abode of clouds, aerial survey, Assam, Bangladesh, BJP, Centre, cloud burst, Congress, election, flood package, frontier state, Himalian state, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Narendra Modi, Pakistan, Prime Minister, Rajnath Singh
A sum of Rs 745 crore is not something that has to be announced by a person of as high stature as the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He declared the aid while visiting Jammu and Kashmir, apparently to see the damage caused by the recent devastating floods, one of the worst in the Himalayan state’s history. His visit on the day of Diwali, the festival of lights, to the sensitive border state was highly significant. A lot of interpretations have been made out of the package to re-build homes and health care facilities in the frontier state. Pakistan was, obviously, unhappy with the publicity the Rs 745 crore has made. Ultimately, the state has been able to draw special empathy, if it can be termed so, of the Centre which has not spared similar attention to other flood-hit states.
Meghalaya and Assam, both Congress-ruled states, have been pursuing the Centre for flood-aid packages. Home minister Rajnath Singh visited the flood-hit areas in western parts of both the states and promised all assistance. But the people have not so far heard of any Central flood package being announced so far. Although Assam is a perennially flood-hit state and asking for special attention will be a little more than it deserved, Meghalaya which literally means ‘abode of clouds’ has not seen such devastation in recent memory. Cloud burst in Garo Hills region of the state caused extensive damage in the plain belt region besides the downstream areas in neighbouring Assam.
Despite being a frontier state with half of its border being shared with Bangladesh, Meghalaya lacks the strategic importance in the eyes of the Centre as Jammu and Kashmir does. Another factor – as the critics of BJP might point out – behind the ‘delay’ in announcing the package might be the Congress’ still-strong position in the two states. Besides, unlike Jammu and Kashmir, election is still far away in both the states. Meghalaya and Assam will go to assembly elections in 2018 and 2016 respectively. The BJP has definite plans to play its Modi card in Jammu and Kashmir to make inroads into the special-category state. As such, any aid package and the manner of its announcement always do not depend on the magnitude of the damage. Had Meghalaya been strategically more important than Jammu and Kashmir, the state would have already seen Modi doing the aerial survey instead of Rajnath Singh and a prompt flood package.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on October 25, 2014)