GANGTOK, October 11: The ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) has refuted the allegations leveled by Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee (SPCC) president Nar Bahadur Bhandari and Indian Youth Congress Sikkim coordinator Avinash Yakha on discrimination of earthquake relief.
“Earthquakes, floods and landslides are natural disasters and there are no strong reasons to blame people. But in our State there exists a group of few low intelligence people who are clearly interested in making a natural calamity like earthquake a political issue. We straightway condemn the allegations leveled on the State government by Bhandari and Yakha”, said the ruling front in a press statement.
“Their allegations of improper distribution of relief amount to the earthquake victims are baseless. Regarding the grants from Centre, DPRs (detailed project reports) have to be prepared with due administrative process. The SDF government had maintained full transparency in distribution of ex-gratia to the victims”, said the SDF.
However, the SPCC has maintained its allegations of discrimination in assessing damages and distribution of relief by the SDF government. “The SPCC has collected reports from all over the State about the discrimination in assessing damages and distribution of relief. It is also felt that the rate of relief money fixed as per various classifications is also obsolete as these rates dates back to more than 10 years”, it said in a press release.
The SPCC has demanded the State government to revise the rates by keeping in mind the rate of inflation and current market prices of construction materials. “Relief amount ranging from Rs. 3000 to Rs. 50,000 in today’s context is so meager that it will serve only as a mere pocket money for the victims”, said SPCC vice president Kunga Nima Lepcha.
Similarly, SPCC ‘senior vice president’ KN Upreti, who heads a SPCC faction, expressed his ‘serious concern on the manner the earthquake cash relief is being distributed’. The cash relief is not being distributed by government agencies but distributed directly by the Chief Minister, ministers, MLAs and SDF panchayats in discretionary manner, he alleged.
The discretionary grant is without verification of extent of damaged caused, claimed Upreti alleging the victims are being ‘discriminated’ on basis of party affiliation and ‘proximity’ to concerned MLAs and panchayats.
Upreti informed that he visit to such areas from where the complaints are coming to get a first hand report and ‘if necessary make representation to the Governor on the matter’. We will also seek all the details of the total fund received from the different sources and utilization of the said fund through RTI, he said.