The people of Bihar are at present buffeted by the rising scare of COVID-19 pandemic and a devastating flood that has affected millions of lives. The perennial flood problem in North Bihar does not seem near any normalcy as daily activities in many parts of urban and rural regions lie paralysed.
Amid the flood misery, there is a glaring shortage of foodgrains looming over the state, and now a new threat stares at people living in the Nepal bordering districts -- the Kesariya (East Champaran)-located Food Corporation of India (FCI) warehouse has got inundated, destroying hundreds of foodgrain bags that lie rotting.
A Chakia sub-divisional officer, on condition of anonymity, told NewsClick that the warehouse had 600 quintals of storage capacity, and 300 quintals had already gone after flood water gushed in.
The embankment breach near Sangrampur on Gandak river led to heavy water inflow into the warehouse. Notably, media reports alerting the rising flood scare had fallen on deaf ears of the block administration.
On August 10, East Champaran DM Shirsat Kapil Ashok visited the inundated FCI warehouse and expressed his resentment over the administration’s inability to safeguard the stockpiled grains that were to be used for relief work. He ordered a probe as well as called for action against the officials concerned.
Meanwhile, the campus of world’s tallest excavated Buddha Stupa in Kesariya was gripped by flood.
Estimated Crop Loss
All 16 flood-affected districts of Bihar face massive crop loss in the running Kharif season, such as paddy, maize and vegetables. The bordering districts of Nepal -- West and East Champaran -- had to face the maximum flood fury.
State agriculture Minister Prem Kumar, in an interview to a news portal, said that standing crops spread over 2.50 lakh hectares in 13 districts had been destroyed. According to preliminary reports, crop worth Rs. 352 crore has perished in floods.
Pakridayal (East Champaran)-based Ramashray Yadav told NewsClick that he has lost two acres of paddy and an acre of maize crops. Similar , there are many others in low-lying fields that got submerged in Burhi Gandak’s swelling stream.
Raghunath Rai, who planted the water-sensitive maize in his three acres of land in Sahebganj block, Muzaffarpur, saw the entire crop getting washed away by the floodwaters.
As per official estimates, eight districts of Tirhut division -- Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, Sheohar, Darbhanga, Madhubani and Samastipur, East and West Champaran – have faced massive losses as nearly 80% of agriculture land is submerged in flood water.
Floodwaters inundate a paddy field in Muzaffarpur. | Image: Saurav Kumar
The India Meteorological Department (IMD), Patna chapter, has forecast a fresh spell of rain across the state that could increase trouble for North Bihar districts that are already grappling with flood water. The IMD bulletin has warned that East Champaran, West Chamaparn, and Gopalganj will get heavy showers in the coming days.
Villages of Gopalganj and Muzaffarpur. | Image: Saurav Kumar
So far, 16 districts in the state -- East Champaran, West Champaran, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur, Gopalganj, Siwan, Saran, Kishanganj, Supaul, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Samastipur Saharsa, Madhepura and Khagaria — have been affected by floods caused by heavy rain in Bihar and Nepal.
Flood-hit Victims’ SOS for Help
On August 9, Janardan Singh Sigriwal, a member of Parliament from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a ruling coalition partner in the state government, had to face wrath of flood victims in Chhapra district, who were protesting against no relief and support from the elected representative. Keoti in Darbhanga inundated hundreds of houses, with villagers alleging that the administration completely failed to address their plight.
Turkauliya block in East Champaran also witnessed flood rage with people alleging that no relief reached them in time. Villagers of Katahariya and Asarfi Tola blocked the road prohibiting vehicular movement. Likewise, 100 Mahadalits of Sirsa village, 13 km away from Motihari town, protested against panchayat head (Mukhiya).
Sukhram Manjhi, a mahadalit, who was part of the protest, said the government was not sympathetic to their plight and it is to demand immediate rehabilitation that they were takingpartin the sit-in protest. “Nobody came to our aid while our children, livestock were drowning.” said Chakia-based Vijay Sahni, adding that the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav had paid them a visit and had distributed some relief material.
Flood victims protest in East Champaran. | Image: Saurav Kumar
On August 6 night, a group of angry flood victims, who were staging a protest demanding adequate relief in Sakra police station in Muzaffarpur reportedly attacked the local police team when it tried to end the road blockade. Some policemen were reportedly injured and admitted in a government-run hospital for treatment.
Similarly, hundreds of flood victims in Gopalganj district also blocked the Patna-Mohammadpur state highway 90 alleging that the local administration had failed to provide them tarpaulin sheets for temporary shelter. Barauni-Lucknow NH-28 in Chakia East Champaran saw hundreds of grappling flood affected families from nearby inundated areas living on under tarpaulin sheets on the divider of the four-lane highway.
Cattle and Families stranded roadside due to flood in East Champaran. | Image: Saurav Kumar
As per the Disaster Management Department (DMD) bulletin, the flood affected population stands more than 77.18 lakh residing in 1,271 panchayats of 127 blocks of 16 districts and as many as 24 lives and 69 livestock have been lost in the past one month.
In total, 1,121 community kitchens to serve flood victims and 33 teams of NDRF and SDRF have been deployed for rescue work. But, what is intriguing is the fact that despite over seven million people affected by the floods, there are only seven relief camps, as per official data released by the state disaster management department.
Picking up the pieces for people of Bihar will remain a gigantic task, as worst-hit by flood are Darbhanga with 20 lakh affected people, Muzaffarpur with 15 lakh and East Champaran with 10 lakh people. Last year, the flood affected population of more than 88 lakh causing 130 deaths across Bihar.
The writer is an independent journalist based in Bihar.