Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Assembly Debabrata Saikia on Monday urged Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to approach the Centre for the release of disaster relief funds pending since 2014-’15. Last year, Scroll.in was the first to report that Assam had received no central aid for flood management since 2014 apart from its share in the State Disaster Response Fund.
Assam is facing floods this year again, and at least 15 people have been killed so far.
Citing news reports, including the one by Scroll.in, Saikia told Sonowal the central government had not released any money for Assam under the National Disaster Response Fund since 2014-’15, though it had released crores of rupees for several other states.
The Congress leader said that even under the State Disaster Response Fund, there was a “noticeable shortfall between funds allocated and funds actually released” for Assam since 2014-’15. In 2015’-16, only Rs 425 crore of the allocated Rs 460 crore was released, while the next year, Rs 400 crore was released out of an allocated Rs 483 crore. In 2017-’18, Rs 400 crore out of the allocated Rs 507 crore was released, Saikia said.
Saikia said the state government should request the Centre to give the entire Rs 559 crore allocated under the State Disaster Relief Fund for 2019-’20.
Saikia urged Sonowal to persuade the Centre to send a team to visit the flood-hit regions in the state. He added that before the team visits, Sonowal should request the Centre to announce a special flood relief grant for Assam as it has done for other states when they were hit by floods.
“At the same time, I am of the opinion that you ought to approach the Centre immediately for release of pending flood relief/flood management funds,” Saikia wrote. “Although you had sought a compensation package of about Rs 2,300 crore from the Centre following last year’s floods, yet it is reported that Assam has not received any quantum of the requested aid so far.”
“Prompt and full release of this fund by the Centre will enable our state to cope better with the devastation caused by this bout of floods,” Saikia wrote. “At the same time, I would like to request you to seek more funds under MGNREGA [the rural employment scheme] for development of flood-damaged rural roads with gravelling/spreading of stones etc. Moreover, additional funds ought to be sought for the Public Health Engineering department for facilitating provision of potable water in the flood-ravaged areas.”
Saikia said that the central government should “urgently come to Assam’s aid with both short-term measures such as grant of adequate flood relief funds as well as long-term measures such as bolstering the flood forecasting/flood management infrastructure”.
According to the Disaster Management Act of 2005, the State Disaster Response Fund is created with contributions from both the respective state and the Centre. Until 2017-’18, the Centre contributed 75% to most states and 90% for states with special category status, such as Assam. In September 2018, the Centre decided to contribute 90% to all states with effect from 2018-’19. These are the primary funds available to states to deal with natural disasters.