The Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday created an uproar in the Lok Sabha over the government's 'failure' to provide long-term solutions to the recurring problems of droughts and floods in various parts of the country.
"I assure the House that the inter-ministerial group and central teams will carefully look into the reports of floods and droughts and take a view sympathetically and compassionately," Home Minister P Chidambaram said while replying to a debate on the flood and drought situation in the country.
As several members wanted to ask questions, presiding officer Fransisco Sardinha said some members could do so.
BJP member Navjot Singh Sidhu accused the government of 'bad intent' in finding a permanent solution to the problem and termed it as a 'failure' on part of the Centre. Tribal Affairs Minister Kantilal Bhuria objected to Sidhu's remark.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said it was wrong on Sidhu's part to 'dramatise' the debate and said state governments were primarily responsible for dealing with floods and drought. While Chidambaram wanted to say something, Bansal insisted that the debate was over and the House should take up the next item on the agenda.
Sidhu termed the floods and droughts as a 'thorn in the flesh' and accused the government of 'counting the dead'.
"You don't foresee the problem but dole out small amounts of compensation as an ad hoc measure," he said amidst the din.
Before the BJP's attack on the government, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad said since the Bihar government (headed by his arch-rival Nitish Kumar) has failed to help farmers facing a drought, the Centre should provide fodder and foodgrain and monitor the situation. BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain wanted to know the amount of the fund sought by the Bihar government for tackling drought and floods and the amount sanctioned by the Centre.
Chidambaram said that as India was a large country, it had to live with the phenomenon of droughts and floods. He said of the 36 meteorological centres in the country, nine had recorded excessive rainfall and another six had recorded deficient rainfall between June 1 and August 25 this year, adding that 19 states and two union territories were affected by floods, cyclones and landslides in varying degrees.
Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Mizoram and West Bengal were the worst affected, he said. While Bihar had initially declared 28 districts as drought affected, it later corrected it to 10 districts, whereas Jharkhand had declared all its 24 district as drought affected.
"Due to floods and cyclones, a total of 911 persons lost their lives, 7,000 heads of cattle perished, 3.55 lakh houses were destroyed and 4.55 lakh hectares of crops damaged," he said.
Chidambaram said the state governments had the first responsibility to provide rehabilitation to the victims of natural calamities, with the Centre supporting them with logistics and funds.
The minister said the situation arising out of calamities was duly reviewed almost on a daily basis by the cabinet secretary along with the home secretary and the secretaries of the respective ministries in coordination with their state counterparts. He said between 2005 and 2010, the state's kitty had grown from Rs 21,333 crore to Rs 33,580 crore for rehabilitation.
"These funds are for providing relief and should not be used for compensating losses, which is a separate issue," he added.
Chidambaram also said the norms for providing rehabilitation funds had been well settled and it was last revised in 2007. "It is not possible to revise the norms every time there is a flood in the country," he noted.
He said the 13th Finance Commission had already made efforts for revising the norms and an expert group had been constituted by the government, which had presented its report in this regard on June 30.
"Once the report is examined, we will consult the finance ministry and thereafter revise the norms again," he added.