| Swami Chinmayanand
Guwahati, July 26: The Centre today dealt a major blow to Assam, turning down two of the state’s crucial demands. First, it rejected a plea to treat the annual havoc caused by floods as a national problem and then turned down a demand for 30 additional paramilitary companies for effective counter-insurgency operations.
Union minister for development of Northeast C.P. Thakur said it would be difficult to treat Assam’s flood problem as a national one on the ground that it would spark similar demands from neighbouring flood-affected states.
“States like West Bengal and Bihar, where floods have dealt a major blow to the economy, would also come up with similar demands which would be very difficult for the Centre to handle,” Thakur said at a news conference after inspecting several flood-affected districts of Lower Assam. He was accompanied by Union minister of state for home Swami Chinmayanand.
Chinmayanand, on the other hand, said it would be difficult to accede to the demand of the Assam government for 30 additional companies of paramilitary forces as elections are due in some states, where these security personnel would be required.
Instead, he requested the state government to suitably re-deploy the existing troops to tackle the law and order problem. He said many companies under the control of the Centre were now under training and it would be difficult to despatch them to insurgency-affected states like Assam.
There was, however, something to cheer about on a rather disappointing day for Dispur. Oil India Ltd (OIL) and Numaligarh Refinery Ltd (NRL) today contributed Rs 15 lakh and Rs 10 lakh respectively towards the chief minister’s relief fund for the flood-affected.
OIL general manager Mohan Bhandari and NRL managing director B.K. Das handed over the respective cheques to Gogoi. More than 52 lakh people have been affected in floods in 20 of the state’s 24 districts. The official death toll stands at 27.
Earlier, on July 19, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi had urged Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to personally intervene to immediately treat the flood problem of the state as a national problem. An all-party delegation, led by Speaker Prithibi Majhi, had also urged the Centre to treat the flood problem as a national one. The Assembly had also adopted a resolution to this effect.
On the flood problem, Thakur said Rs 44 crore has already been given in the first instalment to the state as calamity relief fund and the next one would be given as soon as the utilisation certificates were submitted to the Centre.
Reacting to the state’s complaint that the Centre was not taking up the 52 flood management schemes, Thakur said they were lying in different departments, making it difficult for the Centre to take a decision.
Union minister of state for water resources Bijoya Chakravarty said the ministry could not directly release funds to the state for taking up flood protection work.
The Assam government has urged the Centre to convert the system of funding for flood management schemes to grants-in-aid at the beginning of the tenth plan with necessary budget provisions of Rs 100 crore per year during the entire plan period.