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PM assures solution to floods
July 27, 2004 20:45 IST
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Tuesday assured all assistance to Bihar, where floods have claimed 450 lives so far, but remained noncommittal on the state government's demand for a Rs 7,000 crore package to rebuild infrastructure and provide relief to those affected.
"I share the concerns of the Bihar government and the pain of victims. The Centre will extend all help to the state in rehabilitating those rendered homeless and revive agriculture destroyed by the flood," he said after making an aerial survey of Darbhanga, Begusarai, Khagaria and Samastipur districts.
The PM, who held talks with government functionaries, including Chief Minister Rabri Devi, said that a central team would visit the state on August 3 to assess the damage.
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"It will not be proper for me to announce a package at this moment. The Centre will go by the recommendations made by the team," he said.
Meanwhile, state Water Resource Minister Jagdanand Singh, who heads the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, said that Rabri Devi had submitted a memorandum to the PM seeking Rs 7,000 crore.
The PM said the Centre had provided Rs 115 crore to Bihar from the National Calamity Fund and National Calamity Contingency Fund for the relief of flood victims. He said another Rs 400 crore was available with the state for drainage schemes and for strengthening embankments.
"I knew that the problem faced by the state due to floods was serious, but frankly speaking I never thought it was so serious.
"In fact, I wanted to come earlier, but was told that my visit will distract the attention of the official machinery, which would get busy making arrangements for my trip," he said.
He said his government was working towards finding a lasting solution to the problem of floods in north Bihar districts caused by rivers originating from Nepal.
The Nepalese government had approved the Saptkosi project and Rs 29 crore had been earmarked for it in the current financial year. The funds would be used for making surveys and opening an office in the Himalayan Kingdom.
"A lasting solution to flood in Bihar can be found only by constructing high dams on rivers originating from Nepal and strengthening the drainage system in Bihar, which is definitely weak," he said, adding there was also the need to revive agriculture after floodwaters receded.
Replying to a question the PM said, "I know that the farmers are the worst sufferers, but any decision on waiving agricultural loans has to be taken by the Reserve Bank of India, which is governed by its own rules. The RBI may consider suspending recovery of agricultural loans in flood and drought-hit states."
Asserting that nobody would be allowed to die in flood-ravaged districts for want of food or medicine, the PM said the Centre was working in tandem with the state government in providing succour to victims.