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No shortage of flood relief funds: Sonowal

By R Dutta Choudhury
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GUWAHATI, Aug 1 - Both the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister have given commitment to provide adequate funds to Assam to tide over the crisis arising out of the devastating floods and at present, there is no shortage of money to provide relief to the affected people, asserted Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. He also stressed the need for strengthening the Brahmaputra Board.

Talking to The Assam Tribune here today, Sonowal revealed that the State still has Rs 620 crore in the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) and there should not be any problem in providing relief to the affected people. He warned that if any officer is found to be responsible for dereliction of duty in matters of providing relief to the affected people, immediate action would be taken against such officer.

Sonowal revealed that unlike the previous years, funds to provide relief to the affected people were released well in advance so that relief operations can be launched immediately after the floods hit the State. Earlier, the next of kin of those killed in floods had to wait for long periods to get ex-gratia payment, but this year, the process of issuing cheques to the unfortunate families who lost near and dear ones in floods, has already started and most of them have already received the money, he added.

Reacting to criticism that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, during his visit to the State to assess the situation, did not announce any special grant to the State, Sonowal said that as per norms, the Centre provides additional funds only after the State Disaster Response Fund is exhausted. He said that the Union Minister was properly briefed on the situation on the ground. An inter-ministerial team of the Government of India will visit the State within the next ten days. The team will visit all the affected areas to assess the situation in the ground and submit a report. The Centre will provide additional funds on the basis of the report, said Sonowal. He also expressed confidence that there would be no shortage of funds to repair the damages caused by floods following repeated assurances by the Prime Minister and Home Minister.

The Chief Minister said the Centre has accepted in principle to amend the guidelines of spending the Disaster Response Fund in case of Assam. Giving an example, he said that as per the guidelines, only an amount of Rs 60,000 can be spent to repair or reconstruct one kilometre of road damaged in flood and erosion. But it is not possible to construct quality roads in Assam because of the weather and other conditions. However, the Centre has now accepted in principle the State Government�s proposal to amend the guidelines, he added.

Reiterating that negligence on the part of any officer in providing relief would not be tolerated, Sonowal said that a number of officers have already been placed under suspension, while show-cause notices were issued to six officers in Majuli who left their workplace without informing the Deputy Commissioner.

The Chief Minister further said that instructions have been given to the Water Resources Department to expedite the process of repairing the damaged embankments. He pointed out that earlier, the department used to start repair works very late and those could not be finished before the onset of the monsoon season. But this year, the Water Resources Department has been directed to start making plans and estimates for repairing the damaged and breached embankments immediately so that the repair work can be started in October to ensure that the breaches are plugged well ahead of the onset of monsoon, he added.

Sonowal further revealed that the Brahmaputra Board has already started work for protection of Majuli. However, he admitted that he is not very satisfied with the functioning of the Board and �I have already requested the Government of India to review the performance of the Board and to strengthen it.�

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No shortage of flood relief funds: Sonowal

GUWAHATI, Aug 1 - Both the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister have given commitment to provide adequate funds to Assam to tide over the crisis arising out of the devastating floods and at present, there is no shortage of money to provide relief to the affected people, asserted Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. He also stressed the need for strengthening the Brahmaputra Board.

Talking to The Assam Tribune here today, Sonowal revealed that the State still has Rs 620 crore in the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) and there should not be any problem in providing relief to the affected people. He warned that if any officer is found to be responsible for dereliction of duty in matters of providing relief to the affected people, immediate action would be taken against such officer.

Sonowal revealed that unlike the previous years, funds to provide relief to the affected people were released well in advance so that relief operations can be launched immediately after the floods hit the State. Earlier, the next of kin of those killed in floods had to wait for long periods to get ex-gratia payment, but this year, the process of issuing cheques to the unfortunate families who lost near and dear ones in floods, has already started and most of them have already received the money, he added.

Reacting to criticism that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, during his visit to the State to assess the situation, did not announce any special grant to the State, Sonowal said that as per norms, the Centre provides additional funds only after the State Disaster Response Fund is exhausted. He said that the Union Minister was properly briefed on the situation on the ground. An inter-ministerial team of the Government of India will visit the State within the next ten days. The team will visit all the affected areas to assess the situation in the ground and submit a report. The Centre will provide additional funds on the basis of the report, said Sonowal. He also expressed confidence that there would be no shortage of funds to repair the damages caused by floods following repeated assurances by the Prime Minister and Home Minister.

The Chief Minister said the Centre has accepted in principle to amend the guidelines of spending the Disaster Response Fund in case of Assam. Giving an example, he said that as per the guidelines, only an amount of Rs 60,000 can be spent to repair or reconstruct one kilometre of road damaged in flood and erosion. But it is not possible to construct quality roads in Assam because of the weather and other conditions. However, the Centre has now accepted in principle the State Government�s proposal to amend the guidelines, he added.

Reiterating that negligence on the part of any officer in providing relief would not be tolerated, Sonowal said that a number of officers have already been placed under suspension, while show-cause notices were issued to six officers in Majuli who left their workplace without informing the Deputy Commissioner.

The Chief Minister further said that instructions have been given to the Water Resources Department to expedite the process of repairing the damaged embankments. He pointed out that earlier, the department used to start repair works very late and those could not be finished before the onset of the monsoon season. But this year, the Water Resources Department has been directed to start making plans and estimates for repairing the damaged and breached embankments immediately so that the repair work can be started in October to ensure that the breaches are plugged well ahead of the onset of monsoon, he added.

Sonowal further revealed that the Brahmaputra Board has already started work for protection of Majuli. However, he admitted that he is not very satisfied with the functioning of the Board and �I have already requested the Government of India to review the performance of the Board and to strengthen it.�

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