Demanding the state government to declare special relief package for flood-hit Amreli district within three days, Congress MLA from Amreli, Paresh Dhanani went on symbolic hunger strike on Monday.
Dhanani, former Congress MP Virjibhai Thummar and local Congress leaders assembled at Jivraj Mehta Chowk in Amreli town and started their three-day symbolic hunger strike at around 10 am.
Dhanani, who is also the secretary of All Indian Congress Committee (AICC) was joined by Shambhu Desai, President of Amreli district unit of Congress and scores of local party workers in the protest.
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“The floods of June 24 were the worst in last 100 years in Amreli. More than five lakh people living in 300 plus villages have been affected. But 12 days after the floods, people are still spending nights under the open sky, their houses having collapsed, their agricultural land having been eroded and cattle killed by flood water. We have repeatedly written to the state government but it has not declared any interim or comprehensive relief package till date,” Dhanani told The Indian Express over the phone.
The MLA further said he had submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Anandiben Patel through Amreli district collector on June 30 demanding a relief package but to no avail and therefore he was forced to go on symbolic hunger strike.
Dhanani demanded that the state government should give interest-free loans so that people can rebuild their houses, farmers can restore their land, cattle-herders can purchase new cattle and shop-keepers can set their stores again. He also demanded that government should waive electricity bills of farmers.
“The government is just buying time in the name of surveying the extent of damage and trying to eschew its responsibility. People are struggling to put their life back on track but the government is cynically waiting for them to get up on their feet. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not said a word on the devastation till date though he expresses his concern when there is natural calamity in Pakistan or Nepal,” Dhanani alleged.
He even claimed that some cheques of cash-doles were bouncing and thus making a mockery of flood victims.
“If we wanted to play politics over the issue, we could have started hunger strike the very next day. But this is a serious issue concerning people in distress. Let the state government declare a package and we shall go back to village for its implementation,” the MLA added.
Dhanandi said his symbolic fast will go on for three days and if the state government did not announce a package during this period, he will go on fast-unto-death.
Amreli district collector Hargovind Suthar conceded that around 3,000 are still living in temporary shelters.
“However, we are providing them with tents and ration. We have disbursed around Rs 5 crore as cash-doles to more than 72,000 people in rural areas and more than 30,000 individuals in urban areas. Survey of damage to houses will be completed within a couple of days. Survey of damage to agricultural land has also been completed in around 75 per cent area and it will be over by end of this week,” Suthar said.
The collector elaborated that the government had already announced to pay Rs 12,500 per hectare with an upper limit of two hectare per farmer for restoring agricultural land. He further said that those families whose houses have been washed away will get around Rs 1 lakh each.
Bagasara, Kukavav, Amreli, Dhari, Liliya and Savarkundla talukas were inundated on June 24 as some places witnessed cloud-burst like situation as they received 20 to 26 inches of rain within a few hours under the influence of a deep depression in the Arabian Sea.
The flood killed 34 people and more than 5000 cattle. The very heavy rain also damaged standing crop and eroded agricultural land in the district.