Rajya Sabha

December 2, 2015

Derek O’Brien speaks in Rajya Sabha about the prevailing flood situation in the country

Good afternoon Chennai, good afternoon Tamil Nadu. May you have the strength, may you have the determination to deal with whatever nature has thrown at you and will continue to throw at you over the next few days. And there is no reason to doubt that Chennai and Tamil Nadu will stand together bravely. The speaker from the DMK set the tone for this discussion by rising above politics.

Sir, the first thing is a piece of information that is available and I would like to share, because if we share it in the House more people would get to know. For those people who are affected either for shelter, for food or for rescue operations, there is a website ‘chennairains.org’ which is a crowdsourced list which anyone can go to and use. Thousands of people have offered their homes, food and schools as shelter.

A hundred days ago a similar, very big disaster had hit Bengal. Now that disaster is out of the media, I will come back to that in a while.

Sir, when disasters like this happen, one way is to make a few points which will help in the preparedness. Sir, the suggestion we have first is the chain of command. The National Disaster Response Force is under the authority of the National Disaster Management Authority but also reports directly to the Home Ministry. This is a very complicated process and we suggest making it more efficient; you have to change the style of reporting.

The second point I have is on fund utilisation. The NDRF budget for the year 2014-15 was Rs 200 crore. I was looking at those figures yesterday and I was disappointed to not that out of the Rs 200 crore only Rs 7.11 crore has been allotted, and the budget for this year has gone up from Rs 200 to 255 crore, and as we close in March, make sure that Rs 7 crore reaches as close to Rs 255 crore as possible.

Sir, there are some issues with infrastructure; since the minister is here I will not go into the details of the infrastructure issues. But eight out of the 10 battalions of the NDRF do not have any permanent buildings. And the NDMA has a bigger space because they report to the Prime Minister so they have 75,000 sq ft of office space which is very good. But the NDRF is operating in 4,000 sq ft, which I dare say is just about enough for a quarter of an MP.

The last suggestion, Sir, is the CAG report. The CAG report that we went through and was submitted before the Parliament said and I quote, “the NDMA is ill prepared to handle a potential natural or man-made disaster”. This is the CAG report; let’s take cognizance of that Sir.

Sir, I want to draw your attention to Komen flood that hit Bengal. Now I have no issue that Tamil Nadu has asked for Rs 8,800 crore and they have been granted Rs 7,000 crore. But let me tell you what happened a hundred days ago Bengal where the number of lives lost was 100.

Now the point I want to make is please do not penalize those state governments who have taken preventive measures to ensure that less number of lives are lost. I think the other good example was Odisha; when you take preemptive measures you move lakhs of people to get them to safe zone. So keep that in mind, Sir.

This is not about Bengal or Tamil Nadu or Odisha or Andhra but just look at this. Sir, the state exchequer has spent Rs 1,572 crore. Sir, since you are writing these numbers I will ask you to write one more number please, with all humility. The total which Bengal has asked for  is Rs 6,400 crore. I have not come here today with the begging bowl just because the disaster has happened in Chennai. My Chief Minister, who is also the party chief of Trinamool Congress, on August the 7th wrote a detailed letter to no less a person than the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India. The point we were making in that letter was about the Damodar Valley Corporation. In all these power projects be careful that you do not hurt the Damodor Valley Corporation DVC because that’s when lots more floods can happen.

Sir, another detailed follow up letter was written later in August. We have got Rs 270 crore that also I was told informally the cheque is in the mail. Now from Rs 6500 crore and it’s not comparing to Chennai or Tamil Nadu or Andhra, the state has exchequer has spent Rs 1572 crore. I am not only talking about Komen; there was also a big landslide disaster in Darjeeling also.

Sir, 13 lakh hectares of agricultural land is inundated. That is a lot of land. We are requesting you to consider a program of loan weaver or restructuring farm loans. Perhaps you could do the same.

At the end of all these speech the only message I want to live you, Sir, is please write out some cheques not because of any charity; you need to do. But wWe have taken some serious steps in Bengal to preempt the disaster.

Let us look at the SDRF figures. These are figures allocated from 2015 to 2020, over the next five years. Maharashtra: Rs 8,200 crore, Madhya Pradesh: Rs 5000 crore, Rajasthan: Rs  6000 crore, West Bengal: Rs 2000 odd crore.

Sir there are very few states in this country which are both prone to drought and to cyclone. Bengal is one of those states, Maharashtra is one of those states, Tamil Nadu is one of those states, also Odisha.

The bigger point is, Sir certain promises have been made and I am certain that the Government will look seriously into this as they are doing in Chennai , so that four five months later I don’t need to stand up here again and plead so humbly for funds.

Thank you Sir.