| Sonia Gandhi talks to flood-affected people at Samastipur. (PTI)
Patna, Aug. 7: She came, she hovered over the vast expanse of water marooning millions in north Bihar and she went away.
Torrential rains greeted UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi when the car carrying her left the Raj Bhavan to proceed for the airport. Herself ensconced inside the car, she let Union home minister Shivraj Patil and railway minister Lalu Prasad to do all the talking to the media at the Raj Bhavan gate.
“It is a natural calamity of enormous proportion,” Patil said, adding: “The Centre will provide all the necessary assistance to the state government in tackling with the misery afflicting people. The Union government will ensure that there is no shortage of funds and food in the way of helping the marooned people.”
Asked if Sonia and the Manmohan Singh government were satisfied with the relief work being carried out by the Nitish Kumar government, Patil said: “It is not the question of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Given the situation caused by the calamity of devastating proportion we can assume that the state government is doing its duty to the misery-ridden denizens.”
Lalu Prasad, however, sang in the tune which would sound “bitter” to the chief minister. “The marooned people complained Sonia at Samastipur that they were not receiving any relief materials,” Lalu Prasad said. Sonia stopped at Samastipur for a brief period and listened to the flood-affected people who had been brought there to meet her.
“The Nitish Kumar government has failed to provide relief to the flood-hit villagers in 17 districts of north Bihar,” Lalu Prasad added. He, however, said that he would ensure that the Union government provide all help to the Bihar government “in this hour of crisis”.
Lalu Prasad said that trains in the flood-affected areas close to the railheads would transport potable water and food for people. Chemical and fertiliser minister Ram Vilas Paswan was also among the three Union ministers who accompanied Sonia in course of her aerial survey of the flood-hit areas that began from Purnea. She, along with the ministers, came to Bihar Raj Bhavan via Samastipur — one of the worst flood-hit districts and flew back to Delhi.
The state government has demanded Rs 2,700 crore for carrying out relief operations in the flood-affected areas.
Earlier, Patil reviewed the flood situation and rescue operations with senior state officials headed by chief secretary A.K. Choudhary at Raj Bhavan. Sonia also met a few Congress leaders there.
The flood situation continues to be grim in north Bihar even though the areas have not received major rainfall in the past four days.
About 50 people, mostly labourers, were feared to have been drowned in the Ganga at Harsaidabad in Samastipur district yesterday when a big boat carrying over 80 people was capsized in the swollen river yesterday. Samastipur additional collector Hemchandra Prasad said that nine bodies had so far been fished out while over 10 people swam to safety.
He added: “Many people who had boarded the ill-fated boat were still missing.” He said the sub-divisional officer of Barh, which was on the southern side of Harsaidabad, had been asked to find out the “missing” people.
Four army helicopters dropped food packets in the flood-affected areas on the fourth consecutive day today.