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Sunday, Dec 08, 2019

PM Modi takes stock of Assam flood damage after being criticised for visiting home state first

At least 130 lives have been lost and more than 25 lakh people have been hit by floods in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Mizoram between April and July

india Updated: Aug 01, 2017 13:13 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Rahul Karmakar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew over parts of northern Gujarat to survey flood-affected districts last week, prompting rivals to accuse him of bias.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew over parts of northern Gujarat to survey flood-affected districts last week, prompting rivals to accuse him of bias. (PTI PHOTO)

Guwahati: Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Guwahati on Tuesday to assess the damage from floods, a week after he took a trip to Gujarat that faced similar devastation, triggering allegations that he was biased towards his home state.

Floods and landslides have claimed at least 130 lives and affected more than 25 lakh people across Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Mizoram between April and July. .

An Assam government spokesperson said Modi landed at the Lokapriya Gopinath Bardoloi International Airport around 10 am. He was received by governor Banwarilal Purohit and chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal

From the airport, he flew by a helicopter to the Veterinary College Ground at Khanapara on the southern edge of Guwahati.

The prime minister then drove to the nearby Assam Administrative Staff College where he is scheduled to hold three meetings, before returning to New Delhi in the afternoon.

He was received at the Staff College by the chief minister, his cabinet colleagues and senior state government officials.

“He will meet government officials of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur for assessing the extent of flood damage before meeting party leaders from across the region. He is scheduled to fly back to Delhi by 2:45pm,” the spokesperson said.

On Monday, former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said Modi was forced by criticism to visit the flood-affected state.

“The PM preferred to visit Gujarat before Assam, but it is good that he is coming due to public pressure,” Gogoi said, reminding the prime minister did not lose time in visiting Jammu and Kashmir during the devastating floods in 2014 and announcing a special package while Assam languished.

Gujarat heads to election later this year.

Ranjit K Das, the president of Assam unit of BJP, countered the criticism. “The prime minister visited Assam thrice in the last 14 months, and he announced today’s visit while leaving for Gujarat. The Congress should know (former PM) Manmohan Singh did not visit Assam during the floods despite being elected to the Rajya Sabha from the state,” he said.

Badruddin Ajmal, Lok Sabha member and chief of All India United Democratic Front, hoped Modi would declare the floods in Assam a ‘national calamity’ and announce a financial assistance of at least Rs 20,000-crore.

The national disaster tag has been a long-standing demand of various organisations such as All Assam Students’ Union.

“Scores of lives have been lost in the floods that left several thousand hectares of agricultural land covered with sand. We want the victims to be suitably compensated,” Ajmal said.

Assam has experienced worse floods, but the number of dead this time has been unprecedented. Assam State Disaster Management Authority officials said 83 people have died so far, eight of them in Kamrup (Metropolitan) district straddling Guwahati. Four were electrocuted on days when a large part of the city was under waist- or neck-deep water.

The floods also affected more than 17 lakh people across 29 of Assam’s 32 districts, with 15,746 of them evacuated by relief and rescue personnel. Standing crop on 209,051.65 hectare was damaged while 131,899 were scattered across 363 relief camps.

Last week, Sonowal said his BJP-led coalition government has sought a financial assistance of Rs 2,393-crore from the Centre for post-flood measures while Sarma, the state’s finance minister, insisted funds were available to tackle the situation.

“We still have Rs 324 crore of unspent money. Last year the Centre had announced Rs 400 crore (for Assam), but did not send it because we had money,” Sarma said.

Manipur, on the other hand, has suffered a loss of Rs 213.17-crore since Cyclone Mora hit the state in May followed by monsoonal deluge. The state’s principal secretary (relief and disaster management) MH Khan said the floods killed 19 people, damaged 85,226 hectares of agricultural land, 19,095 houses, 421 government infrastructure including 128 schools, 43 bridges and 35 market sheds.

The flood damage in Arunachal Pradesh is yet to be assessed, but a major landslide at Laptap village near state capital Itanagar buried 14 people alive. At least two others, including a minor girl, were washed away by rivers elsewhere.

Flash floods had also killed at least 12 people in Mizoram two months ago.

(With agency inputs)