<b>XIII LOK SABHA DEBATES, <i> Session I </i> </b>
XIII LOK SABHA DEBATES, Session I Thursday, October 28, 1999/Kartika 6, 1921 (Saka)

Title: Discussion regarding natural calamities in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa.

15.08 hrs.

MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Now, we take up item number 22, Discussion under Rule 193.

Two hours are allotted for this discussion.

Shri Ajoy Chakraborty.

SHRI AJOY CHAKRABORTY (BASIRHAT): Hon. Deputy-Speaker Sir, I initiate the discussion under rule 193 on the subject of natural calamities which took place in the middle of this month in Orissa, West Bengal, parts of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.

Sir, when our countrymen are engaged and busy, in a festive mood, with Durga Puja and Dussehra festivals, at the very moment, severe and tragic disasters took place and destroyed the entire coastal area of Orissa and West Bengal as well as parts of Andhra Pradesh. In Orissa, more than 200 people were killed and thousands and thousands of people were rendered homeless and shelterless as a result of the severe cyclonic storm which ripped through the coastal areas of Orissa leaving behind a trail of devastation. Besides Orissa, all the districts of West Bengal and a major part of Bihar and the coastal parts of Andhra Pradesh, particularly, Srikakulam district, were badly affected.

According to the preliminary survey report, more than seven lakh or eight lakh people in eleven districts of Orissa have been badly affected, and thousands and thousands of acres of paddy and other crops were totally damaged because the heavy rainfall inundated or submerged these areas. Due to this, Orissa, West Bengal, some parts of Bihar and Andhra Pradesh were badly affected. In West Bengal, all the blocks in 14 districts were badly affected, due to the effect of cyclonic storm. This heavy and unprecedented rainfall had cut-off not only South Bengal and North Bengal, but also the districts of Midnapore, Murshidabad, North 24 Paraganas, and South 24 Paraganas. All the districts in South Bengal and North Bengal were badly affected, and they were disconnected from each other. It was not only the districts in West Bengal, but even the Calcutta City was badly affected. For a few days, the City of Calcutta was inundated or submerged under the heavy and unprecedented rainfall.

In Orissa and West Bengal, paddy and other crops in lakhs of acres were submerged or inundated under the water. The seedlings of paddy and other crops were totally damaged. Besides, roads, highways and train lines were out of gear. At this moment, all the roads, particularly highways, were totally damaged or destroyed; at some places, roads have been withered away due to heavy rainfall, and it has become very difficult to move relief materials to the flood-prone areas.

When the natural calamity took place in Orissa, West Bengal, Bihar and in some parts of Andhra Pradesh, the prices of ...

MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Just a minute. There is no Panel of Chairmen now. If the House agrees, I will request Shri Yerrannaidu to take the Chair.

1514 hours (Shri K. Yerrannaidu in the Chair)

SHRI AJOY CHAKRABORTY : Mr. Chairman, Sir, the people of Orissa, West Bengal, Bihar and in some parts of your State were badly affected by the devastation caused by the heavy rainfall.

Due to damaged roads, the total transport system has been thrown out of gear. At that point of time it was very difficult to carry the relief materials to the affected people in different parts of the country. Some unscrupulous businessmen took advantage of this situation and indulged in blackmarketing and hoarding as a result of which the prices of the essential commodities got hiked. Not only that, it is a matter of regret that at that point of time only the prices of diesel were hiked which added to further increase of prices of the essential commodities. The people were suffering and they were also subjected to irreparable loss and injury. The entire telecommunication and power system had totally collapsed during the time of this severe disaster. Paddy seedlings and seedlings of other crops were damaged and destroyed. Cattles, like bullocks, cows and buffaloes were killed. In the absence not only of seedlings but also for lack of cattles it has become very difficult on the part of the cultivators to start their cultivation.

