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HC fumes over Himanta flood jab Explain steps, minister told

Guwahati, May 21: Gauhati High Court today took strong exception to Guwahati development department (GDD) minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s “irresponsible” statement that the problem of waterlogging in the city could not be solved.

A division bench of the high court asked the GDD minister to file an affidavit explaining particular steps taken by his department to solve the problem within May 26.

The court directive came during a hearing of five petitions including three public interest litigation (PIL) filed on the issue of artificial flood havoc in Assam’s capital city filed by different individuals.

“Sarma has also been asked by the high court to explain as to what led him to make such an irresponsible statement before the media,” a lawyer in Gauhati High Court told The Telegraph.

During a news conference on April 29, Sarma offered to resign if any other person could do a better job than him. “I cannot be perfect. It is not possible to wish away the city’s flood problems. If villagers can live with floods, so too can the city residents,” he had said.

Sarma passed the blame for the city’s present predicament to previous governments, saying, “We passed the time for a solution about 20 years back,” and added that the city had grown in an unplanned manner.

The lawyer said the division bench of Chief Justice Ramesh Surajmal Garg and Justice Hrishikesh Roy also observed that such a statement was not expected from Sarma who held a very responsible position in the ruling government. The court feared that the statement might shatter the confidence of the people in the very word of governance.

“The Chief Justice was disappointed with the state government’s attitude to solve the waterlogging problem and maintained that the court’s intervention would become inevitable on the issue if positive and concrete steps do not come Dispur’s end. The CJ said he would wait for the response of the concerned minister,” the lawyer said.

The petitions, which were filed before the court included a PIL by social activist Ketaki Bardalai and filmmaker Santwana Bordoloi.

In an earlier hearing of the PIL in April, the high court observed that the government was not ready and willing to come out with a strategic plan to make the life of citizens comfortable in the city.

“At many places, any person moving around the township can conveniently find that waterlogging is a menace. The road conditions are bad. Garbage heaps can be found at a number of places. If in the capital of the state, this is the condition, then one can imagine the condition of the entire state,” the court made an observation in the earlier order.

On the other hand, hundreds of women from different waterlogging-affected areas today blocked the busy RG Baruah Road for several hours demanding an early solution to the flash flood problem.

The women demanded the ministers and officials of the Tarun Gogoi government to visit different areas in the city after a heavy shower to taste the nightmarish experience of waterlogging.

“Myself, my husband and our children remain awake throughout the night if there is heavy rain. Rainwater has damaged most of the furniture and other property at my residence. More importantly, water remains stagnant even after rain stops owing to clogged drains,” Anima Sarma, a resident of Nabin Nagar, who joined the road blockade, said.

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