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Nitish was asleep while state was drowning?
Sreelatha Menon
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August 29, 2008 14:20 IST
Last Updated: August 29, 2008 15:23 IST

The water resources ministry, which funds and oversees the maintenance of the embankments of the Kosi river barrage in Nepal, has blamed the Bihar government for the floods in the state and hinted at bungling of funds.

Sorrow of Bihar strikes again

The floods, caused due to a breach in the embankment, have submerged six districts of the state.

Central officials said despite many enquiries by the ministry about the condition of the embankments, the state government kept silent. It did not bother to inform the ministry even when the embankments gave way, they said.

In fact, the Bihar water resources department's daily newsletter said a day before the breach that the embankments were standing strong, officials said.

Minister of State for Water Resources Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav, displaying copies of these newsletters on Thursday, said the flood was caused because of the 'criminal neglect' of the state government.

He said the state government was blissfully unaware till August 17 that anything was wrong. On August 18, when the breach occurred, the newsletter said there was pressure on the dam and the embankments were giving way, he said.

"Is it possible that the government did not know that something was wrong? Even prior to an earthquake there are slight tremors and other signs of things to come," he said, adding that there was a mismatch between the money given to the state for maintaining the embankments and the targets achieved.

He also showed the letters sent by the ministry seeking updates on the barrage's condition.

The first correspondence to the state water resources department was on April 1 from the Ganga Flood Control Commission, which is under the ministry, and sought an update on the progress of work on the embankment. There was no reply, he said.

The second letter was from the Central Water Commission on April 25.

The third letter, on June 12, asked what work had been done to maintain the embankments. Again there was silence from the Bihar side, said Yadav.

"This was sheer callousness on their part," said Yadav.

Yadav said the state government did not inform the ministry even on August 18, when the breach occurred. We had to call the principal secretary in the irrigation department and the chief engineer, Birpur, he said.

Yadav, who belongs to the Rashtriya Janata Dal, an opponent of the Janata Dal-United, which is in power in the state, denied he was politicising the issue.

Yadav, who accompanied Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] for an aerial survey of the affected areas, said the Centre had announced a relief of Rs 1,000 crore and agreed to send 50,000 tonnes of rice and an equal quantity of wheat to the state.

"There is no question of politics here. It is a matter of lack of vigilance," he said.

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