Former Patna High Court chief justice to conduct Kosi probe

September 11th, 2008 - 1:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Patna, Sep 11 (IANS) Rajesh Balia, a former chief justice of the Patna High Court, will conduct the judicial probe into the breach in the Kosi embankment that triggered the worst floods of Bihar in 50 years, officials said Thursday.The Bihar government appointed the one-man inquiry commission Wednesday night. ”A notification to this effect has been issued,” a source in the chief minister’s office said.

Official sources said the state government had Tuesday night ordered a judicial probe to look into the circumstances that led to the breach in the Kosi embankment. The decision was approved by the state cabinet, which also laid the terms of reference for the probe.

In a bid to silence opposition leaders who blamed the state government for the breach, which led to devastating floods in Bihar, the government has asked the judicial panel to submit its report within six months from the date of notification.

“By ordering the judicial probe, the state government is trying to save its skin. The probe will not serve any purpose because the Nitish Kumar government is to blame for the breach. Everyone knows that,” Railway Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad said here.

Earlier, Shyam Rajak, the RJD general secretary, said the state government was solely responsible for the breach and, therefore, had no right to decide the probe and terms of reference.

“Is it not a well calculated strategy to suppress the facts and save its own skin?” he asked.

The government made it clear that the judicial panel will examine aspects related to the efforts to maintain the utility of the project since its inception in 1953, particularly after the 1979 heavy landslide that pushed the Kosi towards its eastern bund and the 1991 breach. Besides, the panel is also expected to suggest remedial measures to prevent such a catastrophe in the future.

The judicial panel will also enquire whether the flood protection works of the Kosi embankment, as recommended by the expert committee had been completed before the onset of the monsoon this year.

Over 2.7 million people and nearly one million cattle have been affected by the floods caused by the change in course of the Kosi river following a breach in an embankment upstream in Nepal. About 100,000 hectares of farmland have been submerged and nearly 300,000 houses damaged.

About 971,000 people have been evacuated to safer places till date. Around 279,000 people have taken shelter in over 300 relief camps in flood-affected areas, officials said.

According to the water resources department, the Kosi river continued to recede. But the river still poses a threat to the lives of the trapped people.

The floods have claimed at least 50 lives, according to official estimates. However, voluntary agencies fear the number could be in several hundreds.

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