Other States

I am not a package CM seeking popularity: Uddhav Thackeray

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray addresses the media after a flood review meeting, in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, Friday, July 30, 2021.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Remarking that he was not merely a “package CM” but one who believed in providing genuine help for the flood-afflicted, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Friday stressed that he would not announce a package for rain-ravaged Konkan and western Maharashtra merely “for the sake of popularity”.

He further emphasised that given the alarming consistency with which floods struck western Maharashtra, construction would no longer be allowed in the areas designated as “blue line” (maximum flood level in 25 years) and the “red line” (maximum flood level in 100 years) in the afflicted districts.

Mr. Thackeray, who visited rain-battered Kolhapur, said that a relief package would be announced as soon as the government completed its survey of the damage caused by floods and rain-triggered mishaps.

“I am not a ‘package CM’ who announces one [package] as a knee-jerk response with the object to pander to popular impulses. I believe in properly assessing the damage. In several parts of the rain-hit regions in Sangli and Kolhapur, the floodwaters are yet to recede…so, despite the Opposition putting pressure to announce a package, we to need to think with a cool head on how to resolve this problem for the longer term…till then, the government is already giving immediate relief to the victims,” Mr. Thackeray said.

Remarking on the need to come up with a permanent solution to combat the crisis, the Chief Minister said a plan to divert floodwaters in a fruitful manner is required.

“If we can utilise this water by channelising it to the more arid parts of the State, then well and good…else, have to find a way to make it flow in a manner that it does not harm people’s houses,” he said.

Stating that he neither wished to make impossible announcements nor have impossible demands of the Central government “to announce a vague package of some thousands of crores of rupees”, Mr. Thackeray nevertheless urged the Centre to change the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) rules.

“Each time such natural disasters happen, one is tempted to immediately demand that the Centre give a massive relief package…I do not want to do anything of the kind. Only, these calamities are recurring far too often in Maharashtra in the last few years. So, I would earnestly urge the Prime Minister to consider changing the NDRF norms so as to help provide maximum relief to flood-hit citizens, farmers and traders. Where we need the Centre’s help, we will surely ask them,” Mr. Thackeray said, adding he had already written to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, requesting her to make it binding on insurance companies to pay farmers and traders full compensation.

During his visit to Kolhapur, Mr. Thackeray ran into Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly Devendra Fadnavis on Friday morning and they had a quick private talk before moving on with their respective surveys.

“Our meeting was not pre-planned…the Chief Minister’s aides asked me to stay on a little while longer when I learnt that Mr. Thackeray too was reaching Kolhapur city…we both agreed that we need to find a permanent solution on the flood question,” Mr. Thackeray said.

Mr. Fadnavis later told reporters that he had discussed a long-term plan for flood relief with Mr Thackeray.

“This is not the time to judge the Thackeray government’s performance. I only have to say that they should not take too much time in providing relief… We only expect the Chief Minister to declare a package soon,” said Mr. Fadnavis, who has been touring western Maharashtra for the last few days.

Responding to the Chief Minister’s request to the Central government to change NDRF norms, Mr. Fadnavis informed that the norms had remained static till 2015, and had in fact been first changed by the Modi government when it came to power.

“At the same time, I would urge the Chief Minister and the State government to do everything in its power to bring immediate relief to the flood-hit people. The CM is head of the State Level Bankers’ Committee and, in this capacity, he can call for an immediate meeting of all bank heads to take steps to waive loans and give succour to farmers,” Mr. Fadnavis said.

He further said that local BJP leaders as well as State president Chandrakant Patil had earlier mooted plans to combat future floods following the experience of the 2019 deluge that had ravaged Sangli and Kolhapur.

“There is a pressing need to study this problem of heavy rains and subsequent floods thoroughly…we need to stop the waters from destroying people’s houses each time. The idea of basket bridges can be implemented for restoring connectivity and can help in expediting relief work. We had earlier prepared a proposal for the World Bank on how to divert this excess water to arid areas. We had taken historical data when our government was in power in the State. Maybe, the current government can implement these ideas,” Mr. Fadnavis said.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 8:16:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/i-am-not-a-package-cm-seeking-popularity-uddhav-thackeray/article35637362.ece

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