Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh on Friday pledged Rs 16 billion ($355 million) aid to flood-ravaged Bihar state in east India.
"These funds will help the state government to provide relief to the flood victims," Singh told reporters even as he accused Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of "criminal negligence" in managing the Kosi river's embankment.
The river flows in from neighbouring Nepal and courses through the northern parts of the state.
Since August 18 this year, over 4 million people have been made homeless after the river changed course and breached its embankment, leading to the worst kind of inundation that the northern parts of the state has ever seen.
The state is struggling to meet the many challenges thrown up by the floods which have swept away roads, bridges, houses, huts, electricity poles, and schools.
The financial assistance of Rs.16 billion includes nearly Rs 10 billion as allocation for repair and construction of roads, setting up toilets, and providing drinking water facilities in the affected areas.
Bihar's floods, which have been declared a national calamity, have also given a big jolt to the state's economy. The affected districts are known for high productivity of kharif (summer) crops.
Raghuvansh Prasad Singh's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) lost power to a Janata Dal (United)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition in the 2006 assembly election. Post-election, Nitish Kumar became the state's chief minister.
The central minister said the state government should focus on relief measures, rescue operations and the rehabilitation of victims.
“Nearly 16 districts such as Khagaria, Saharsa, Madhepura, Purnea, Darbhanga, Samastipur, Araria, and Kishanganj are in the grip of floods, the intensity of which was unseen in the past 150 years,” he said.
He said that the ministry would make more funds available to the state government under the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG) scheme to provide employment in the flood-affected districts.
“A total of Rs 5.4 billion has been allocated for construction of houses for the flood victims,” the minister said.
“Rs 8 billion has been given as a special assistance to repair roads in the flood-hit areas,” he said.