The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Assam floods plea to Vajpayee

Guwahati/Nagaon, July 19: The Assam government has urged Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to personally intervene and ensure that the flood situation in the state was treated as a national problem. More than 51 lakh people have been affected in 22 of the 24 districts, with widespread damage to property.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi wrote to Vajpayee today, saying the national disaster management division of the Union home ministry was yet to take a decision on declaring Assam’s flood problem a national one. “Your personal intervention is required so that lakhs of hapless people are not left to the mercy of flood waters every year,” Gogoi wrote.

He also drew the attention of the Prime Minister to the assurances by the Centre in 1996 and 1998 on releasing Rs 500 crore for flood control measures and declaring that all Brahmaputra flood control projects would get 100 per cent grants from the Centre.

“These funds have not materialised and the people of the state continue to suffer. These assurances should be implemented immediately for taking up flood management measures,” he said.

He said the state government has earlier submitted a proposal for 52 prioritised flood management schemes to the Union ministry of water resources as it apprehended further devastation caused by the floods. “The scheme was, however, not approved, affecting the entire programme of flood management,” Gogoi said.

A high-level meeting, which ended late tonight, has decided to seek additional funds from the Centre for repairs necessitated by the largescale damage caused by floods. This has become necessary as according to existing norms, the calamity relief fund can be used to carry out only minor repairs.

Gogoi has also requested the Prime Minister to send a central team to assess the extent of the devastation. The worst-hit Dhemaji district has remained cut off as road and rail links have been washed away. Twenty-five people have died till now. A total of 447 relief camps have been opened.

Gogoi said the sorry state of National Highway 52, which runs from Baihata Chariali to Jonai, has jeopardised relief operations in flood-affected areas.

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Though the Border Roads Organisation had undertaken restoration at the insistence of the ministry of road transport and highways, nothing has been done to ensure its maintenance and development.

He said long-term planning and specific area treatment under watershed management programmes involving neighbouring states need to be undertaken.

The BJP had accused Gogoi of concealing facts and resorting to politicking at the time of floods. The BJP’s charges came on Thursday, the day Union minister of state for water resources Bijoya Chakravarty undertook an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas.

To counter the chief minister’s contention that the Centre has not released a single rupee for flood control schemes, party in-charge for the Northeast V. Satish came out with data on funds released by New Delhi for flood control and flood relief measures in the state.

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