Unhappy over a lack of relief and no help from the state government, flood victims, who had been stranded in a village in Bihar’s East Champaran for the last two days, protested on Friday. Hundreds blocked the national highway for two and half hours to express their anger against the apathy of the administration and demanded relief, causing traffic snarls.
After the local Block Development Officer in Sugauli assured them of relief and other help, the flood victims ended their protest.This was the first reported protest by the flood victims in the state this year.
“We had been stranded in the village as flood water had surrounded us. We were totally cut off as the roads were washed away but government officials did not even visit despite being informed of our plight. There was no relief and rescue. Hardly any boats or plastic sheets were provided to us, contrary to the claims made by the government,” said Mahesh Thakur, one of the flood victims from Cheeljhapti village.
Another flood victim, Rajesh Shah, said flood water left them marooned after damaging the main road that connected the village. Villagers could not move to purchase essential food items and medicines as a result. “The local administration failed to provide relief and boats to us. That angered us and we protested against it,” he said.
The protests paint a picture different from what the NDA government led by Nitish Kumar has been claiming, of providing adequate relief to flood victims. It also exposes the lies of the state disaster management department, which said it had provided adequate assistance to them.
Thakur and Shah are two of thousands of flood victims in hundreds of villages who have been badly affected by the early monsoon flood in the state .They are struggling for survival without proper food, drinking water and milk for their children.
After four to five days of heavy rainfall in the catchment areas of Himalayan rivers in neighbouring Nepal and in Bihar, the water level rose in the Gandak, Burhi Gandak and their tributaries, marooning hundreds of villages in low-lying areas in West Champaran, East Champaran and Gopalganj districts. Other rivers, including Bagmati, Koshi, Kamla Balan, Bhutahi Balan and Ghaghra are also in spate due to heavy rains. The water level in the Ganga is rising too.
The Gandak wreaked havoc in large areas as floodwater spread and left hundreds of villages marooned, snapping roads, washing away small bridges and threatening to damage embankments. The Bihar Water Resources Department says that the Gandak was flowing above the danger mark in a few places.
The situation has created fear among people as hundreds have fled or moved to safe, higher places. Flood water also entered several towns in West and East Champaran, including Motihari, Lauriya, Bagaha, Bettiah and Narkatiaganj. Two to three feet of water has been seen on the roads in certain places.
With the water levels rising in other rivers as well, the state government has alerted district magistrates of at least nine districts including Siwan, Saran and Madhubani of a likely flood-like situation. Keeping this in view, over a dozen teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) have been deployed in vulnerable places.
The state disaster management department held a meeting here on Friday to discuss the flood situation and if the deployment of more teams for relief and rescue operations was required, department officials said.
The water resources department has said that all embankments were safe and there was no need to panic.
Earlier this week, three days after the monsoon entered Bihar, there was a flood-like situation in West Champaran near the Nepal border after the water level in the Gandak river was seen to be rising. It forced authorities to release 4.12 lakh cusecs of water from the Gandak Barrage on Wednesday and open all 36 sluice gates of the barrage.
Following the move the pressure on the river embankments increased after the discharge of a record amount of water into the river. Authorities in flood-prone districts have asked people living in vulnerable and low-lying areas to shift to safer places. The state government has asked engineers and district officials to keep a round-the-clock vigil.
Bihar received surplus rain last year. The IMD’s annual rainfall report said Bihar receives 1,027.6 mm of rainfall in a normal monsoon year; the average annual rainfall through the last year was 1,205.6 mm.
According to the WRD’s website, Bihar is the most flood-affected state, accounting for close to 17.2% of the total flood-prone area in the country. Out of 94.16 lakh hectare area, 68.80 lakh ha (76% of North Bihar and 73% of South Bihar) is flood-prone. At present, 28 out of 38 districts in the state are flood-prone.