Patna: Baleshwar Yadav is angry. He and his family were forced to shift to a national highway to save their lives after flood water inundated their village last week. He is more than miffed about the inadequate relief provided by the government so far.
“We get a meal during the day and nothing at night. How will we survive if we are battling hunger. Our children are crying for milk, there is no drinking water,” said Yadav, a small farmer, who is living under open sky on NH-57 in Darbhanga despite heavy rains and the occasional scorching sun.
Yadav questioned the government's repeated claims of providing relief and help to flood victims. “We are not lying, the government’s announcement is not being implemented on the ground,” he added.
Yadav is one of nearly 4 million people who have been affected by floods in Bihar’s twelve districts. Most of the victims are struggling against all odds in the absence of adequate relief and help by the government. However, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is yet to visit the flood victims and is reviewing the flood situation from his official bungalow.
Yadav and Lakhan Chaupal, a fellow villager, are also faced with the lack of fodder for their cattle. They had brought the animals with them on the highway. There are hundreds of cows, buffaloes and goats. “There is no green grass or green fodder except the leaves of trees.These cattle require proper fodder; they are also half-hungry like us,” said Chaupal.
Several people from districts like Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, East Champaran, Supaul, Sitmarhi and Madhubani – among the worst affected by rains – have taken shelter on highways and embankments for their safety.
There have been local reports about protests by flood victims demanding adequate relief at several places in Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, East Champaran, Madhubani and Sitamarhi districts.
Despite the fact that thousands of flood victims have been displaced and battling for their survival, CM Nitish Kumar is yet to undertake a survey of the flood-affected areas.
“This is sheer insensitivity on the part of the Chief Minister, who has not undertaken an aerial survey of the flood affected areas. It is an exercise that sends a message to flood victims that the government is keen to know their plight and will provide them necessary help. With the next state assembly elections later this year, the government is trying to woo flood-affected families by announcing a provision of Rs 6,000 for them – a strategy to attract voters. It is easy for the government to distribute an amount to flood victims rather than doing anything concrete to deal with the annual floods,” said Ranjeev, an environmental activist.
Ranjeev said that large parts of north Bihar are under flood water. Reports of the inundation area are increasing day by day as per official data. He said that the trend will continue next month since the “government has not learned any lesson from devastating floods from the past.”
Sunita Devi, a landless Dalit woman who used to work as a farm labourer, has settled down on the NH like a hundred others – displaced after their villages were marooned and the rising flood water poses a serious threat to them. She said her grandchildren have been without milk for days and are forced to eat chura (flattened rice) jaggery. “We can fight hunger but the children are crying for milk. We are not getting any help except a meal and sometimes chura, jaggery and salt from the airdrops by helicopters of the Indian Air Force,” she added.
As per the state disaster management department, more than four million (over 40 lakh) people have been affected by floods as of Thursday. As of Wednesday night, the number was 38,47,531 people. The government has evacuated 3,09,511 people from marooned villages in flood affected areas.
There have been 11 official deaths due to floods. However, the death toll is believed to be higher, at over 50 people. About 26 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) are engaged in relief and rescue operations and three helicopters of Indian Air Force are airdropping relief, mainly food grains to displaced flood victims.
With the weather department forecasting more heavy rains till August 1, the situation is likely to worsen.
The government has asked those living in vulnerable and low-lying areas to shift to safer places after water levels rose in the rivers. The government has also ordered engineers and district officials to keep a round-the-clock vigil on the situation.
Train services continue to be disrupted in flood hit districts after flood water submerged the railway track at several places.
According to Bihar Water Resources Department officials, all the major rivers including Koshi, Gandak and Bagmati are flowing above the danger mark.
M. Ramachandrudu, Additional Secretary, Disaster Management Department said the flood situation remains grim in Bihar. “The department is doing everything possible to help flood victims,” he said, adding that the Chief Minister has ordered a mandatory antigen test for COVID-19 for all flood victims at relief camps.