Assam floods: PM Modi’s assurances too little too late?
Guwahati, July 11: Since June, Assam is fighting the scourge of floods almost alone. Along with Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland too have witnessed the havoc created by floods and landslides since the last few weeks.
Very little is covered in the national media regarding the devastation floods have caused across the northeast India. So, is the apathy of the leaders in the national capital who are almost ignorant about what is happening in the "far away land" of Assam and other neighbouring states. Such kinds of negligence on the part of the leadership and the media in the national capital are nothing new.
The entire northeast India knows it well the kind of importance it holds in the national discourse. Except for a few protesting murmurs on social media, people of the region have realised by now that no matter how miserable their lives turn , little help would come from Delhi.
Strange is the fate of the region, which experts feel that because of its distance almost always gets step-motherly treatment from the rest of the country. Many also say that the region should develop itself to fight its ills and stop complaining in times of need.
It took almost more than a month and 37 deaths later, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally spoke on the issue.
On Sunday, PM Modi decided to pick up his phone, after he finished his busy schedule of foreign visits to Israel and Germany for the G-20 summit, and spoke to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to take stock of the prevailing flood situation in the state.
The PM assured the Assam CM of all central help, reported PTI. During the telephonic conversation, PM Modi enquired about measures taken by the Assam government to provide succour to the marooned people, damage caused by flood waters and status of relief and rescue operations.
The CM informed the PM of the state government's effective and expeditious measures to reach out to the affected people.
Amid reports of niceties exchanged between the two leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (the saffron party has its governments both in Assam and the Centre), the locals of Assam wonder why the governments have failed to address the havoc caused by the annual floods in the state and other parts of the region.
Except for announcing ex-gratia to the tune of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of victims, very little relief has reached the flood-affected people.
The powerful students' body--All Assam Students' Union--on Monday reiterated its demand to declare flood and erosion problems of the state a national problem and urged the government to protect Majuli-as the world's largest river island is shrinking at a great speed because of regular soil erosion caused by heavy rains.
All India United Democratic Front chief Badruddin Ajmal wants PM Modi to visit Assam to review the flood situation in the state.
The demand of Ajmal, a staunch opponent of the BJP, is a sentiment echoed by many in Assam. If not for anything, the visit of PM Modi could boost the morale of the people and make them feel that they too hold some importance in the national discourse in times of such tragedies, not just during the elections (PM Modi made several visits to the state before the 2016 assembly elections which many feel helped the BJP to form government for the first time in the state).
Locals feel the PM at least should make an aerial survey of the flood-hit state, something akin to what he did in 2015 when Tamil Nadu was badly hit by the floods.
Coming back to the havoc created by the floods, according to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), five people died due to floods on Monday in different parts of the state.
Thus, the toll of flood and landslide-related incidents reached 37. According to the Central Water Commission, over 12.5 lakh people in 2,053 villages in 67 circles of 20 districts are affected by floods in Assam.
About 18,000 people are taking shelter in 71 relief camps across the state. Crop in 1.05 lakh hectares of land are damaged and nearly 4.5 lakh domestic animals, including over 1.8 lakh head of cattle, were affected.
Reports say in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh floods and landslides have thrown life out of gear.
Landslides have cut off roads links to Upper Subansiri, West Siang and Upper Siang districts of the state. A five-year-old girl child was washed away by surging waters of the Senki river on Sunday when she was playing near her home at Sangram in Kurung Kurmey district, about 30km west from Itanagar.