Guwahati, June 29: Most personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), who have emerged as major lifesavers in the ongoing floods by saving over 5,000 people over the past three days, are growing increasingly disillusioned as they are “performing much below” their potential.
It is not for any lack of effort on their part but for the unavailability of a roof over their heads and for their lack of resources.
One of the personnel involved in rescue and relief operations in Tinsukia’s Amarpur area told The Telegraph, “We can’t stock our basic requirements. Against 98 boats, we only have 55 boats. Then we can’t store the entire stock of relief materials such as tents, utensils, blankets and fibre huts. This hampers our performance. This can improve only when we have a base of our own,” he said.
The NDRF is waiting for Dispur to allot a plot, around 85 acres, to set up a world class trauma centre close to the airport.
But it has not materialised despite the government identifying one at Chanddubi, which, according to the former, is “not” suitable.
“We have asked for land at Rampur or near the Shillong bypass. We would like Dispur to do something fast, as not only will the economy of the place improve because of the proposed centre but it will also help enhance our performance in saving lives year after year as flood and erosion here are a perennial problem,” the jawan said.
The NDRF personnel highlighted the situation in other states such as Punjab, Maharashtra and Bihar.
“In some states we have not only got land but the respective governments have constructed the boundary wall. We are in the business of saving lives but are having to put up in tents and tin houses on the BSF campus at Patgaon here. It is very demotivating,” a jawan said.
NDRF commandant Alok Kumar Singh said though they were awaiting allotment of a suitable plot of land, their main concern now was saving lives, more so in the mighty Brahmaputra.
“It has been a different experience for us. The river never ceases to surprise and shock you. The water level and current increases very fast and also goes down very fast. It is a huge challenge for our jawans to negotiate both,” Singh said.
During rescue operations, Singh said, the authorities need to take up a major aforestation drive, build small dams at the foothills of important tributaries of the Brahmaputra and Barak and sensitise people of flood-prone areas to act according to the situation.
Singh also acknowledged the contributions of home secretary G.D. Tripathi and Kamrup (metro) deputy commissioner Ashutosh Agnihotri for helping “mobilise” resources for rescue operations at “odd” hours.
A schoolgirl died in Dhubri district while Central School in Barpeta, which reopened on June 26, was forced to shut it doors till the scene improved.
Water resources department minister Rajiv Lochan Pegu told The Telegraph from Lakhimpur where he is on an inspection trip that the flood situation was steadily improving in Upper Assam but the scene was still grim in lower Assam.
“The scene is Upper Assam is unprecedented as it is the first high-level flood since 1988. We have had 36 breaches, six by the Brahmaputra in this second round of flood. We will be submitting an overall report to the CMO tomorrow,” he said.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who is set to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on his return from the US, has announced an ex gratia of Rs 1 lakh from the CM’s Relief Fund to those killed in the floods.
Either UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi or Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit Assam to take stock of the situation in the next few days, Congress sources here said.
Like Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, too, has sought the Centre’s intervention to tide over the floods.
Arunachal chief minister Nabam Tuki today formally requested the ministry of home affairs to send a high-level central team to assess the damage and suggest measures to tide over the crisis triggered by uninterrupted rains and landslides since June 24.