Relief to Flood Victims Priority Now: Mamata


Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday accorded 'top priority' to distribution of relief materials and reconstruction work in flood-affected districts even as the opposition continued to press for forming all-party committees from district level to block level to do the relief work.

"Distribution of relief materials and reconstruction work in flood-affected districts are our top priority now," Banerjee told the leaders of the opposition political parties convening the second all-party meeting at the state secretariat for flood relief.

Briefing about the outcome of the meeting, Higher Education and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee said, "Our priority is now to provide food and shelter to those affected in flood-hit areas."

"Even as senior CPI(M) leader and former state finance minister Asim Dasgupta assured the state government of all cooperation, he along with other opposition leaders were more concerned about detailed information regarding flood damage than about distribution of relief materials," Chatterjee said.

The chief minister said that she had already placed her demand for Rs 21,000 crore before Prime Minister Narendra Modi during her meeting with him, even as work for assessment of the damage would continue.

The chief minister has also asked the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) authority to undertake dredging to enhance capacity of their reservoirs, while seeking PM's intervention to resolve the issue, Chatterjee said.

The state government had also undertaken various long and short term plans to repair roads and breached embankments.

Dasgupta, who led the Left Front delegation, said that even as they received information regarding damage and relief at the state level, details were not available at the district, block or gram panchayat level.

"Even as the CM told them during the first all-party meeting that Rs 992 crore had been spent, she had told the PM that the expenses towards relief work was Rs 607 crore so far," Dasgupta said, while raising question about the differences.

Dasgupta also said that even as the CM had demanded Rs 21,000 crore from the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) for relief and reconstruction works, the NDRF's ceiling for the purpose was Rs 8,000 crore.

"From where the rest amount will come then?" Dasgupta asked.

Dasgupta also raised question on why the Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Surjya Kanta Mishra was prevented from visiting the flood-hit Udainararayanpur and its adjacent area in Howrah district.

"We wanted to cooperate with the state government, but had to face total non-cooperation. No steps had been taken as yet," he said. Most of the opposition parties were unhappy with the relief works and demanded transparency in the matter.

Representatives of BJP, SUCI and GJM, a number of ministers and senior officials were present in the meeting. The Congress, however, remained absent.

"Never before relief work has been done so efficiently. The state government has made all efforts to reach out to the victims of the floods," Chatterjee said.

The calamity, which claimed 132 lives, had affected 235 blocks, 55 municipal areas, four municipal corporations and 814 gram panchayats covering 19,939 villages. The Left Front committee also submitted a memorandum containing seven-point demands on flood relief and restoration.