Mr. Chairman, Sir, this unprecedented devastation took place in our country particularly in the States of Orissa, West Bengal, Bihar and parts of Andhra Pradesh which resulted in the sufferings of the people. The concerned State Governments urged upon the Central Government, they are virtually pleading, for financial assistance under the Natural Calamities Relief Fund. I would like to urge upon the Government of India not to politicise this issue and take a step-motherly attitude while providing financial assistance to the State Governments. I would like to urge upon the Government to provide the funds irrespective of whichever State Government is in power, be it the Left Front Government, or the Congress Government or the RJD Government or the TDP Government.

Sir, I would like to urge upon the Prime Minister and other Ministers of the Central Government to come forward and save our countrymen from their plight and render all possible financial assistance and provide whatever amount has been asked for by the State Governments from the Natural Calamities Fund. In the State of West Bengal, the Government had held an all-Party meeting in the Writers' Building and a unanimous resolution was passed in which an amount of Rs. 721 crore has been sought from the Central Government for providing relief to the affected people. So far as I know, till date not a single paise, not a single farthing has been allotted to the State of West Bengal.

I urge upon the Government of India not to treat this issue as a political issue. The Government of India should not take up this issue with a stepmotherly attitude. West Bengal is a part and parcel of the Indian Union. The Government of West Bengal has sought an assistance of Rs.721 crore from the Central Government. However, not a single paisa has been sanctioned for the State. People there are suffering very much. They are not getting relief materials. They have lost their shelters. They are all poor people and they are now homeless. All their cultivable lands were damaged by the cyclonic storm. Their fields were inundated by heavy rains.

Durga Puja is the biggest festival of West Bengal. We are aware of the fact that during Puja days Calcutta city looked like a ghost city. In several villages and towns in West Bengal, people could not come out of their shelters to assemble in the Puja pandals. Puja pandals wore a deserted look during those days. Severe damage was caused to the people in West Bengal and Orissa because of this storm. However, it is a matter of regret that up till now not a single paisa has been allotted by the Central Government to the Government of West Bengal. The same thing happened in West Bengal in 1998. The State Government sought Rs.709 crore for undertaking relief work in flood-hit areas, particularly Midnapore and other Districts and they got only Rs.66 crore. This year, West Bengal Government sought an assistance of Rs.721 crore.

Government of Orissa sought, as far as I know, Rs.200 crore against which only Rs.50 crore have been sanctioned. Of the States affected by the cyclone, no doubt Orissa is the worst affected State. According to a preliminary survey report, 11 Districts in Orissa have been affected badly. Thousands of acres of paddy land in Orissa has been inundated due to the unprecedented rainfall. At least 100 people were killed in Ganjam District alone. Total devastation took place in Ganjam District. It is very difficult for the State Government to cope with such situations whether it is of Orissa or West Bengal or Bihar. Government of Orissa sought Rs.200 crore as assistance from the Central Government. However, in spite of the aerial survey made by the Prime Minister only Rs.50 crore have been sanctioned for the people of Orissa. Many Districts in Bihar are also badly affected by the floods. Several villages and towns are submerged in water. Government of Bihar sought Rs.1100 crore from the Central Government. However, so far as I know, not a single paisa has been sanctioned for Bihar Government so that they can cope with the situation.

Sir, I am very sorry to submit that the Government of India is taking a step-motherly attitude towards these States. They are providing not even a single paisa to the States of West Bengal or Bihar... (Interruptions)

SHRI BIKRAM DEO KESHARI (KALAHANDI): Sir, the hon. Member has mentioned about Orissa.

SHRI AJOY CHAKRABORTY :I am not yielding.

MR. CHAIRMAN : Hon. Member, I will give a chance to you also. Please sit down now.

SHRI BIKRAM DEO KESHARI : Sir, he is saying that the Central Government has shown step-motherly attitude. It is completely wrong because the hon. Prime Minister had gone to Orissa... (Interruptions)

MR. CHAIRMAN: The Government will reply on this. Please take your seat.

... (Interruptions)

MR. CHAIRMAN: Dr. Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, you also please sit down.

