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Aila grant hailed, but termed ‘insufficient’

Indrani Dutta

Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury.

Relief coming: This here is the scene at one of the Cyclone Aila-devastated areas in West Bengal. Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has proposed in his Budget a fund of Rs.1000 crore for rehabilitation of the people hit by Aila.

KOLKATA: The three announcements for West Bengal in the Union Budget including one for the ‘Aila’-affected areas drew a guarded cheer from the State Government on Monday. It said while the State was happy with the announcements, the Budget had some incongruities which should be resolved.

Said State Finance Minister Ashim Dasgupta: “We are happy with the Rs.1,000-crore allocation announced for the Cyclone Aila-affected areas, but we would like to know how much allocation was being made from the National Calamity Fund.”

He also mentioned that the State had sought Rs.10,000 crore for concretising the embankments in the Sundarbans (whose breach had caused flooding). “We are still in the dark about this request,” he said.

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee also announced Rs.25-crore allocation for setting up a campus of Aligarh Muslim University in Murshidabad, a Muslim-dominated area in West Bengal, as well as a mega handloom hub to protect the age-old textile industry in the same area.

Mr. Dasgupta said that in the wake of the severe recession in the world economy the West Bengal Government had mooted a new approach and some of that concept seems to have been reflected in the Union Budget. These were in the areas of increased spending on higher education, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

However, he felt that there were instances where the presentation of the Budget was at variance with the emphasis placed on some sectors in the Economic Survey. The allocation for women and child development had been increased only marginally. The same was the case with agriculture and school education and literacy programmes, he said.

IANS reports:

However, Kanti Ganguly, the minister-in-charge of the Sundarbans region, said: “We welcome this announcement as the first phase of disbursement. But we need much more. “We need Rs.1,000 crore just to rebuild the embankments. But to undertake the mammoth reconstruction task, the money required is huge. The sanctioned amount must be released immediately, otherwise it will be of no use,” Mr. Ganguly told IANS.

Disaster Management Minister Mortaza Hossain said: “We had asked for the money. I welcome the proposal.”

Tagore Society, an NGO which works in the Sundarbans area which bore the brunt of the Aila fury, said the amount was insufficient.

“If this Rs.1,000 crore had been given to provide immediate relief material to the cyclone victims, then it was fine. But it’s not sufficient to ensure a permanent solution to the millions who have borne the brunt of the cyclonic disaster,” Tushar Kanjilal of Tagore Society for Rural Development told IANS.

He demanded that the union government come up with a complete package to rehabilitate the affected people in the Sundarbans.

Another NGO, WWF, was happy with the Aila-related proposal.

“If we only look at Rs.1,000 crore then it’s perhaps not a very huge amount. But if we can add up the allocated amount sanctioned for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) schemes, it’s quite a big amount,” said Subhro Sen, senior programme officer WWF India Sundarbans Programme.

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