Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday assured all assistance to Bihar devastated by floods, which have claimed around 450 lives, but remained non-committal on the state government's demand for Rs. 7000 crore-package to undertake the task of rebuilding the infrastructure and providing relief to victims.
"I share the concerns of the Bihar Government and the pain of victims. The Centre will extend all help to the state in rehabilitating those rendered homeless and revive agriculture destroyed by the flood," he said after making an aerial survey of worst-hit Darbhanga, Begusarai, Khagaria and Samastipur districts.
The Prime Minister, who held talks with senior government functionaries, including Chief Minister Rabri Devi, however, remained non-committal on the issue of providing a special package to Bihar for relief and rehabilitation saying a central team would visit the state on August 3 to assess the extent of damage due to floods.
"It will not be proper for me to announce a package at this moment. The Centre will go by the recommendations made by the team," he said.
Meanwhile, the state's Water Resource Minister Jagdanand Singh who heads the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, said that Chief Minister Rabri Devi had submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister seeking a financial package of Rs. 7000 crore for rebuilding infrastructure and carrying out relief.
He said another Rs. 400 crore was available with the state for drainage schemes and for strengthening embankments.
"I knew that the problem faced by the state due to floods was serious, but frankly speaking I never thought it was so serious.
"In fact, I wanted to come earlier, but was told that my visit will distract the attention of the official machinery which would get busy making arrangements for my trip," he said.
Stating that his Government was working towards finding a lasting solution to the problem of recurrent floods in north Bihar districts caused by rivers originating from Nepal, he said the Nepalese Government had given its approval for the Saptkosi project and Rs. 29 crore had been earmarked for it in the current financial year.
The funds would be used for making surveys and opening an office in Nepal.
"A lasting solution to flood in Bihar can be found only by constructing high dams on rivers originating from Nepal and strengthening the drainage system in Bihar, which is definitely weak," he said, adding there was also the need for reviving agriculture after flood waters receded.
Replying to a question the Prime Minister said, "I know that the farmers are the worst sufferers, but any decision on waiving agricultural loans has to be taken by the Reserve Bank of India which is governed by its own rules. The RBI may consider suspending recovery of agricultural loans in flood and drought-hit states."