'Centre ready to give over Rs 1,000 Cr to flood-hit Assam'

Union minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Friday said the Central government was ready to give more than Rs 1,000 crore, the amount demanded by Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi for flood relief.

Guwahati: Union minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Friday said the Central government was ready to give more than Rs 1,000 crore, the amount demanded by Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi for flood relief.

"The Centre is ready to give even more than Rs 1,000 crore for flood relief and to build damaged infrastructure," Sonowal, Union Minister of State for Sports, told reporters.
He was replying to questions on Gogoi writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking Rs 1,000 crore for flood relief from the Centre.

"We have asked the state government for a report on the loss of human lives, livestock, houses and crops. We have full faith in Tarun Gogoi that he will send a detailed report to the Centre," Sonowal said.

The Union government would pay Rs two lakh to the next of kin of each dead in the floods through the state government, the minister said.

The Centre was concerned about the recurring flood problem in Assam and would be always there to help the state government in times of disaster, he said, adding, "We want the recurring flood problem in Assam to be a national disaster."

"On the direction of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, I and Kiren Rijiju (union minister of state for home) today visited flood hit areas," Sonowal said on his return here.

"I came here that is an indication of the Centre's willingness to help Assam for flood relief," he said denying charges from the state government that the Centre was not extending help for flood relief.

"We are not indulging in politics. It is not the time for that. This is the time to help," Sonowal said.

Gogoi yesterday accused the Central government of failing to take the floods in Assam as seriously as the Jammu and Kashmir deluge.

To a query, the minister said, "The Assam government has not formally informed the Centre about the flood situation here. I had asked the chief secretary to inform the Prime Minister's office about the flood situation here."

He said Rs 344 crore provided by the Centre earlier was lying unutilised in the State Disaster Relief Fund.
"The government here did not spend that money on time in public interest. The State government has to be prepared to meet any eventuality," Sonowal asserted.

"The Rs 344 crore has to be spent first before fresh funds are provided. The Centre in consultation with the State government gives grants," he added.

Asked why the Centre had not sent additional funds to tide over the flood situation here as in Jammu and Kashmir, he said, "A few days ago the chief minister said in a press meet that he is capable of handling the situation. It is the Constitutional and moral duty of the state government to inform the Centre."

During his visit to the flood-hit Goalpara district, he said, people told him about shortage of food, medicines and baby food, and asked the state government and district administration to supply those essential goods.   

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