... (Interruptions)

SHRI AJOY CHAKRABORTY : The Government of Orissa had got only Rs. 50 crore.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Shri Ajoy Chakraborty, please address the Chair.

SHRI N. JANARDHANA REDDY (BAPATLA): He has given Rs. 250 crore as plan assistance. There is not a single pie as grant given to the Government of Orissa... (Interruptions)

MR. CHAIRMAN: Please. The Government will answer everything.

... (Interruptions)

SHRI AJOY CHAKRABORTY : Sir, I am sorry to say that the Governments of Orissa, Bihar and West Bengal are all standing on the same footing, they are all sailing in the same boat.

Sir, so far as I know, the Srikakulam District of Andhra Pradesh was also badly affected due to cyclonic storm whereby all the seeds and trees of coconut and cashew nut had been totally damaged. I know, the hon. Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh had made an aerial survey along with you, Mr. Chairman.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, Srikakulam is my parliamentary constituency.

SHRI AJOY CHAKRABORTY Yes, Sir, your hon. Chief Minister visited the spot along with you and had sought Rs. 40 crore as assistance from the Centre. I do not know how many crores of rupees you have got. But I hope you may get it from the Central Government for some other reason. I need not go into that.

But it is a matter of regret that the State Governments of Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal have received not a single paisa from the Central Government. It is all because of the step-motherly treatment by the Centre.

So, I urge before the Central Government that they should give equal treatment to all the State Governments. All the States equally belong to the Government of India; the Union. It is the duty of the Central Government to come forward and render financial assistance to all the affected State Governments. They should help all the State Governments. All possible assistance should be rendered to the State Governments to combat with the situation to save the people from their plight.

Sir, I also urge upon the Government of India to come forward and take suitable steps to save the people from the clutches of natural calamities.

Sir, in this regard I would like to make some suggestions for the consideration of the concerned Ministry. Firstly, they should take steps to exempt the cultivators from the agricultural loan. Secondly, they should render financial assistance to the people affected in all the States so that they can reconstruct the demolished houses. Thirdly, house building grant should be given to the homeless and shelterless people of all the States to construct their houses.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Please conclude now.

SHRI AJOY CHAKRABORTY : Yes, Sir, I am concluding.

Fourthly, they should give financial assistance to the cultivators for the purchase of their cattles.

Lastly, I earnestly urge upon the Government of India to kindly engage their experts, scientists and technocrats to prevent these natural calamities because each and every year, we are witnessing these natural calamities.

I can cite 10 or 15 instances from different States, from Tamil Nadu to other States, which have taken place from the year, 1990. Every year we are witnessing natural calamities due to cyclonic storm and floods and other reasons.

So, I urge upon the Government of India to please engage your technocrats, experts and scientists so that they can prepare a plan to prevent natural calamities and save people from them.

It is very much more important task than nuclear weapon programme. To prevent natural calamities which are taking place in our country is more important than the preparation of nuclear weapons programme.

So, I urge upon the Government of India to come forward to give all possible financial assistance and save people from floods.

SHRI ANADICHARAN SAHU (BERHAMPUR): Thank you for the opportunity given to me. I am referring to the holocaust that has ravaged the Eastern part of India on the 17th and 18th instant. I give a chronological detail so that the gravity of the situation can be properly appreciated by the hon. Members.

On the 17th of this month, the Assistant Meteorological Officer of Bhubaneswar gave a warning over the radio and the TV that there would be torrential rain accompanied by wind to the velocity of about 100 k.m. The warning was very innocuous in nature.

On the 17th morning round about 7 p.m. the Director, Meteorological Department, Government of India, gave a stern warning saying that the gale could be to the tune of about 200 k.m. an hour.

I must say with a heavy heart that the response of the State Government of Orissa was woefully inadequate.

SHRI K. P. SINGH DEO (DHENKANAL): Are we going to discuss the conduct of the State Government in this House?

SHRI ANADICHARAN SAHU : It is my observation.

