Assam Floods: With CM Himanta Biswa Sarma Himself On Ground Zero, State Government's Relief Efforts Receive A Boost And Popular Support
Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma has been touring all the flood-ravaged areas of the state, meeting the affected people and families, holding meetings with officials to find ways to step up relief.
Ever since the Brahmaputra, Barak and other rivers in Assam breached their banks and inundated vast swathes of Assam a few weeks ago, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has barely ever slept in his own bed at his residence in Guwahati. Or, for that matter, slept for more than a couple of hours at a stretch.
Sarma has been touring all the flood-ravaged areas of the state, meeting the affected people and families, holding meetings with officials to find ways to step up relief, motivating relief agencies to redouble their efforts and confabulating with experts on how to prevent recurrence of floods.
Unlike his counterparts in many other states, including Bengal, Sarma has not taken to the skies and done only aerial surveys of the flooded areas. He has, instead, been travelling on boats and rafts, along with NDRF teams and officials, to see for himself how people are dealing with the calamity (watch ).
He has even waded through waist deep water (see ) to see for himself the devastation caused by the floods and interact with the affected people.
“He (Sarma) insists on reaching out to the marooned people and those sheltered in relief camps and find out from them if they have received adequate relief, what more they want and commiserate with them,” said Silchar Lok Sabha MP Rajdeep Roy.
Roy has accompanied Sarma on the latter’s multiple visits to Silchar, which has been inundated due to a man-made breach of an embankment. “We have gone to most of the localities in Silchar town on boats and inflatable rafts, and even waded through the flooded streets (watch ) to get a first-hand account of people’s sufferings and oversee relief efforts,” said Roy.
“The Chief Minister’s intensive tours of the flood-affected areas are not perfunctory or publicity-seeking exercises at all. He insists on visiting flood-affected people in relief camps, talking to them, offering them words of comfort and ensuring that their immediate needs are met,” said State Transport Minister Parimal Suklabadiya who represents the Dholai Assembly constituency which is part of Silchar Lok Sabha seat.
Sarma’s visits, especially his multiple visits to Silchar which is experiencing its worst floods in living memory, have acted as a comforting salve for the distressed flood-affected people.
“This is evident from the reactions of the people marooned in their homes (watch . Though they are suffering immensely, they have reacted positively to the Chief Minister and have, very often, interacted with him very cordially,” said Lok Sabha MP Rajdeep Roy, who is also a medical practitioner.
Barun Chandra Ghosh, a retired engineer of the state public works department and a resident of Ramnagar area of the Silchar, says that CM Sarma’s empathy has touched the people. “He comes across as a very caring person. We have never seen a politician from Guwahati, that too the chief minister of the state, standing beside us like that in our hour of crisis and suffering,” Ghosh told Swarajya over phone from Silchar.
Mira Bhattacharyya, who used to teach English in Women’s College, Silchar, said that the visits by CM Sarma to the inundated city and his show of empathy has won the hearts of the people of Silchar.
“He waded through knee-deep water to see for himself how people marooned in their homes due to the floods were faring. He asked us if we had got water and food, and on being told we were facing a drinking water shortage, he assured us we would get everything within a couple of hours. And sure enough, we did. I’ve never seen any former chief minister of my state showing such empathy and being so caring,” Bhattacharya told Swarajya from Silchar.
Sajal Debnath, owner of a hardware store on Silchar’s Kalain Road, said: “We were initially very unhappy with the failure of the district administration to repair the breach in the embankment which caused the floods. But when we saw the Chief Minister going to various parts of Silchar on boats and rafts and even on foot wading through waist-deep water, our unhappiness turned to appreciation. That is why our CM was greeted so warmly by the flood-affected people of Silchar wherever he went. He has won our hearts."
This of a young man braving chest-deep waters to present a gamosa to the Chief Minister while he was on a visit to inundated areas of Silchar amply demonstrates this. Despite being marooned in her apartment, a lady holds out a warm invitation to the CM Sarma to visit her for a cup of tea when flood waters recede.
“This shows that people love him (Sarma) genuinely from their hearts. There were similar incidents in other places where men and women of all age groups welcomed him, cordially told him about their sufferings and even blessed him,” said Suklabaidya.
"At one place in Silchar, when he told an elderly woman that he was sorry for the sufferings she was undergoing because of the floods, she broke down and then blessed him. At another place, when he told people that they would have to wait for restoration of power for another couple of days, they replied they would wait and told him they had his support for the work he was doing,” Suklabaidya added.
But its not only his show of empathy for the distressed that has won Sarma a lot of accolades. The Assam Chief Minister has been holding meetings with district officials and sorting out the glitches in distribution of relief and rescue operations.
And he has been speaking to experts, including irrigation department engineers, on short and long-term measures that need to be taken to prevent recurrence of floods as well as mitigate the sufferings of the flood-affected in future.
“He has a very sharp mind and is able to grasp issues very quickly. He thinks out of the box and comes up with practical solutions to many complex issues very fast. Thanks to his suggestions, we were able to sort out an electricity logjam--how to repair and restore submerged transformers and power lines--and resume power supply to many parts of Silchar,” said an engineer of a power utility.
A senior officer of Bajali district, which Sarma visited on Tuesday (28 June), told Swarajya: “He (the chief minister) has an excellent grasp of technical issues and even suggested to engineers how to build strong embankments that can withstand floods. And he is an excellent administrator who knows how to motivate everyone to work harder”.
Rural Development Minister Ranjit Das, who has been accompanying the Chief Minister, said that when ministers visit flood-affected areas, they are usually met with angry complaints about shortage of relief materials or poor conditions of relief camps.
“People tend to blame politicians for their sufferings. But in our chief minister’s case, he is greeted happily even by people who have been rendered homeless or lost their homes to floods. That’s because people understand that he genuinely feels for them and is sincere about ameliorating their sufferings,” said Das.
The Assam Chief Minister, whose governance skills are well-known and have been extolled by many, is once again setting new benchmarks for ‘sushasan’ in times of calamities and adversities.
Also Read: Floods Cannot Be Prevented In Assam, But Here’s How People’s Sufferings Can Be Mitigated
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