No aerial recce, please! Meet flood-affected people, Assam’s plea to Modi
Guwahati, August 1: As usual, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have a hectic day as he is going to fly down to flood-hit Assam on Tuesday. The PM's day-long visit will be a packed one with at least three meetings in the capital city, Guwahati, where he is going to meet chief ministers, senior ministers and officials of several northeastern states to take stock of the flood and landslide situation in the region.
It is not yet clear whether the PM will take part in an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas as water has started receding in most parts of Assam. However, local leaders and residents of the state want Modi to visit flood-hit places and meet affected people in relief camps to understand the gravity of the situation.
On Monday, the Tai Ahom Yuba Parishad, Assam, a local students' organisation, requested the PM to visit the flood-affected areas and meet those living in refugee camps, instead of taking an aerial route during his visit to the state.
The leaders of the Parishad said that floodwaters have receded and the PM won't be able to see how much land have been submerged in water by an aerial survey.
"An aerial view will not reveal the magnitude of suffering that the people have undergone," said a leader of the Parishad. The residents of the state stated that the visit of the PM is too late, none the less they welcome it.
Addressing reporters in Guwahati, Dharmakanta Gogoi, a leader of the Parishad, said, "The PM would not have come to Assam if the Gujarat floods had not happened and had he not gone there in the first place. After visiting Gujarat, he has been forced to come to Assam but after 22 days of the last wave of floods to hit Lakhimpur district, he will not be able to realise the suffering of the people. He should go to the flood-affected places by road and meet the people. He should visit places like Lakhimpur, Majuli, Morigaon and Kaziranga."
"A package of Rs 1,000 crore for the state and special relief package of Rs 200 crore to the worst-affected Lakhimpur district should be announced by the PM. It is a shame that the state government has distributed relief materials consisting of a total of only 4 kg rice, two litres of water, one litre of mustard oil and a tarpaulin for 22 days. Can a family live on 4 kg rice for 22 days? Moreover, neither Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal nor local MLA Utpal Dutta or MP Pradan Barua has visited Lakhimpur till date," added Gogoi.
As per reports, Modi will arrive in Guwahati at 10 am and hold three meetings with the CMs of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh before flying back to Delhi in the evening. Manipur and Arunachal have been hit by flash floods and landslides.
This year, floods in Assam have killed 85 people and affected over 20 lakh people in 29 of the state's 32 districts.
"The PM's visit is mainly to find a permanent solution to the flood problem that Assam is facing," state finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said at a press conference.
Congress leader and former CM Tarun Gogoi said Modi is paying a "token visit to the state only after facing severe criticism from all quarters as he visited Gujarat, but neglected Assam."
The Centre has already announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each under the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund for the relatives of people killed and Rs 50,000 to seriously injured persons in the recent flood in Assam.
Assam CM will apprise PM of the state's requirement for Rs 2,393 crore to repair infrastructure, including major breaches in embankments caused by the Brahmaputra and other rivers, reported The Telegraph.
However, when asked about the state's demand, Sarma said Assam has enough funds. "We still have Rs 324 crore of unspent money. Last year the Centre had announced Rs 400 crore (for Assam), but did not send it because we had money," he added.
Sarma, however, said the state government will submit a memorandum with some demands.
These kinds of conflicting statements made by senior ministers, including the CM, of Assam have attracted a lot of criticism by opposition parties regarding the availability of funds to tackle the flood situation.
According to Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), about 5,000 people are still affected in Lakhimpur and Jorhat districts and 366 people are taking shelter in four relief camps in the two districts.