As it is understood usually, during a general discussion on relief and rehabilitation of flood-affectees on Wednesday at the Punjab Assembly, the Treasury – mainly members from the PML-N – was all praise for the government efforts, while the Opposition bitterly criticised the provincial political outfit for slacking in serving the flood-hit, and failing in visualising the impending danger despite prior information about floods.
While opening the discussion, Minister for law and Parliamentary Affairs Rana Sanaullah told the members that besides providing housing to the flood affectees, people would be provided jobs abroad as representatives of Bahrain, Dubai and Norway had assured the govt in this regard. “They will not only take part in construction of the model villages, but will also offer one job for each flood-affected family,” he said, while adding that he was speaking to enumerate facts on the subject. About the model villages, he said the govt would construct 204 villages in the first phase. “The govt will not spend even a single penny on the construction as the philanthropists will provide for the project. In donors’ conference, 213 foreign donors have pledged construction of 2500 houses,” he said adding that each village would have 50 or 100 houses, and for each unit of 50 houses, Rs 15 million would be spent. “The modern villages will have concrete houses, roads, school, hospital, and other basic amenities,” he further said.
About flood losses, he told the House that 1778 villages of 11 districts, 6.2 million people, 5.23m acres of land, 702and 3144 schools damaged completely and partially respectively, 4 colleges, 975 road of 3750kilometres length, 0.85m families and 0.5m houses were affected, while 110 persons died, and a damage of Rs 81billion was caused. About relief efforts, he said the Punjab govt had set-up 327 relief camps, and at over 1000 points, food items were being provided to the flood victims. “So far 55,000 tents and 110,000 food packages have been provided besides 1550 trucks of relief goods,” he enlisted his govt’s efforts, adding that Rs 4bn had been spent, while Rs 20,000 would be given to each family, and Rs 1.41bn had been given so far.
According to him, the govt had issued 184831 Watan Cards, and 833,000 Cards were to be issued. “If efforts with the present pace and zeal continued, it is beyond doubt that the victims will have better living conditions,” he hoped, while informing the House that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif would make the windup speech on the subject.
Opposition Leader Ch Zaheeruddin expressed his sympathies for the flood-hit, and averred that the devastation was because of bad governance and mismanagement “since the govt was aware of the consequences, but unfortunately, no steps were taken to curtail the damages.” He was of the view that the CM as leader of the House should have opened the discussion.
He advised the CM to stay in his office instead of wasting time on visits and suspending of officials. He questioned the utility of suspensions and visits. “Formulate a comprehensive policy to meet the challenge,” he suggested the CM, while appreciating media. “Mediamen reached those areas where even CM’s helicopter and motorbike did not,” he commented.
He demanded impartial probe into breaching of dykes, spurs and embankments, and stern action against the guilty. “Many areas were saved and destroyed for vested interests and political reasons. Take action against guilty sans any discrimination,” he insisted.
He was sceptic about the provision of the Watan Cards at the earliest. “Only 184831 families till now have got cards, while the total affected families are 833,000. Only tall claims are being made,” he opined. “So far the NADRA had issued only 300,000 cards across the country while only 833,000 needed for the Punjab only. How can the government ensure the provision of cards to all within next few days,” he questioned, while suggesting minimum Rs 500,000 grant for each flood-hit family, and provision of free-of-cost seeds for the wheat crop should also be ensured.
Ch Zaheer criticised use of Zakat funds, and asked the CM to adopt transparent measures for the disbursement of funds. He once again underlined the need for the construction of Kalabagh Dam.
PPP’s Senior Minister Raja Riaz Ahmed said his Party was also for the KBD’s construction after consensus of all provinces. “The PPP will have no objection if all provinces agreed for its construction,” he said, while quizzing Q-League for doing nothing in this regard despite being in power. “Water worth billion of dollars flowed into the sea just because of the poor policies of the previous governments. India has constructed three dams at Chenab, and seven more are in the pipeline. If these are constructed, the Chenab will become the Ravi,” he observed.
However, he admitted that his Party and PML-N had made mistakes. “I plead provincial and federal governments to do something in this regard,” he added.
Ch Sher Ali Khan, Engineer Bilal, Humaira Awais Shahid Warris Kalu, Rana Muhammad Arshad, Mujtaba Gilani, Rana Afzal, Dr Samia Amjad and Ijaz Ahmad Khan also took part in the discussion.
The discussion will continue on Thursday (today) when the Assembly will meet for the third day of the 20th session at 10am.