Patna: Ahead of the upcoming Bihar Assembly Elections, Opposition parties, including the Left, have been exposing failure after failure of the National Democratic Alliance government led by Nitish Kumar. The government’s approach in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as its seeming inability to respond to the flood, the livelihoods of migrant workers and contractual school teachers has put it on the back foot.
Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejashwi Yadav, Bihar’s Ppposition leader, said there were only six functional relief camps for nearly 8.4 million flood-affected people in the state. “But the Central government has not sent a team of experts to assess the situation so far. The double-engine government of Bihar should explain to people what help the Centre has provided to flood-affected people,” he said.
Tejashwi added that thousands of flood victims in 130 blocks in the 16 flood-hit districts in the state have been forced to live under the open sky and are struggling to survive. “Neither the state government nor the Centre have done anything. After I repeatedly appealed to the Chief Minister to take notice of the misery of flood victims, Nitish Kumar only twice undertook aerial surveys. The government should release data of how many helicopters of Indian Air Force were used to airdrop relief and were used for rescue operations,” he said.
“Nitish Kumar has nothing to do with the suffering of flood victims, he is not worried about them; he is only worried about his chair,” said Tejashwi, who is being projected as the chief ministerial candidate of the Grand Alliance which also comprises the Congress, the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party and the Vikassheel Insaan Party.
On August 28, Left parties hinted at joining the Grand Alliance after first round of talks.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) state secretary, Avadesh Kumar, said the state government had failed to help flood victims. It was reflected in protests by angry flood victims over the lack of relief. “The government’s main focus is only politics, over and above the flood. But this time, the people will reply through their votes,” he added.
His views was echoed by CPI state secretary Ram Naresh Pandey and senior CPI (ML) leader Dhirendra Jha. Jha said that in view of the floods and COVID-19, the party has demanded that the government disburses Rs 25,000 as relief, dry food packets and drinking water to all the families from inundated villages as well, as adequate supply of fodder for the cattle and boats for those who have taken shelter in higher areas.
As per official data released by the state Disaster Management Department, nearly 8.4 million (83,62,451) people have been affected by the floods. However, there are only six relief camps in which 5,186 flood victims are currently staying. The official data is silent on the whereabouts of thousands of flood victims who were displaced after flood water inundated their homes and villages.
Tejashwi also questioned how only between 2,000 to 2,500 COVID-19 cases are being reported despite the state testing over one lakh samples on a daily basis. When close to 10,000 samples were being tested in mid-July, the same number of cases were being reported. “The government has been testing samples mainly through Rapid Antigen test kits, the number of tests by RTPCR are less. By doing so the government is misleading people in the name of increased testing,” he added.
He added that the CM had announced in the state assembly that a committee made from members of all political parties would be constituted to monitor the fight against COVID-19. However, the committee has not been formed as yet.
Tejashwi also raised the issue of reverse migration. “More than 40 lakh migrant workers returned to Bihar after the lockdown. Now, many have returned to their workplace outside the state and many more are returning now as they were neither provided jobs nor a livelihood. Migrant workers were forced to return due to hunger and battle for their survival in order to earn a livelihood,” he added.
CPI (ML) leader Jha said the party will stage a protest at all block headquarters on August 31, demanding Rs 10,000 as lockdown allowance per month to be given to migrant workers and rural labourers.
Tejashwi has promised more than 3.5 lakh contractual school teachers in Bihar that their old demand of pay on par with permanent teachers will be fulfilled and that they would have the same working conditions. The teachers have been up in arms against the government, which tried to allay their fears recently. However, the move was opposed by the teachers.
The Left parties and the Congress have also supported demands of contractual school teachers and have also demanded for a postponement of the JEE and NEET tests.
According to the latest data uploaded by the state Health Department, the recovery rate in Bihar was 85.94%, more than the national average of 76.28%, while the positivity rate also remained lower than three percent.
Bihar Health Secretary Lokesh Kumar Singh said the number of COVID-19 cases are declining as testing has increased. He said that on August 15, Bihar had reported 3,536 new cases and on August 28, the state reported 1,998 new cases.
Bihar has been testing more than one lakh samples every day since August 13. Most of these tests are being conducted with rapid antigen detection kits. Reports claim that Bihar has been conducting less than 10% of the total COVID-19 tests using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) kits.
According to the official Twitter handle of the Health Department, Bihar, the state reported 2,078 cases of COVID-19 on August 30, taking the total number of cases to 1,35,013 with 688 deaths so far.