SHRI K. P. SINGH DEO (DHENKANAL): I require a ruling from the Chair.

MR. CHAIRMAN : No. The hon. Member is not discussing the conduct of the State Government of Orissa.

SHRI ANADICHARAN SAHU : It is a matter relating to the woeful inadequacy of the Government of Orissa. When I say woeful inadequacy of the Orissa Government about the natural calamities, I would like to give a graphic and first-hand description as to what had happened on the 18th morning as I reached the first point in Puri district. My friend is there in Puri district. My observation will be confined to part of Khurda district, part of Puri district, the whole of Ganjam district, the whole of Cuttack and part of Srikakulam area, your area, Mr. Chairman because they are all contiguous areas. Khallikote is the first point. The entire area was so full of trees which have faced the wrath of the cyclone. I immediately spotted the Forest Ranger of the area and requested him to help me in clearing the road, at least for the ambulances and light vehicles to take the wounded and the injured to Berhampur Medical College. He told me bluntly "It is not my duty." Why I say woefully inadequate is, there is a contingency plan in the State where natural calamities have been defined and the manner in which these calamities are to be met. I was the Superintendent of Police. That is why, I say as to what is to be done. The Superintendent of Police, the District Magistrate and the Collector of the district know as to what they have to do in case of disasters. The State Administration also knows as to what are the Charter of Duties they are supposed to take up in case of any calamity.

That was why I said that it was woefully inadequate, to start with.

Fortunately, for me, the DIG, who had gone away on leave was directed by his Director General of Police to come back. He met me on the way. I being a policeman and he being a policeman, naturally, we came together, we pooled people and we brought in volunteers and started clearing the road. The Junior Engineer of the PWD also came to my rescue. He brought in only three persons. I asked him to bring in 300 persons and he said that it was beyond his powers. I asked him where his SDO, PWD was and he said that he had gone on leave. I said, `You have had this warning for two days and your SDO has not come.' Anyway, we started the clearing work and the people helped us. For twenty kilometres along the National Highways, we started clearing the road with the sole purpose of transporting the injured.

Some of you might have seen the Salt Bay of Humma on the National Highway No. 5. It is of a length of about ten kilometres and a breadth of about eight kilometres. There is a sea water channel which brings saline water to that Salt Bay for making salt and there are about 20 villages inside. The entire area was inundated by saline water. Human excreta, cow dung and bird droppings and carcass were floating there. For ten hours, the people there had not taken a drop of water because they had to drink the polluted water. If this is the adequacy of the State Government in providing the basic necessity of drinking water to the people who had been affected in that area, I have nothing to say and the hon. Member may object in whichever way he likes.

Sir, I reached Chhatrapur, the district headquarters of Ganjam around 6 p.m. I was travelling for about twelve hours from 6 a.m. in the morning. At Chhatrapur, no arrangement had been made for supply of food and relief materials to the affected people and the Collector was not there. The ADM was at his wit's end. I had to bring water and then support him because the angry mob had started abusing him and asking him to start relief work. Nothing could be done for about two hours. No polythene sheets were available; kerosene was not available; and electricity had totally failed and it could be seen that the 33 kv line poles had been twisted like thin green bamboo twisted by a child. Bodies were floating here and there. It was the swayamsevaks of Berhampur and the BJP activists of Berhampur city who retrieved the bodies of about 30 to 40 young children who had been killed in the holocast.

Here, I must say that those who are concerned with the Builders of Houses should give a thought as to how the storm drain water should flow from reservors. There are two satellite town areas in Berhampur which had been submerged for about three days and the people had no water to drink and no food to eat. It was the volunteers who volunteered to go with ropes and give them water after three days. The medical team also had not been formed and none had gone to that area. I had to travel about 25 kilometres from Chhatrapur to Berhampur by scooter through the uprooted and tangled trees and the slush paddy fields and everywhere there were wailing crowds and nothing could be done. Anyway, that is what has happened.