The centre has come to the rescue of Cyclone Aila victims in West Bengal, who are facing a severe shortage of clean drinking water.
On Monday, Union Rural Development Minister C.P. Joshi, in his first official action since taking office, sanctioned Rs 10 crore as grant-in-aid to the state government for providing safe drinking water to affected people.
The sanction came despite repeated demands by Trinamool Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee that all central assistance be routed through panchayats and not the state government.
“It was the mission of Rajiv Gandhi that money should go from the PM to the DM (district magistrate) because grassroots-level organisations are panchayats, which are local-level elected bodies and directly involved in relief work,” she had said in Kolkata on Sunday.
The Left Front government has rubbished this demand, saying the state government is responsible for relief and the Centre cannot bypass it.
Clearly, the Centre is unwilling to get into any controversy on this count.
An official in the Rural Development Ministry, who did not wish to be named, told HT they’d “strictly go by procedure and not succumb to any demands”. He added: “Our focus is relief and not politics.”
The state government has demanded Rs 1,000 crore from the Natural Calamity Contingency Fund.
The grant-in-aid follows a review by the ministry of the damage to water supply systems on the basis of a report from the state government.