Babul Kalita is a 68-year-old daily wage earner. A resident of Korora Gar Bhitor village, he would have ideally liked to be spared by a testing flood this season. It has become an annual rite for him. Having borne the flood with vigour all his life, he is now tired of fighting it. For he knows, age is no longer on his side anymore.
“On that wee hour of June 18, gushing flood water gave me no chance. It just came and turned my life upside down. I lost everything. We took shelter at the Balagaon LP School flood relief camp. Post-floods, I have been staying at my relative’s place. But, how long?,”a distraught Kalita questions the heaven. He is now a little relieved, though. “The Government has transferred over ₹ 95,100 on August 20 to my account to help me rebuild,” he tells Asom Barta. “At least, the Government is sensitive. I am already thinking of the next flood,” he says, adding that this annual problem is taking a toll on him, mentally.
Kalita and few others of the village have been engaged by a brick kiln owner as a labour at ₹ 300 per day to work in a kiln in Balagaon. “Life is tough for us. Any financial aid to us by the Government makes life bearable,” he adds ruefully.
Romila Das (58), like Kalita, is from Balagaon. She, too, lost everything to surging waters in the June flood. She is thankful to the district administration after getting to know that a rehabilitation grant of ₹ 95,100 has been credited to her through the direct benefit transfer. She, too, wants the Government to solve the problem of flooding.
The case of Rukmini Koiborta (70) is even sanguine. She was forced to stay with her daughter in Balagaon after losing her home to floods. Having been a despondent soul for three months or so, she is getting back her mojo after realising that money has been credited to her account. “I am alone and not enough is left in this body of mine. This is a big help to me. I checked my account and withdrew ₹ 10,000 on August 23. Today, I have engaged two men to start rebuilding my house,” she says.
These transfers are part of the Rehabilitation Grant Fund through direct benefit transfer (DBT), a scheme launched by Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma on August 20 for families whose houses have been damaged during the flood.
Apurba Goswami, Lat Mondol of Rangia Circle Office, seconds the difficulties faced by the likes of Rukmini and Romila.
“We had a tough time during the June flood. Shifting people from their houses to relief camps was one of toughest jobs for the administration. This year’s flood in Rangia subdivision areas was the biggest flood in the last one decade,” says Goswami.
“The list of beneficiaries prepared by us has been checked twice. I can claim that there is no mistake in this,” he says.
A total of 2,04,348 houses were damaged in 31 districts, according to official data for which the Government of Assam has sanctioned ₹ 119.11 crore. Beneficiaries in hilly areas will get ₹ 1,01,900 and those in plain areas will get ₹ 95,100 for houses fully damaged. Similarly, those whose houses have been partially damaged will get ₹ 5,200 (for pucca) and ₹ 3,200 (for Kutcha). Those whose huts have been partially damaged will get ₹ 2,100 according to norms of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). Cachar (81,536), followed by Karimganj (28,364) and Nagaon (15,200) district households have been the hardest hit in the flood.
While launching the initiative, Dr Sarma said that 309 families, whose houses have been washed away by flood and are being forced to live on highways and embankments, will get an additional ₹ 1 lakh each from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund to rebuild their houses.
Dr. Sarma said that his Cabinet colleagues who visited the district have randomly verified about 20% of the houses damaged.
Altogether 5,185 houses have been severely or fully damaged while as many as 34,924 pucca houses and 1,53,326 kutcha houses were partially damaged, according to State Government data. The Government had earlier released ₹ 76.76 crore to 2.02 lakh affected families as clothing and utensil grant, while
₹ 1,000 was given to each of 1,01,539 students as special book grant.
Dr. Sarma said the Government will focus on rebuilding infrastructure from September. “An assessment exercise is underway for the damaged infrastructure. The final report will be sent to the Centre shortly,” he says.