BJP extends support for tsunami relief measures

New Delhi, Dec 29 | Updated: Dec 30 2004, 05:30am hrs
The BJP will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Central government and the governments of the tsunami-affected states in doing whatever is necessary for relief and rehabilitation.

Saying that what he had witnessed was a disaster without dimensions, whose toll was without precedent in known human history, BJP president LK Advani, who has just returned from his three-day tour of the tsunami-ravaged states, shared his experiences with mediapersons on Wednesday.

Stating that this is not the time to point fingers at anyone, Mr Advani said that he would ask Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to convene an all-party meeting to seek suggestions on how best to deal with the situation, he said he would also request the PM whom he would try to meet on Thursday to declare the disaster as a calamity of the rarest severity, so that all sections of the people could contribute their fullest to the relief and rehabilitation effort.

Mr Advani also said that he would also urge the government to implement the recommendations of the National Committee on Disaster Management which had been set up by the NDA government in February 2001 following the Gujarat earthquake, and which, besides having former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee as chairman, had also appointed NCP chief Sharad Pawar as vice-chairman.

Some of the measures Mr Advani suggested included raising a specialised disaster response organisation and specialised disaster response units which would supplement states and Central resources.

He also said that he would urge the government to set up a comprehensive coastal insurance scheme for fishermen and those living in coastal areas covering both life and property. Additionally, he said that, given the fact that the dire need of the people was to ensure a decent livelihood, banks should waive loans taken by fishermen as well as facilitate new loans.

When asked about the need for setting up special sensors to anticipate such natural calamities, Mr Advani replied that although this was too technical a matter for me to reply, he understood that the cost implications for acquiring such equipment were very high. However, he did say that he would ask the government to place reliable early warning communication systems in coastal areas, with attendant facilities for protection and evacuation.