centre at the cost of the poor flood-hit people. Again, like I urged the Congress leaders in Assam to sit on dhar if New Delhi has indeed deprived the state of flood-aid, I would like to urge the BJP leaders of doing the same to extract or expose the truth about funds at the disposal of the State Government.
I often wonder whether there is any accountability in expenditure in the me of flood relief that runs into crores. Who is looking at what the administration is providing the people who are engaged in a bitter battle of survival? After all, those hit by the deluge are busy trying to make sure the family can make it till the floods recede, and, also to see if they can save their cattle and livestock. I totally agree with Assam Governor P. B. Acharya that this is not the time to play politics and that providing succour to the flood-hit multitude is the responsibility of everyone, including NGOs and other civil society groups, aside from, of course, the State Government.
The Governor, after an aerial survey of the affected areas, observed that spending money on short-term flood control measures ‘does not make much sense.’ That’s right, but the Assam Government over the years have been only engaged in ad hoc fire-fighting measures to deal with floods without even an attempt at trying to engage or consult experts at evolving a permanent solution to the annual scourge. But I would like to assume that the State Government is actually not capable of formulating even an action plan on its own on how to move forward in looking at a permanent solution to floods. Therefore, instead of playing politics, the Centre should now demonstrate that things are different under the Modi Government and come forward to draw up a mega plan in a scientific manner and with total transparency and accountability to tame the Brahmaputra and save Assam from this annual scourge.