While announcing Gujarat’s election dates, Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti explained the delay by saying that the chief secretary had written to him on September 27 and October 2 about flood relief work pending in Banaskantha, Patan, Aravalli, Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Surendranagar. As per the letter, Joti said, “229 persons had died in these floods” and 35 villages had to be relocated.
After poll dates had been announced for Himachal Pradesh but not for Gujarat, Chief Secretary J N Singh, too, had told The Indian Express: “We got a good breather… to float many tenders, and a number of irrigation, drinking water and road repair works have been awarded in the affected districts. The EC had sought these details and we gave it to them.”
On Wednesday, The Indian Express visited the worst-affected district, Banaskantha, found that of the total Rs 1,084 crore released and disbursed for relief so far in the district, two-thirds (Rs 727 crore) had been disbursed by August 15. In the two weeks since October 12, when elections were announced in Himachal Pradesh, the remaining Rs 357 crore was distributed in instalments of Rs 174 crore and Rs 183 crore, mostly towards crop damage, according to records accessed by The Indian Express.
Among other districts, most of the relief funds for Surendranagar and all for Patan had been distributed by October 12, according to district records and officials.
Part of a total Rs 1,357 crore allocated for the district, the Rs 1,084 crore was distributed under various heads surveyed and verified by departments including Gujarat State Land Development Corporation Limited, agriculture and animal husbandry. The remaining Rs 273 crore for claims surveyed, verified and approved by the state government for the soil erosion is still pending distribution, the district administration said.
Chief secretary Singh refused to elaborate on the number and quantum of tenders awarded after October 12. “We had provided relief on an immediate basis and the time we sought was for to see that the medium and long-term relief activities could go on unhindered,” Singh added.
“The announcement of election dates and the model code of conduct will have no implication on relief work. Since this is ongoing work, the pending compensation will continue in the coming days,” said Banaskantha district collector R J Makadia.
When the model code does not prohibit relief work, why did the government write to the EC? “If the model code of conduct had been in place, we would have had to approach the EC for every single thing,” chief secretary Singh said.
Collector Makadia, incidentally, took charge Tuesday. He replaced Dilip Rana, who was transferred Sunday. Rana, who had led relief work, was to be transferred to Gir-Somnath district, but was appointed Monday as Commissioner of Tribal Development, Gandhinagar.
Several villagers in Banaskantha said compensation for soil erosion was yet to reach them. “No one in the village has received compensation for soil erosion despite a survey having been conducted on August 15,” said Saugabhai Kapadi, 30, a farmer with 10 bighas land of Kuda village.
Sarpanch Jodhabhai Chaudhary agreed with him. “Altogether 585 farmers have claimed compensation for erosion on 800 hectares agricultural land. The estimated amount is Rs 3 crore. It is yet to be seen how much is approved as taluka and district officials claim that they will release the amount soon,” Chaudhary added.
“Pending claims from a couple of villages will be released in phases as and when we receive grants from the state government, which we are hopeful will be done very shortly,” said collector Makadia.
Surendranagar & Patan
In Surendranagar district, most of the relief work was complete within a month of the July flood. As per the district’s official records, a total of Rs 63 crore has been disbursed as crop loss to over 54,000 farmers covering all ten talukas of the district.
For soil erosion, over 9,600 beneficiaries had received Rs 6.97 crore for 5,700 hectares covering 429 out of 563 villages. This too, was undertaken in August itself.
On August 1, compensation for household goods was raised from Rs 3,800 to Rs 7,000 per household, and that for milch cattle from Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 per cattle head. The government also revised the maximum count of cattle for which compensation can be claimed, from three to five.
The government had announced relief of Rs 20,000 per hectare for crop loss on irrigated land, Rs 10,000 per hectare non-irrigated land, and Rs 30,000 per hectare horticulture land. These can be claimed for maximum 2 hectares. For soil erosion, damage of more than 3 cm is assured Rs 30,000 per hectare, and washing away of an entire farm is assured Rs 80,000 per hectare, with a maximum claim of 2 hectares per beneficiary.
In Patan district, 140 villages were “badly affected.” These included 56 villages of Radhapur, 35 villages of Santhalpur, 58 villages of Sami and 12 villages of Harij. These are near the Banas and Saraswati rivers. According to district collector Anand Patel, 100% of the approximately Rs 275 crore of flood relief work was complete before October 12.
Three villages have agreed to relocate. the district collector had told this paper earlier, “We had held meetings with 20 badly affected villages and three villages have consented to be relocated. That too partly. For instance in Abhiyana village which has 900 households, only 500 have agreed to be relocated. Similarly in Undadi village, there are 240 families and Gamadi has 55 families who want to be shifted. Other villages have refused to be relocated.”
Work so far
Principal secretary (revenue) Pankaj Kumar, who took stock of relief work ahead of Diwali, had said in a statement on October 17 said that damage to the canal network was to the tune of Rs 77.15 crore, he said. “Of this, Rs 20 crore worth of works have been completed, while Rs 16 crore of work is under tender process, while planning for the rest is underway (as on October 17). Similarly, under the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Yojana, works to the tune of Rs 133 crore is under construction, while works of Rs 39.27 crore were under the tendering process,” said Kumar’s note. Kumar was not available for comment Wednesday.
The state government has stated that works of about Rs 296 crore for providing drinking water and irrigation are being processed. Under the roads and building department, works to the tune of about Rs 2,000 crore are in various stages of tendering. Apart from this, the government is still evacuating flood-waters from Nagla and Khanpara villages of Banaskantha district.
Chief secretary Singh said that a number of infrastructure works related to the Narmada main canal and the branch canals were in progress. Some of these canals had got damaged in the North Gujarat flood. “We are also working on relocating at least 24 villages that have been getting repeatedly flooded in the last few monsoons. We have completed holding the first meetings in all these villages,” he said