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Speechless Sonia listens
- Don’t worry, UPA chairperson tells flood-hit

Dhemaji, Aug. 7: Sonia Gandhi would like Dhemaji to believe it has nothing to worry about, never mind the scenes of devastation she saw for herself today.

Aap logo ke liye saab kuch kiya ja raha hai, chinta ki koi karan nahin hai (everything is being done for you, there is no reason to worry),” she told the flood of faces that gaped at her during the 10 minutes she spent with them.

Moments earlier, a tearful Kanmai Handique had beseeched Sonia to look at her and other flood victims from a woman’s perspective.

Amar ghar duwar sab bane loi gol, apuni mohila, amar karone kiba eta korok (we lost everything to the floodwaters; you are a woman and you will understand our pain better, please do something for us),” Kanmai, a resident of Bhakatgaon, said.

Sonamani Phukon, also from Bhakatgaon, requested Sonia with folded hands to rebuild the house that she lost.

The UPA chairperson may not have been expecting anything different, but Kanmai and Sonamani’s pleas seemed to leave her speechless for a moment.

She nodded before turning to the group of officials hovering around her for an update on flood relief operations. Sonia told the residents that she insisted on making the trip to Dhemaji because she wanted to see for herself what they were going through.

Sonia and the rest of the team — Union home minister Shivraj Patil, AICC leaders Digvijay Singh and Chandan Bagchi, chief minister Tarun Gogoi, flood control minister Bharat Narah and senior bureaucrats — reached Dhemaji on two Indian Air Force helicopters at exactly 10.10am.

Deputy commissioner Diwakar Misra’s PowerPoint presentation on the relief work done so far impressed the central delegation. “The biggest challenge before us is the rehabilitation of the 1,000-odd families in Gogamukh circle. They lost all their belongings in the floods,” he said.

The administration has estimated that floods damaged around Rs 500crore worth of government and public property. Dhemaji’s woes began with a flash flood on July 12, the reason for which was initially suspected to be release of water from the Ranganadi dam. Neepco promptly refuted the allegation.

After hearing the personal accounts of flood victims and the district administration’s briefing on relief measures, Sonia asked Gogoi to maintain the relief camps for a longer period and continue distributing food among the inmates.

The chief minister said a comprehensive rehabilitation package was being worked out for the families who lost everything they had in the floods.

There was pandemonium in the Assembly yesterday when the Speaker refused to suspend Question Hour for a discussion on anomalies in flood relief operations. An AGP member was banished from the day’s proceedings when he became overly aggressive.

Liaqat Ali was seeking an explanation for police firing on flood victims in his constituency, Chenga in Barpeta district.

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