The annual phenomenon of flooding in Bihar forces villagers to play musical chairs as they move in search of dry and safe land, until the next wave of flooding displaces them, forcing them to move away. move again.
Manju Devi and her family are sadly part of this never-ending cycle of displacement and desperation in India’s most flood-prone state. About 25 years ago, during the 1996 floods, his village of Malainiya, in the Katihar district of Bihar, was eroded by flood waters from the Ganges, and Manju Devi lost his home and land. She and her family have been on the move ever since. And this year’s floods have displaced them yet again.
“The waters of the Ganges and Kosi flooded my house about two weeks ago, and I had to leave everything and flee,” said Manju Devi. Gaon connection, pointing to the water marks on the kuchcha walls of his house which clearly indicate the level to which the waters had risen.
Manju Devi and hundreds of others like her now live dangerously near the railroad tracks near her village Malainiya in the Kursela block of Katihar, about 250 km from the state capital, Patna. They eat and sleep under tarps and plastic sheeting and have no access to clean water or toilets.
Read also: Bihar floods 2021: 90% of those affected by the floods do not have access to drinking water, half of the toilets are broken, lack of food, according to a survey
When the 1996 floods eroded their village, Manju Devi and his fellow citizens settled in kuchcha houses on railway land, near their village. They claim to have received no compensation or any other land to build their homes. Year after year, flood waters have penetrated their homes, causing them to be constantly on the move.
This year’s floods have pushed them to the edge of the railroad tracks, where every day is a challenge not to get run over by high-speed trains.
Of the 38 districts of Bihar, 17 districts, including the Katihar district of Meena Devi, are in the grip of severe flooding. According to the daily flood report (August 30) released by the state’s disaster management department, an estimated 3.2 million people of 525 panchayats were affected by the floods. Of these, more than 200,000 have been transferred to safety in shelters.
Flooding has been raging in Bihar since June and so far 43 lives have been lost as a result. As floodwaters in some areas decrease, due to the released waters from neighboring Nepal and the Balmiki and Birpur Dam in the state, along with relentless rains, the problems will continue, people say.
Read also: Bihar floods 2021: flash floods in villages along the Indo-Nepal border; Gandak River Flood Warning
“Water started flooding the area around my house about a month and a half ago. It infiltrated the drums where I had stored about seven quintals of corn. I had also planted radishes and lady’s fingers on a small plot of land, and they were also rotting under all this water, ”complains Manju Devi. Her house will not become habitable until after Dussehra (mid-October), she said, adding that she spent Rs 80,000 on repairs last year.
Floods, dirt and fear
“We have to defecate outside because there is no toilet, and for women this is a problem,” said Chinta Devi, 48, from Kursela. Gaon connection. Even for drinking water, she said, they had to go to the train station.
“Our temporary homes, next to the railroad tracks, are surrounded by filth,” complained the 48-year-old man. Cases of diarrhea, fever and other ailments are common. And, there is no sign that authorities have decided to keep the area clean by spraying bleach, Chinta Devi said.
Displaced people living near railways are never far from danger. “My sister visited me in Raksha Bandhan and when she got home she was hit by a train,” Sadanand Sharma said. Gaon connection, overwhelmed with grief. The fear of trains is never far away. “There is always an adult who is responsible for making sure the children do not get lost on the train tracks,” said one of the residents of the neighborhood.
Displaced villagers said they had received little or no government assistance. “There was no financial assistance. Political leaders go, watch and go, that’s all. There is no help coming, ”said Muso Mandal, one of the displaced flood victims. Gaon connection.
Manju Devi added, “All we have received as government aid is polyethylene sheeting and food served to us in a public school, and even that is not every day. ”
“The community kitchens set up here cook a lot less than what is needed to feed so many people,” a local representative said on condition of anonymity. Gaon connection. For many people affected by flooding, reaching community kitchens is also a struggle.
Meanwhile, the villagers affected by the floods have no jobs and no income, but have loans to repay.
Manju Devi said she borrowed a lakh (100,000 rupees) from a self-help group and had no idea how she would pay it back. “I am forced to repay the sum, but the floods left me nothing to eat, where will I find the money to repay my loan,” she lamented. Her husband, Manik Lal Mandal, 50, who worked as a day laborer in Kursela market, is also unemployed.
As villagers complain about the lack of government assistance, Ajay Kumar, Blocks Development Officer (BDO), Kursola, Katihar, said Gaon connection: “Standard operating procedures are followed in all flood-affected neighborhoods and community kitchens have been installed there. “He dismissed complaints of insufficient food and no help as baseless.
According to Ajay Kumar, flood aid funds have been released, arrangements have been made for the supply of potable water to community centers and, if necessary, hand pumps have been installed by the Department of Public Health. and engineering.
According to the state government, 327 community kitchens have been installed in areas affected by the floods. In addition, 17 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams and 12 State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) teams were stationed there to help.
Read also: IMD warns of flash floods in Pashchim Champaran in Bihar; entire villages evacuated
No help sign in Bhagalpur
Although they are only 500 meters from the Rangra Block Office in the flood-affected Bhagalpur district, people on their own initiative and without the help of the authorities install a hand pump. Residents of Rangra village say the government has not even provided them with polyethylene sheeting.
“Some officials from the district headquarters came a few days ago, but they came back because there was too much water everywhere,” said one of the villagers. Gaon connection.
Read also: Bihar floods: an annual blame game between India and Nepal
“The public did not receive rations or polyethylene from the authorities. We don’t even have fodder for our cattle, ”said Om Prakash Mandal, a 41-year-old resident of Rangra. Gaon connection. “All of our crops have been destroyed by the floods. The government should at least compensate the farmers who have lost everything, ”said Om Prakash. Farmers here are not even aware of crop insurance, he added (Bihar does not enforce the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana).
“We had requested more than five thousand sheets of polyethylene, but we only received one thousand five hundred and thirty sheets which we distributed. But in a few days, an amount of six thousand rupees will be credited to the accounts of the affected floods, ”said Ashish Kumar, head of Rangra cercle. Gaon connection.
Meanwhile, just behind the circle officer’s desk is a Basti where people’s homes are still waist-deep underwater, and they haven’t received any help from the authorities yet.
Also read: Known mainly for droughts, why do districts in southern Bihar face flooding?
Pappu Mandal, 30, and his wife Lakshmi Devi, 21, who live in this Basti, became parents of a little girl on August 19. The baby was born in a public hospital. Although the state government announced that if a baby girl was born into a family affected by the floods she would receive Rs 15,000 and if it was a boy the parents would receive Rs 10,000.
“The hospital refused to give us any money, saying that if the pregnant mother came to the hospital in a boat, she would get the amount. There was no boat available to us, ”said Pappu Mandal. Gaon connection.
Ashish Kumar, the circle officer who knew about it, assured the new parents that it was a mistake and that the money would be returned to them soon.
Read the story in Hindi.