Prime Ministerial aide flays engineers for Kosi breach

September 15th, 2008 - 7:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Sep 15 (IANS) Engineers have no clue about how to repair the breach of the Kosi embankment that led to the devastating floods in Bihar and left over three million people homeless, a senior government official said here Monday.”Twenty days have passed since the breach occurred. But our engineers are not willing to do anything concrete. There is no coordination between the state and central government officials who are supposed to repair the breach,” S.C. Jha, chairman of the special task force on Bihar and a member in the prime minister’s Economic Advisory Council, told reporters.

Last week, Jha and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar conducted an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas and visited the Kosi river breach site in Nepal.

“It is pathetic. The least we could expect from these engineers is they repair the breach. I met the engineers. They do not have a plan as to how they could execute the work. They are not willing to even listen to anyone,” said Jha.

Jha said he brought the matter to the notice of Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz and officials of the Central Water Commission (CWC), the central government’s nodal agency for Kosi floods.

“But no one seems to be bothered about the plight of the people who are homeless while many have lost lives due to the floods,” Jha said.

“I had asked an official of the Ganga Flood Commission (GFC) to visit Nepal and take the help of the government there. But instead of appreciating my efforts, the water resources ministry asked this GFC official to explain why he had gone to Nepal,” he said.

Jha said he would convey his concerns to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “I have not met him after my Bihar visit. I hope I would get an appointment soon.”

Soon after the Kosi floods, the prime minister had declared it a national calamity.

Jha enjoys the status of a central minister of state and is also a former director and chief economist with the Asian Development Bank and a former chairman of the Bihar State Finance Commission.

The Special Task Force on Bihar was set up in the Planning Commission in 2006 following an initiative by the prime minister.

According to Jha, the Kosi flood has pushed Bihar 10 years back, and could have been averted had the government taken up work on the embankment in time.

Supaul, Madhepura and Araria districts in Bihar are still inundated, with flood orders spreading into adjoining districts of Purnea and Saharsa.

Although the government has declared a Rs.10 billion relief package for Bihar, Jha says it is peanuts.

“We will need anywhere between Rs.250 to Rs.300 billion as relief package. We have to rehabilitate everyone. People have lost their houses and livelihood. Everything has been swept away in the floods. We have also spoken to banks for soft loans. We are yet to get any response,” said Jha.

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