Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Decentralize flood relief activity: Dr. JP

Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today suggested that relief activity be totally decentralized so that justice could be rendered to the flood-affected. “We Indians excel in rising as one man when we are confronted by a natural calamity or war or any other emergency. Once the emergency is over, complacency, corruption and incompetence once again come to the fore.”

In a statement, Dr. JP recalled that it was the Mayor of New York who led the relief activity in New York in the wake of the terrorist attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Again, when typhoon Katrina wrought havoc in New Orleans, it was the Mayor who led the relief effort. In contrast, our Panchayats and Municipalities appear helpless in the wake of the devastation caused by the floods in the Krishna river. Unfortunately, centralized and personalized rule for more than two decades in Andhra Pradesh had enervated institutional mechanisms.

If mayors, municipal chairpersons, councillors and sarpanches were empowered to undertake relief work, they could turn out better results because of their knowledge of the local conditions and requirements, eagerness to impress their constituents and their wide-ranging contacts. Decentralization would any day be better than centralization even if the former turned out to be costlier.

Dr. JP suggested that relief be extended to all the people in the flood-affected without enumeration of the affected and insistence on ration cards, both of which give rise to corruption. Floods have not drawn a distinction between the rich and the poor in making their lives miserable. Once government relief in cash and kind is disbursed to every family which is affected by flood, we can eliminate delay, minimize corruption, avoid partisanship and bitterness, and ensure maximum satisfaction to those in distress. Since 90% are already white ration-card holders, a slight additional cost for coverage of all flood – affected families will increase the cost only by 10percent.

Dr. JP wanted the Government to take immediate measures for safeguarding power utilities and strengthening flood banks along the Krishna river, considering the maximum possible flood levels in future. The Government should also consider the significant changes in the weather patterns in the recent past and draw up suitable strategies to address them. The State is witnessing prolonged summers, delayed monsoons and heavy rains during a short period during the monsoon season, resulting in flash floods. A rainfall of 10 cm in 10,000 square kilometers in 24 hours will result in a runoff of 10 lakh cusecs of water. It was such a heavy rain in the catchment areas of Krishna river that triggered the latest floods on an unprecedented scale, Dr. JP recalled.

Dr. JP also suggested that farmers in Krishna river islands be persuaded to have their habitation away from the river bed with liberal Government assistance so that they are not vulnerable to nature’s fury frequently. They should be able to raise crops in the river bed like their counterparts in Godavari islands without living on them. Government should provide full subsidy to build the villages outside the river bed.

Dr. JP expressed satisfaction with the administration’s macro management of the flood situation. Thanks to the heavy storage capacity of the reservoirs in the Krishna basin, large quantities of water could be impounded. If we had another 50 TMC storage capacity in Pulichintala, the floods could have been controlled even better. This only underscores the need to quickly complete the Pulichintala reservoir project.

He expressed happiness over Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh working together to minimize the flood havoc, notwithstanding their wrangling over the sharing of the Krishna waters. Both states acted with good sense and amity. This should have way for better sharing of Krishna water in future.

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