A team announced to probe the gaps that led to severe flooding in Bihar's capital Patna, which has members who themselves are in the firing line, is turning out to be an embarrassment for the state government.
On Thursday, Bihar Urban Development Minister Suresh Sharma announced a three-member inquiry committee headed by Sanjay Kumar, a special secretary of his own department. The other two members are Amrendra Kumar Singh, Managing Director of BUDCO (Bihar Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation) and Amit Kumar Pandey, the administrator of the Patna civic body.
BUDCO was largely responsible for the flooding in the city as out of the 39 sump houses which it runs, most of them were not functioning. The Patna Municipal Corporation, headed by Amit Kumar Pandey, is responsible for maintaining the drainage system in the city which was largely choked when the city was flooded.
However, when Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi came to know of the probe panel, he asked the Urban Development officials to drop the idea as Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is meant to hold an extensive review meeting on Monday.
Sources say Sushil Modi was conveyed that the three-member panel was just a proposal though the Urban Development Minister's office circulated the order and Suresh Sharma even announced it to some regional channels.
Sushil Modi, this morning, when shown a copy of the order, asked the Urban Development Minister to clarify, who then stated that there was no question of any inquiry as the chief minister was going to hold a meeting on the floods. Suresh Sharma, however, had no clear answer when shown a copy of the government notification.
Last week, Mr Sharma had deflected criticism over the water-logging and blamed officers for not listening to him. He said it is not him, but the officers who should face action. Mr Sharma holds the department responsible for upkeep of drainage and pump houses, which failed Patna this time.
A senior officer who was involved in the relief and rescue operations said the water-logging was a "blot on the urban development department", alleging that the announcement of inquiry committee has proven that no one will be punished and that it is more a hush-up job.
The heavy rain and flooding in Bihar has also revealed an apparent rift between the partners of the ruling alliance in the state. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) and it ally BJP are bickering over who is to blame for the situation in Patna, where even Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi of the BJP and his family had to be evacuated in an inflatable rubber boat.