(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 28 , 2008
Probe Official Apathy in Bihar Floods
Hannan Mollah, MP, Central Secretariat member of CPI(M) along with a team of state and district Party leaders visited Sour Bazar, Saharsa town and Sonbarsa (Saharsa district), Madhepura town and Singheshwar (Madhepura district) and Triveniganj in Supaul district on September 1-16, 2008 to asses the situation of the unprecedented floods in Kosi river and the relief work. The team also included Awadesh Kumar, state secretariat member, Vinod Kumar, secretary of Saharsa district committee and Ganesh Manav, secretary of Madhepur district committee.
The CPI(M) team talked to a number of victims and visited the relief camps being run by the government as well as various political parties and NGOs. The team came to the conclusion that the flood is an unprecedented one, but it is more a human failure than a natural disaster. It is said that the embankment repair work was awarded to Tula Kirshna Yadav, brother-in-law of Bihar’s Water Management minister, Vijendra Yadav. Sukhdeo Ram, a junior engineer in municipality was promoted as executive engineer and posted at the site although he was not trained for the specific work. This was done with a view to help the minister’s brother-in-law who was awarded the contract.
On August 6, 2008, when seepage began, the chief engineer informed the Bihar government but no action was taken. However, the site engineer gave the all ‘OK’ report to the government till August 18 morning while the embankment breached in the night on the same day, and Kosi river water gushed into the villages. The current was so fast that people did not have the time to react. Several hundreds of people and tens of thousands of cattle were killed.
Inefficiency, corruption and criminal negligence are glaring. CPI(M), therefore, demands a CBI inquiry into the whole incident leading to this great tragedy so that the responsibility can be fixed and the guilty persons can be punished to avoid such a recurrence.
Around 35 lakhs of people are affected directly. However, the so-called mega relief camps being run by the state government are housing less that 10 per cent of the people. Over 90 per cent of the affected people live all around the official relief camps wherever they can find dry area under the sky. They are not getting food, drinking water, medicine, fodder, milk for children and facilities for Sehari and Iftar during the Ramzan because they are not covered by government relief camps. They are surviving on irregular individual efforts and non-governmental relief. Even kerosene oil is not supplied, forcing them to live in darkness as well.
In the crowded mega relief camps, 2-3 families and some times, more families are forced to live in one tent meant for one family leading to harassment of women.
The officials are making a false propaganda in the camp that free ration grains will be distributed in their respective villages by the gram panchayats. So large number of people are leaving the camps and going back to their villages. The people are very angry at this brutal and inhuman act.
In fact, majority of the people are already living in their villages amidst all the difficulties especially in Chhatapur, Triveniganj, Pratapganj, Bansantpur, Reghopur blocks of Supaul district, or are migrating in large numbers to other districts and other states.
One can easily see that tens of thousands of people are living along both sides of the 100 kilometre long MBC canal, under the open sky from Balua bazaar(Supaul) to Beldaur (Khagaria). These victims are living there under the open sky because there is water all around and canal alone provides a place to save life. People are not provided any relief material because this camp is outside the coverage of government relief camps and mega camps, although people taking shelter on MBC canal from Balua bazaar to Beldaur is much bigger than in the so called mega camps of the state government.
The team was surprised to find one government camp at Barpurva where the officials are providing food, only once in 24 hours for the last three days. Apart from these, there are a number of NGO camps where no food is being served and no relief work is going on although they have pitched large tents and banners and hoardings on display.
However neither the Indian National Congress nor the BJP- JD(U) are running a single camp in the entire region. Railway ministry is running one relief camp in Saharsa at the initiative of Lalu Prasad Yadav. Steel Authority of India is also doing some relief work at the instance of Ram Vilas Paswan. However the above parties and some other parties and leaders have put up large number of hoardings and banners as if it were an election time. But none of them were found in the mega relief camps.
Although the water level is receding, water is still flowing with high current. Ordinary boats are still overturning and people cannot move. Army boats are not seen in many villages now.
It is necessary for all the political parties, NGOs and the administration to join hands and expedite the relief work and streamline the delivery mechanism. The matter cannot be left to the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats or else we might again end up in inefficiency, corruption and criminal negligence.