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Bihar: Koshi's Floods and Erosion Victims Start 250 Km ‘Satyagraha Padyatra’ for Justice

Padyatra part of peaceful Gandhian protests by floods and erosion victims living within the embankments of Koshi to draw the attention of NDA government led by Nitish Kumar in Bihar
Bihar: Koshi's Floods and Erosion Victims Start 250 Km ‘Satyagraha Padyatra’ for Justice

Patna/Supaul: Hopeless and helpless after years of neglect, floods and erosion, victims living within the embankments of the Koshi River in Bihar's Supaul district took to the streets. They have launched a 250 km long foot march, "Satyagraha Padyatra", for justice to their old demands.

This Satyagraha Padyatra is a part of peaceful Gandhian protests by floods and erosion victims living within the embankments of Koshi to draw the attention of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Nitish Kumar in Bihar and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led central government.

Satyagraha Padyatra started on January 30 to mark Mahatma Gandhi's martyr day from Bairya Manch in Supaul. It was flagged off by Sahid Bhagat Singh's nephew, Jagmohan Singh.

"Foods and erosion victims of Koshi have linked their struggle for justice to the martyr day of Mahatma Gandhi. People are not only killed by bullets; they are also killed by making policies. The failure to solve the issues of Koshi and problems of people living within the embankments of Koshi river is an example of how people are left in the lurch, and they are battling for survival year after year during annual devastating floods," Singh said.

Singh also said this long foot march by Koshi victims is not for their own benefit but for the conservation of nature, environment, agriculture and sustainable livelihood.

A group of 60 men and women, all residents of different villages within the Koshi embankment and flood and erosion victims, are on foot march as a part of Satyagraha Padyatra. Local villagers have been joining them during foot march from one place to another place.

Satyagraha Padyatra was launched under the Koshi Nav Nirman Manch (KNNM) banner. "It is going to be a first such foot march from Koshi to Patna for justice of thousands of floods and erosion victims living within Koshi's embankments," Mahendra Yadav, founder-convener of KNNM, told NewsClick.

Yadav said this Satyagraha Padyatra will reach Patna on January 12. "All of us who are part of this foot march will pass through hundreds of villages and towns and will meet hundreds of people. We will share Koshi victims' misery and survival struggle with them,” he said.

According to last year's People’s Commission on Kosi Basin report, they are the victims of injustice caused by policy choices. The report was prepared by local people, activists, experts and scientists.

As per the report, the embankment is spread over 120,000 hectares, and 9.88 lakh people in 380 villages live on the Indian side (as per the 2011 census), while 1.5 lakh people live in 34 villages in Nepal.

Annual floods massively impact the residents of these Bihar villages due to the lack of proper rehabilitation or land reallocation. Every person’s house has been eroded dozens of times due to perennial floods. The ones who were rehabilitated lost their lands to encroachers.

“The Kosi Victims Development Authority was formed in 1987 for the welfare of victims of the Kosi floods. Despite filing multiple RTI applications, the organisation could not be located. A sub-health centre is not working for them. Death during childbirth is common. The condition of education is also pathetic. It will not be an exaggeration to designate their living area as Kalapani of development,” the report says

The report also recommends a ban on the collection of waived lagan up to four hectares. The recovery made by the government so far should be returned with interest. Sub-health centres should be established in every village in the middle of the embankments. Arrangements should be made for a mobile hospital and vaccination on the boat.

“The government should immediately halt the construction of any new embankment on the river and maintain already constructed embankments and spurs to ward off any disaster.”

Considering the plight of the people and the urgency to ensure justice in the Kosi Basin, we expect that the government of Bihar will permit a thorough discussion on the report of the People’s Commission on Kosi Basin and dedicate a budget in the upcoming Budget Session of the Bihar Assembly,” the report adds.

Kosi is known as the ‘Sorrow of Bihar’ for triggering devastating floods that cause heavy damage annually. The river is unstable and shifts its course frequently. The river, which flowed near Purnia earlier, now flows west of Saharsa; the distance between the two is close to hundreds of kilometres. Its uncertain nature has been attributed to the heavy silt during the monsoon season.

The eastern embankment was breached in 2008, flooding five districts in northern Bihar and affecting millions. During last year’s monsoon, Kosi continued to cause havoc in large areas of the state. It travels 205 km in Bihar to join the Ganges near Kursela, in Katihar district.

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