Bihar: Hundreds of Floods and Erosion Victims Stage Indefinite Satyagraha
Patna: Hundreds of floods and erosion victims living within the embankments of Koshi river in Bihar's Supaul district have been staging an indefinite "satyagraha" (civil disobedience) to put pressure on the state government to fulfil their demand for relief help, assistance, and other compensations.
They did not receive the required relief and compensations to date after the floods last year, which is in violation of the state government's norms. The protesters are also demanding rehabilitation and land tax abolition.
Peaceful Gandhian protests by floods and erosion victims entered the second day on Tuesday in front of the district collectorate office. They began their indefinite satyagraha on Monday, February 14. They have vowed not to end their civil disobedience until the Nitish Kumar-led government fulfils their demands and deposits money in the bank accounts of the hundreds of displaced flood and river erosion victims.
Unlike in the past, the victims have made up their minds to mobilise support from the hundreds of villages trapped within the embankment and protest under the banner of Koshi Nav Nirman Manch (KNNM).
Mahender Yadav, founder-convenor of KNNM, said the victims had been forced to start civil disobedience due to the government's deliberate neglect for years. The government has ignored their demands and grievances and has not provided them with anything. "Victims are not in dozens or hundreds but in thousands, whose pain and misery are not new. Last year, repeated floods and untimely heavy rainfall created more problems that badly affected them. Despite this, the government failed to provide Rs 6,000 relief help for each of them. Similarly, the government has not compensated for houses damaged during repeated floods and those houses were submerged in the river due to erosion," Yadav said.
Yadav further said that the river erosion victims were demanding their rehabilitation on the government land, and those who did not benefit from rehabilitation should be included in the fresh surveys. "We want the government to ensure the abolition of land tax on Koshi flood and erosion victims, who have been living within the embankments for years, suffering and struggling for survival," he said.
The land between the two embankments is full of silt, making farming impossible. Life is full of challenges and difficulties here. In view of this, the victims have been demanding freedom from lagan or land tax and cess collected by the government. According to Yadav, the land is cultivable only six months of the year when there is no flood. Most of the farmers and workers were affected and displaced by the construction of the embankment, but they were made to pay tax for the silted land as well as the produce.
There are more than one lakh inhabitants in 380 villages located between the embankments of Koshi in Supaul. They have been forced to fight for survival for years as the government did not provide any help.
Yadav, an activist working with the victims living within embankments of Koshi, said the government had been working against its own norms by not providing relief, assistance, and compensation to the flood victims. "This compensation is the right of the people living within the embankments, not charity and alms," he proclaimed.
"Flood victims led by the Koshi Nav Nirman Manch have repeatedly approached the district administration in the last five months for relief, assistance, and compensation after floods destroyed their houses, standing crops, and livestock. But nothing has happened so far." He claimed that the authorities had reduced the flood victims to a joke by forcing them to continue living within the embankments.
The victims said the government knows that hundreds of acres of cultivable land are destroyed by the floods every year. People are forced to live within embankments without proper rehabilitation and land. This has become an annual journey when they become victims of nature's fury. Hundreds of houses damaged last year are yet to be rebuilt. What is surprising for the flood and river erosion victims is that different government agencies claim they have distributed compensation and provided assistance to all, which is, however, only on paper.
After the embankments were constructed in the early 1950s, thousands of people had been left within the embankments at the mercy of floods. There are 3,789.96 kilometres of embankments in Bihar.
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.