Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday announced a slew of relief packages including an ad hoc aid of Rs. 500 crore for flood-hit Assam.
Assam has since mid-June been experiencing the worst floods since 1998. Incessant rainfall across the state and the surrounding hills has deepened the crisis leaving 77 people dead and 19.5 lakh people homeless in more than 2,000 villages.
"I am making a commitment to provide an ad hoc Central support of Rs. 500 crore. We will also provide an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 1 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased," the Prime Minister said at the LGB international airport in Guwahati after an aerial survey of Jorhat, Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts.
Singh was flanked by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi during his 10-minute interaction with reporters before leaving for New Delhi.
The PM said the fiscal aid was besides the assistance the Centre would be extending for reconstruction of infrastructure damaged by the devastating floods and landslides in all 27 districts of Assam.
"The people of Assam are facing one of the worst floods in recent times. The damage has been extensive. The relief and rescue operations have been on a large scale with 16 teams of the NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) comprising 640 personnel and 71 boats pressed into service. In addition, 752 army personnel are engaged in these operations," Singh, a Rajya Sabha member from Assam, said.
Expressing satisfaction with the rescue and relief measures so far, the Prime Minister said more than 4,000 people have been moved to safety so far. "Around 4.84 lakh people have taken shelter in 768 relief camps and 20 tonnes of relief material has been airlifted by the Air Force," he added.
Singh said that the main focus was on rescuing the marooned people and providing relief to them. "The state government has adequate stock of food grains. And if required, Centre will ensure additional supplies."
He further said that a Central team has reached Assam to assess the damage caused by the floods. "We will thereafter help the state government restore infrastructure such as roads and embankments," he said.
On disruption of train services on Assam's hill section due to massive rain-induced landslides, the Prime Minister said the ministry of railways has been asked to prioritise restoration of connectivity. The hill section (through Dima Hasao district) is the lifeline to southern Assam's Barak Valley, Tripura, Mizoram and southern part of Manipur.
Meanwhile, opposition parties such as All India United Democratic Front and Asom Gana Parishad in the state said the Rs500 crore package was not sufficient to bail Assam out of a devastation of such magnitude. The All Assam Students' Union also criticized the Prime Minister for failing to grant floods in Assam the national calamity status.