GUWAHATI: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday rejected demands to declare the floods in Assam as a “national problem” and insisted on the preparation of an action plan to solve the problem, even as 970 relief camps were opened and five lakh people took shelter in them.
“Declaring the floods in Assam as a national problem or national calamity will not solve the problem. What is needed is an action plan to find out what causes the floods and how we can prevent them,” Singh told reporters at a press conference at LGBI airport in Guwahati after making an aerial survey of some affected districts and meeting inmates at a relief camp in Morigaon district.
Various organisations, particularly the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), have for long been demanding that the Centre declare the floods in the state as a national problem.
“The Assam government is aptly dealing with the situation. The NDRF, the SDRF and the Army are all doing an excellent job in rescuing the marooned people. They have saved the lives of 6,000 people,” Singh said.
According to him, so far 29 people died and 36-38 lakh people were affected in the deluge in 28 of the state’s 33 districts.
"The state government currently has Rs 620 crore under SDRF. I have asked them to spend it without any hesitation. If more fund is needed, we are there and we will help in every possible way," he said.
“I have seen the situation and it is grave. It is a big challenge for the government to combat the situation. I appeal to all social organisations and NGOs to lend their support. Probably, this is for the first time in the country that I have seen all lawmakers fanned out in the affected areas, helping the affected by ensuring that relief materials reach them on time,” the Minister said.
He did not announce any flood package and instead asked the Sarbananda Sonowal government to utilise money from the State Disaster Response Fund to combat the situation. He committed that the Centre would whole-heartedly assist the state government.
“The Chief Minister (who was seated next to Singh at the press conference) has given me a long memorandum. We will see what we can do,” Singh said.
He advised the state government to repair the embankments, damaged by the floods, on a priority basis. He informed that his deputy Kiren Rijiju was sent to his state Arunachal to take stock of the flood situation there.
Sonowal said 970 relief camps have been opened in which around five lakh people have taken shelter.
"This time the floods are very severe. Hundreds of villages have completely been washed away. Schools, roads, embankments have been either washed away or badly damaged. We are sincerely trying to help the people with our all resources," he said.
The worst-affected districts are Lakhimpur, Golaghat, Bongaigaon, Jorhat, Dhemaji, Barpeta, Goalpara, Dhubri, Darrang, Morigaon and Sonitpur.
ASDMA said nearly two lakh hectares of crop area across the state are under flood waters, while a number of roads, embankments, bridges and other infrastructure were washed away.
Currently, Brahmaputra is flowing above the danger mark at Guwahati, Nematighat in Jorhat, Tezpur in Sonitpur, Goalpara and Dhubri towns.
Its tributaries Burhidehing is flowing above danger level at Khowang in Dibrugarh, Dhansiri at Numaligarh in Golaghat, Jia Bharali at NT Road Crossing in Sonitpur, Puthimari at NH Road Crossing in Kamrup, Beki at Road Bridge in Barpeta and Sankosh at Golakganj in Dhubri, ASDMA said.
(With inputs from PTI)