|A damaged house in Balasore. Telegraph picture
Bhubaneswar, Oct. 23: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has sought relaxation of norms for construction of houses for the poor under the Indira Awas Yojana in view of prevailing shortage of building materials.
In a letter to Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, Naveen said: “As collection of building materials will be difficult on part of the poor beneficiaries, the state government may be allowed to engage government and private agencies for quick construction of their houses.”
In a quick response to the chief minister’s letter, Ramesh has agreed to relax the norms of enhancing the wage employment to 150 days and said other demands would also be examined.
Naveen demanded allotment of houses to the poor with a certification from the collector without totally depending on the BPL list of 1997 as household survey of 2002 had left out many people from the list. He also demanded allotment of additional 3,00,000 houses under the yojana.
Naveen sought a special package of Rs 500 crore labour budget for restoration of private and public properties and to protect livelihood of the affected people. Seeking relaxation under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the government wants extension of permissible 100 days of wage employment limit to 150 days in the affected districts.
Ramesh in his reply also assured Naveen that the Centre would be flexible in its approach towards providing assistance towards the state like it had done in the case of Uttarakhand, which had faced severe natural calamity. It will examine the possibility of allowing machines being used in rural job projects.
On the issue of increasing the labour budget, under which over Rs 1,515.70 crore has been approved for 2013-14, Ramesh said he had been urging the state government since June last to come for a review. “I am sorry to state that barring Jharkhand, no other state has come forward for a review,” Ramesh said.
On the other hand, the incessant rain, which has been on for the past four days, has made life miserable for the people.
Many people are yet to get a meal as they unable to cook the food.
“All my five family members, including the children, are in empty stomach. Though we received the rice as relief, we can’t cook it due to rain,” said Ananda Gouda, a resident of Haldiapadar village in Phailin-hit Ganjam district.
M.R.K. Patnaik, a physically challenged resident of Gandhi Nagar in Berhampur, has a different story. He is unable to go to the relief distribution centre to fetch the materials due to rain. “We have been starving since Monday evening,” he said.
“There used to be always long queue before my shop since we started distributing the relief materials. But today, as it is raining heavily, very few people turn up,” said Charulata Patra, a dealer at Jenana Hospital Road in Berhampur.
Ajay Bhuyan, a resident of Parikhi village in Balasore district, said: “The fresh rain has added to our woes. We have lost our houses and are staying under open sky. We are yet to get polythene sheets for our temporary shelter,” he said.
The state’s special relief commissioner P.K. Mohapatra admitted that the torrential rain has “badly affected” the relief and restoration in the affected areas. “We had alerted the concerned district collectors about the possibility of rain,” said Mohapatra.
Mohapatra said 4.5 lakh people in Phailin-ravaged Ganjam and flood-hit Balasore were yet to be provided relief, though other affected people in 16 other districts had already been covered. “Relief operations will continue in Ganjam and Balasore,”he said.
The greatest challenge before the administration is to restore power supply in the Phailin-hit Ganjam, where most of the electric towers and poles have been uprooted.
Prashant Chowdhury, chief executive officer of the Southern Electricity Supply Company, said: “The rain has adversely affected power restoration in Ganjam. More than five lakh consumers in the district are yet to get power supply.”
Chowdhury said power supply had been restored to around 45,000 of 80,000 consumers in Berhampur city and 1.10 lakh of 5.50 lakh consumers in Ganjam.
Additional reporting by Sunil Patnaik in Berhampur and Sibdas Kundu in Balasore