RESPONSIBILITY FOR FLOOD BE FIXED THROUGH COMMISSION OF INQUIRY

The way people of Orissa have been pushed into unfathomable health hazards and loss of property in flood that has kept majority portion of the State inundated for almost a month, necessitates action against persons in power by fixation of responsibility through a judicial commission of inquiry. The culprits deserve severe punishment and no leniency.

The current flood is not yet estimated in terms of loss caused to Orissa; but the one that was not yet over is officially estimated to have caused a loss of Rs.2121 crores on the basis of inputs received from the field officials in 19 districts. This estimation prepared by the Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) Orissa reveals that 116706 houses in 4897 villages under 102 blocks and 21 urban bodies are inundated wherein personal life and properties of the people are irrecoverably affected. The damage caused to official structures and projects is no less horrifying. When all the departments have not been able to estimate their loss as yet, the Water Resources department has an estimated loss of Rs.728.58 crores in the front of embankment, canals, minor and lift irrigation projects. The Panchayatiraj department shows its loss at Rs. 442.27 crores whereas to the Rural Development Department the damage hovers over Rs.372.64 crores and to the Works department, the amount of loss is Rs. 226.07 crores. According to the SRC, the relief measures cost the exchequer about 162.77 crores. Added to this the damage caused by the current week’s deluge – when the calculations complete – would be so menacingly massive that Orissa will take years to recover.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is expecting the Central Government to come to its rescue by posting enough funds to tackle the devastation. What amount should be the Central Government grant is not relevant. Relevant is the fact that the people of Orissa are fighting a flood that could never have been so severe had the Government run by Naveen Patnaik been a bit responsible.

The officials admit that water holding capacity of the Hirakud Dam is reduced by almost half due to negligence of the State to dredge out the silt deposits. As far back as in 1995, a remote sensing survey conducted by Central Water Commission (CWC) had revealed that the total water storage capacity of the Hirakud dam had come down by 27.25 per cent due to siltation. The subsequent study in 1996-97, interpretable as verification, had confirmed the same further focusing on the alarming reduction in water holding capacity of the Hirakud reservoir. Even a state government study revealed that every year 12,000 acre feet of silt gets deposited in the reservoir. Of the 53-km upstream spread of the reservoir, 50 km has been silted up, says the report. Yet the government run by Naveen Patnaik has done nothing to stop siltation and to excavate the silt to enhance the Dam’s water storage capacity. It has ignored the massive increase in siltation that the heavy industrial and constructional activities going on in Chhatisgarh cause to Hirakud reservoir. It has failed as a watchdog. And, resultantly has ruined Hirakud’s primary aim of controlling flood in the State’s largest river system.

A massive population of the State is perishing under an unprecedented deluge, not because of spate in the rivers, but because of uncared for embankments that were too week to withstand the kicks of the spate. Every life lost so far in the flood is because either of overflow or of breech in the embankment. When, thus, responsibility needs be fixed for official failure to keep the flood under control, the havoc played upon people’s lives by the State Government after flood hit them, needs to be investigated into.

It would be wrong not to say that the Government has failed to come to the rescue of flood victims. Rain was not under the control of the Government; but preparedness for flood certainly was. The Government has failed. Government relief boats have not reached the marooned people. One cannot imagine how devastative is drinking the flood water by marooned people who for weeks were / are devoid of food. Lakhs of people, by being forced to drink the flood water, have gone into the grip of new dangers to their lives. People have died as the State has failed to come to their rescue. Absence of adequate boats is the reason of the officials not reaching the marooned people. The political leadership needs be made responsible for this devastation. And, this needs a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate into the real reason of rivers overflowing their embankments and causing so many breeches and damaging so much lives and properties.

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