Guwahati, July 2 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday announced an aid package of Rs.500 crore for Assam, which has been severely hit by floods, causing an estimated 65 deaths and inundating large stretches of land, including cropland.
The announcement came after the prime minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi undertook an aerial survey of some flood affected districts of the state Monday.
"The Rs.500 crore is sanctioned for immediate relief of the state. A central team has reached the state today (Monday) and will start assessing the total damage of the floods in the state and all the required financial assistance will be extended to the state government based on the assessment of the central team," said the prime minister, while reading out a statement before the media at LGBI International Airport near Guwahati.
According to the state Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), the floods, affecting all 27 districts of the state, killed at least 65 people till Sunday. Another 16 people were killed in the past two weeks due to landslides, caused by heavy flooding and incessant rainfall.
The prime minister, who is a Rajya Sabha member from Assam, also assured the state of efforts to restore the railway line in the Lumding-Badarpur Hill section of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR).
The railway ministry has already been instructed to take up immediate steps to restore the railway line as it is a lifeline for the people in Assam's Barak Valley, as well as neighbouring Mizoram and Tripura.
With the flood waters receding at some places, Manmohan Singh said the primary focus now would be on rescuing people who have been left marooned in flood-hit areas and providing relief to them.
The prime minister had earlier announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs.1 lakh each to the relatives of those killed in floods and landslides. Besides, the state government will also pay Rs.2.5 lakh each to the relatives of the victims.
He also noted that over 700 army personnel, and 16 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), comprising over 600 personnel and 71 boats, have been pressed into service for carrying out relief and rescue operations across the state.
"So far, a total of 4,000 people have been rescued across the state and 20 tonnes of relief material has been airlifted by the Air Force to help the marooned people," the prime minister added.
"A total of 4.84 lakh people, who have been rendered homeless by floods, have taken shelter in the 768 relief across the state. All the required help was given to the inmates of the relief camps," he said.
Manmohan Singh said that the state government has adequate stock of food grain but the central government will provide additional supplies of grain and other materials as and when required.
Meanwhile, Assam's opposition parties, including the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and others, have expressed their dissatisfaction with the package announced by the prime minister.
AIUDF leader and Leader of Opposition Sirajuddin Ajmal said that Rs.500 crore is not sufficient as immediate relief as there has been huge devastation and loss of human lives and property in the floods.
BJP state unit spokesman Santanu Bharali also echoed similar sentiments, and also criticised the response of the state government.
"With the waters starting to recede, now the major problem will start in the form of diseases. However, we have not seen any alertness on the part of the government to deal with the situations that normally arises after the floods," he said.