'A Cruel Joke': Flood Victims Slam Gujarat Government, Say Compensation Not Enough

The SSP project on Narmada River overflowed flooding five districts, allegedly after authorities withheld water for two days before releasing it all at once on Narendra Modi's birthday on September 17.

New Delhi: The flood-affected victims of Gujarat have called the compensation “a cruel joke” played on them by the state government, for the aid in no way commensurate with the extent of damage they had suffered, Indian Express reported.

Earlier this month, the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) on the Narmada River overflowed, flooding downstream districts of Bharuch, Narmada, Vadodara, Panchmahal, and Dahod. There have been allegations that the flood was actually a “man-made” disaster as the authorities had withheld waters in the dam for two days before releasing a huge volume (18 lakh cusecs) all at once on September 17 to “please” Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who celebrated his 73rd birthday that day.

Also read: Gujarat Govt Under Fire for ‘Holding Back Narmada Waters for PM Modi’s Birthday Causing Floods’

According to a notification issued on September 22, every affected family would a total of Rs 7,000 in aid from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF); Rs 2,500 for clothing and Rs 2,500 for household goods. The government said it has actually made a special provision to provide another Rs 2,000 from the state budget to the affected families, totaling the amount of compensation to Rs 7,000 per family.

“In today’s inflationary times, tell me what kind of household goods can be purchased for 2,500 rupees for the entire family, what kind of clothing can be purchased for 2,500 if there are 10 people in a family,” The New Indian Express quoted Suresh Patel of Juna Borbhata village in south Gujarat’s Bharuch district. Bharuch district suffered the most due to the floods.

“How many people will be able to dress? How many pairs of chappals would you need to buy for ten individuals if each pair cost 100 rupees, and would you be able to buy clothing for the remaining family members?” Suresh continued.

The notification also offered Rs 20,000 from SDRF to those whose houses have been completely demolished or have suffered serious damage. An additional Rs 10,000 would be given to partially damaged residential kutcha/pucca dwellings that have suffered at least 15% damage, and Rs 10,000 for entirely destroyed or partially damaged shacks.

Victims say the compensation is extremely inadequate. “The government caused the wound and is now attempting to offer ointment. The government claims that if the entire building is demolished, they will receive Rs 1,20,000 in aid. Ask the government how the house will be constructed with this amount of money. Are cement, brick, and concrete pricing unknown to the government?” asked Dalpat Patel of Juna Borbhatha village. “Who will build a shed for 5,000 rupees in today’s inflationary time, as claimed by the government?”

Even farmers have expressed disappointment over the compensation and norms announced by the government for hectares of standing crops that they had lost. The government notification said only those who had suffered 33% or more to their standing crops would be eligible for compensation.

“According to the special relief package, farmers who have suffered 33% or more damage to non-irrigated kharif crops will receive a compensation of Rs 8,500 per hectare up to a maximum of 2 hectare while irrigated farms that sowed kharif crops will receive a compensation of Rs 17,000 per hectare and an additional compensation of Rs 8,000 per hectare from the state treasury, in all providing Rs 25,000 per hectare for a maximum of 2 hectares,” the notification stated.

Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi called compensation a “mockery”. “Farmers in Bharuch, Narmada and Vadodara districts have suffered huge losses due to this man-made disaster. Approximately four lakh farmers have suffered losses in the region and so the compensation package announced by the government is a mockery.”

The state Congress party had said floods could have been prevented if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government kept the safety of people in mind instead of trying to “please” Modi. “All this happened because September 17 was the Prime Minister’s birthday, and for that occasion, the dam was filled, and the chief minister went there to perform a pooja. To carry out this drama, the water, which had been rising since last week, was not released, and the turbines were shut down. Instead, if the water had been released in smaller installments, this destruction would not have occurred, and people would not have suffered so much,” Congress state unit president Shaktisinh Gohil had said.