May 25, 2020
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Crisis Mismanaged

A cash-strapped TDP banks on the Centre for flood relief

Crisis Mismanaged
It was a Black Dussehra in Andhra Pradesh this year. The unusual low pressure in the Bay of Bengal on October 16 virtually devastated the coastal districts. The pounding and incessant rain which ensued led to irrigation reservoirs over-flowing, submerging hundreds of villages. The death toll has already crossed the 500 mark. And the destruction of standing crops spread over nearly a million acres is estimated at over Rs 602 crore.

The total losses cannot as yet be computed. Road, rail, power and telecommunication networks were paralysed. The problem was compounded when a 5 km railway track near Singarayakonda on the Chennai-Vijayawada section was washed away. Traffic came to a standstill for over five days when a half-kilometre stretch of road near Vulavapadu-Rajupalem on the Hyderabad-Chennai national highway was swept away. No Central minister visited the area till Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda arrived last week to assess the scale of the calamity. Gowda made an aerial survey of the flood-ravaged districts, and on his return assured the state government of finan-cial help from the Centre. Which is music to the ears for Chief Minister Naidu’s fund-starved government which is in no position to cope with the situation.

 While the latest floods are not the worst that Andhra Pradesh has seen—the cyclone in 1977 claimed over 10,000 lives, the 1986 flooding of the Godavari, and the cyclonic storm in 1990 had wrought worse destruction—the recent floods caught the state government on the wrong foot with the Opposition accussing it of gross negligence. Points out PCC President K. Rosaiah: "The government’s inaction led to loss of many lives. It is unfair on my part to point accusing fingers at the government at this point in time. Still, my party feels this colossal human loss could have been minimised had the government heeded the warning of the meteorological department and evacuated people to safer places. This is what the Congress government did in 1990." 

The breaches in three reservoirs—Rallapadu, Mopadu and the Sagileru tank in Cuddapah—led to the flooding of hundreds of low-lying villages. The Rallapadu medium irrigation tank had been formally inaugurated not too long back, by the chief minister after ‘successful’ completion of repairs done by the sitting legislator from Kandukur, Divi Sivaram, son of former assembly Speaker, Divi Kondaiah Choudhary. Even before the Opposition could turn its ire against Naidu, he ordered a probe into the breaches in the reservoirs. 

The Mopadu tank falls under the Kanigiri constituency of Telugu Desam MLA, Kasi Reddy. Complains Narayana Rao, a villager in Kandukur: "We were victims of government apathy. No help came to us in time. Our family is separated and I don’t know the fate of my two young children even now." 

Congressmen are gunning for Naidu with regard to the Sagileru tank in Cuddapah district. Three breaches in this reservoir at various places led to flooding of 200 villages and the loss of 67 lives. The human loss was comparatively less as the district administration INDIA geared up relief work in time. Says the district collector VeenaIsh: "So far so good. We could move the people living in low-lying areas to safer places." However, the breaches in the Sagileru reservoir are being attributed to government neglect in allocating funds for routine repair works.

The TDP government’s efforts have been to convince the Centre to declare the floods a "national calamity" and get 100 per cent compensation. Union Minister for Agriculture, Chaturanan Mishra, who visited the state, is believed to have agreed with Naidu and his Revenue Minister Devender Goud that the UF Government has no other option. But can the Centre afford to allocate as much as the TDP government is demanding? It seems unlikely. Says Rosaiah: "It is true that human and property loss is colossal. But this flood cannot be compared with earlier ones. In 1990, V.P. Singh, then prime minister promised much but nothing came of it." It is not clear whether the UF Government can come to Naidu’s rescue and extend the much-needed help. If Delhi does not gopen its coffers and allocate sufficient funds, Naidu will be hard pressed to fend off charges of inaction against his government.

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