By Supratim Dey
After making an aerial survey of flood ravaged areas in Upper Assam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday announced a Rs. 500 crore financial package for the state to tide over the present crisis.
The Prime Minister was accompanied by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and made aerial survey of Majuli, Dhemaji, North Lakhimpur, Jorhat districts. Singh had last week announced ex-gratia assistance of Rs. 1 lakh each to the next of kin of each of the deceased from the Prime MinisterRs s National Relief Fund.
Singh pledged Centre’s help in rebuilding the infrastructure damaged by floods. Singh said a team of experts from the Centre had reached Assam to assess the extent of damage caused to crops and infrastructure like roads, including national highways, river embankments, and public buildings due to the floods and soon after they file their report, the Centre would come forward with the financial assistance.
“While the Central Government will decide on the exact amount of financial support to be provided to the state government after the Central team submits report. I am making a commitment to provide an ad-hoc Central support of Rs.500 crore to the state government,” said Singh.
“Once we have completed rescue and relief operation, our focus will shift to restoration of the damaged infrastructure,” Singh added.
Floods and landslides have altogether claimed 81 lives in the state and another 11 persons are reported to be missing. Around 2,166 villages and 20 lakh people have been affected by floods this year in Assam. It is said that this year’s flood in Assam has been the most devastating in recent memories. Around 5 lakh flood-affected people are presently taking shelter at 768 relief camps set up across the state. Nearly 12,000 houses have been damaged by floodwaters.
There had been 42 breaches in the embankments of river Brahmaputra and 14 other tributaries in 14 districts this year till date. The river island Majuli is under grip of severe flood, with 50 per cent of its land area under floodwaters.
The Centre has deployed 15 teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel (548 men along with 60 boats and flood rescue equipment etc) to carry out rescue and relief operations. An IAF helicopter has been deployed for air dropping of the food packets and rescue operations.
The famed Kaziranga National Park (KNP) and its wildlife too are facing the heat of floods. According to government sources, around 70 per cent of the area of the park have been submerged by flood waters, thus endangering the lives of park’s wildlife. Animals are reported to have started moving to highlands and near national highway 37. With poachers taking advantage of floods in past years to kill wildlife, vigil has been intensified to thwart such attempts. Around 4.5 lakh hectares of crop area have been affected due to floods.