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HC relief for Majuli homeless

Guwahati, Dec. 4: Gauhati High Court today directed Dispur to take a “decision” to rehabilitate people rendered homeless in Majuli by floods and erosion and living on embankments. The court asked the Assam government to report the steps taken by January 24 next year.

The court asked the Brahmaputra Board to submit a status report on the progress of work for protecting the river island. It also directed the government to start blacktopping (surfacing) an embankment on the island to transform it into a road-cum-embankment to improve communication.

The direction came in the wake of a public interest litigation filed by Manoj Kumar Borah, a resident of Majuli and former president of Assam Yuva Parishad, the youth wing of AGP.

“According to official reports, 9,566 families became homeless owing to floods and erosion between 1969 and 2011. The state government has so far rehabilitated only around 500 families. The court today asked the state government to take a decision on their rehabilitation,” a source said.

Borah said the Centre had assigned the Brahmaputra Board to protect Majuli. Accordingly, the board prepared a master plan in 2004 in three phases. “Work on the first phase was expected to be completed in December 2010 and for the second phase in March 2011. But the board is yet to complete the first phase. The Centre had sanctioned Rs 56.07 crore for the first phase.”

In April this year, the high court directed the board chairman to personally appear in court on May 6 in connection with the same issue.

The island has witnessed largescale erosion and floods since 1950, when an earthquake measuring over 8.6 on the Richter scale changed the course of the Brahmaputra.

The island has now been reduced to a mere 650 square km from 1,244 square km in 1950, with flooding and erosion destroying nearly 8,699 houses.

“Today the court asked the government to start blacktopping a 125km stretch of a Brahmaputra embankment from Patia Gaon to Dakhinpat and Bongaon to Takarchuk this winter,” the source said. Borah said the embankment is a major communication link for the people.

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