600 dead in floods across India, Centre says states sitting on relief funds
The government’s claim came after rival parties criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to give Rs 500 crore for Gujarat, where heavy rain and rising waters left nearly 100 people dead.india Updated: Jul 28, 2017 13:15 IST
A man uses a makeshift raft to move out of a flooded neighbourhood after heavy rains in Ahmedabad. Approximately 600 people have died in floods and landslides across the country this year. (Amit Dave / REUTERS)
Approximately 600 people have died in floods and landslides across the country this year, and several state governments are yet to fully utilise funds meant for relief and rehabilitation, the Union government said on Thursday, denying charges of bias in how it was offering financial assistance.
The government’s claim, made by junior home minister Kiren Rijiju in Rajya Sabha, comes after rival parties criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to give Rs 500 crore for Gujarat, where heavy rain and rising waters left nearly 100 people dead.
In addition to Gujarat, Rajasthan, Assam and Odisha are among states badly hit by floods.
Leaders in several of these states have sought for more funds, but central government sources said many are yet to use the money they already have.
“Assam, for instance, has over Rs 500 crore which has not been used, even as it wants around Rs 3,000 crore as interim relief. Similarly, Odisha has Rs 824 crore. Many other states have enough money lying with them. An inter-ministerial group is now visiting Assam to take stock of the situation. If it finds the requirement of more money, we will provide it,” said a government official, wishing not to be identified.
The disclosure was similar to what Rijiju said in Parliament.
“If you look at the data, you will realise every state has not completely used the amount provided under SDRF and NDRF, which as an additional amount,” Rijiju said, referring to the state and national disaster relief funds.
The minister was responding to a calling attention motion — a parliamentary procedure by which members can raise matters of public importance and seek responses from the government.
The Centre cannot be biased, the minister told the House. “The Rs 500 crore sanctioned to Gujarat was what was due to them under SDRF.”
The sanction had prompted members of the Opposition in Assam — a BJP-ruled state — to criticise the government.
Assam Congress MP Nipun Bora accused the Union government of “step-motherly treatment” and criticised the Prime Minister for not visiting the state as he had done in the case of Gujarat.
In response, Rijiju said that primary responsibility to deal with natural calamities lies with state governments and the Centre only supplements their efforts by offering financial and logistical support.
He asserted that states have adequate funds to tackle disasters, which are replenished with additional relief amount when exhausted.
“I can assure this House that the government is fully committed to ensure that nobody suffers due to want of the action from the Government of India. We are fully committed. We reassure state governments that we will be there whenever you require us,” he said.