(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 28 , 2008
FLOODS, EROSION, RELIEF, REHABILITATION
AIKS Holds Convention In Bihar
FLOODS, erosion, relief and rehabilitation were the theme of the state level convention which the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) organised in the Town Hall in Begusarai on September 12. Rechristened as Harkishan Singh Surjeet Nagar, the venue was overflowing because of the participation of a large number of delegates from 17 districts of Bihar. Though the convention was planned much before, the recent havoc caused by the Kosi river added to its relevance.
Inaugurating the event, AIKS joint secretary N K Shukla detailed how the recent floods were no natural disaster but an outcome of the government’s callousness. He stressed the need for a strong movement to compel the government for evolving a lasting solution to the flood havoc.
AIKS state secretary Awadhesh Kumar moved the main resolution of the convention. It said the Kosi floods had displaced about 30 lakh people in 977 villages and destroyed the crops in 27.05 lakh hectares of land. To date no correct assessment is available about the loss of human lives and the livestock. The official estimate of damage to 5 lakh houses and about 2,000 km of roads is in fact an underestimation.
The resolution gave a detailed picture of the paltry efforts that have been made to date for flood control, especially in regard to the Kosi floods, which is what leads to indescribable losses of life and property every year. The fact is that large-scale corruption prevails in whatever work is undertaken in the name of flood control and later in the name of relief and rehabilitation. The Kosi and other rivers have been causing massive devastation year after year in Bihar, with the result that the state is home to as many as 56 percent of the flood affected people in the country. Such devastation every year only exposes the hollowness of the tall claims the successive state governments have been making ad nauseam. The erstwhile RJD as well as the incumbent JD(U)-BJP government has failed to implement the recommendations the second irrigation commission had made in its report submitted in 1994. The fact is that the state government has no plan whatsoever to check the flood menace in Bihar.
After the recent floods, the resolution pointed out, a number of loopholes have been witnessed in the relief and rehabilitation operations. Only one third of the 30 lakh flood affected people have been shifted to safer places because of the criminal non-availability of boats in adequate numbers. There is not enough ration and medicines even for the 2.57 lakh people sheltered in the relief camps while those marooned in various areas are simply not getting anything worthwhile. There is shortage of potable water while water borne diseases are killing people in droves. Fodder for the cattle, kerosene oil and other things too are in short supply. People are trying to survive by pawning whatever little they have or by taking loans at usurious rates. Some non-government organisations are making only cosmetic efforts in the name of relief work.
As in earlier years, the chief minister called for an all-party meeting and announced that all-party committees would be formed at all levels. Following it, some of the officials did hold all-party meetings at their respective levels but the formation of all-party committees at various levels is still due. The need of the hour is that all-party committees are formed at all levels and entrusted with the supervision of food grains, clothes, kerosene oil, match boxes, polythene, fodder, roofing materials and other things of requirement.
The resolution took a note of the flood situation as well as the relief and rehabilitation operations in various areas of the state. It covered not only the Kosi basin areas but those affected by Gandak, Kamla, Bagmati and Balaan rivers as well.
Several delegates took part in the discussion on the resolution, assessing the situation in light of the experiences in their respective districts and thereby strengthening the resolution in the process.
AIKS joint secretary Nurul Huda and peasant leader and CPI(M) state secretary Vijay Kant Thakur were among those who addressed the convention.
Replying to the points made during the discussion, Awadhesh Kumar said the Kisan Sabha activists have to work on two levels --- to collect relief materials from the common people and send them to the flood affected people; and to intervene so that the government could be compelled to take effective flood measures as well as provide adequate relief and rehabilitation to the affected people. Large amounts of relief materials are coming from within the country and abroad but are not reaching the affected persons. They are being looted by the politicians, their hangers-on and officials in between. It is essentials to ensure that an all-party committee supervises the distribution of the relief materials and other measures. He informed that the state unit of Kisan Sabha is in the process of chalking out a plan for a protracted struggle and would take initiative to forge a broad forum for the purpose.
The delegates adopted the resolution with one voice after all their points were clarified.
The convention adopted a demands charter that included the following demands:
1) While taking stopgap measures to control the flood menace, the government must evolve a lasting solution to the problem on a scientific basis.
2) Ration for a whole year, potable water, pucca housing and medical facilities must be provided to those affected by the floods. Fodder for their cattle must be must be provided free of cost, and they must also be given agricultural inputs.
3) Enough relief materials and compensation for the damaged crops must be provided for the flood affected people in the Kosi basin as well as other river basins.
4) The dependents of every person who died due to the flood must be given a compensation of two lakh rupees. Adequate compensation must also be there for the livestock that perished.
5) There must be a waiver of the loans owed by the peasants and other rural poor in the flooded areas. They must get new loans and grants so that they may pursue the agricultural operations.
6) The government must institute a high-level inquiry into the breach in the Kosi embankment at Kusaha, and mete out punishments to the guilty.
7) All-party committees must be constituted at all levels to supervise the relief and rehabilitation operations.
8) There must be immediate arrangement of land and housing for the displaced people.
9) The government must constitute a committee of experts for each of the eight river basins in the state, as was suggested by the second irrigation commission, and ask them to submit their reports within three months. Measures for a lasting solution to the flood menace must be taken in accordance with the recommendations of these exert committees.
10) The centre must bear the full cost of the flood control measures.
The AIKS convention called for a vigorous protracted struggle on these demands with the involvement of all political parties and mass organisations, so that the people of Bihar may get rid of the flood menace once for all.