Bihar floods: 'Living on 2.5 Kg flattened rice’
Only 4,18,490 of the 56.53 lakh people have been evacuated from the floods so far, and people are forced to survive on meagre rations provided by the government.
10 Aug 2020
Locals engaged in repair of broken embankment in Darbhanga (Source: Umesh Kumar Ray)

Two weeks ago, the Kanakai River flowing through Kishanganj rendered dozens of families homeless. While the people in the region are staying under plastic sheds, the government has turned a blind eye to their plight.

Mohammadin is also one of them. He tells the India Water Portal,

“I have a family of 20 members, including women. We were living here for 10 years but from past three weeks, we have been living in a polythene shed.”

"Where will we go in the floods?", he asks." We are surviving on food and water provided by people in the vicinity. However, we have not yet received any substantial help from the government." 

Mohammadin received two and a half kilograms of flattened rice, one kilogram of gram and half a kilogram of sugar two weeks ago from the government, a very meagre amount considering that he has a family of twenty people to feed. Mohammadin feels that the government should arrange for a house for them. He says

"We want the government to at least give us land to build houses, so that there is a permanent roof over our heads."

Mohammadin lives in Satmeri village in Bahadurganj block of Kishanganj where about 40 houses are completely submerged while the rest are filled with knee-deep water. People have moved to dry places or to their kin with goods and furnishings.

Local Public Representative Shahbir Alam who lost his house in the flood informs that he notified the local administration of his loss. They conducted a survey, but all he received was polythene, flattened rice, gram and sugar. No one came to see their condition.

He says, "Most of the people living here are poor. After the destruction of their houses, some families have taken shelter in other people's houses, while some are living in the open by setting up polythene sheds. The houses on the other side are now facing the threat of erosion and the threat of submergence due to the swelling river”, he adds. "

56.63 lakh people affected by floods, 13 dead

A tubewell submerged in flood water in a village in Muzaffarpur (Source: Umesh Kumar Ray)The flood situation is worsening day by day. Thousands of people have lost their homes in the floods amidst the government claims of flood protection measures undertaken. An official from the Disaster Management Department who is monitoring the flood situation says, "So far, 56,53,704 people have been affected by the floods and the flood has now spread to 14 districts. Seven people have lost their lives in Darbhanga, two in Muzaffarpur and four in West Champaran due to drowning in flood waters. ”

According to data received from the Disaster Management Department, 18.61 lakh people in 199 panchayats of 15 blocks have been hit by floods, with Darbhanga being the worse affected. Following Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur is the most affected as the flood waters have entered into 213 panchayats of 13 blocks, impacting 12.98 lakh people.

However, out of 56.53 lakh people affected by the floods, only 4,18,490 people have been evacuated so far. The rest have been forced to live by the roadside or on the embankments under polythene sheds waiting for the flood waters to recede. Despite the impact of floods in 14 districts, relief camps have been set up in only four districts-- Gopalganj, Khagaria, East Champaran and Samastipur. A total of 19 relief camps have been set up covering all the four districts, in which only 17,554 people are living.

An official associated with the Disaster Management Department informs that many of the affected people do not want to leave their homes while there are many others who have returned after waters have receded from their houses. Thus, the number of operational relief camps have been less, but as high as 1358 community kitchens have been running in the affected districts where 9,43,293 people are being fed daily.

An officer from Darbhanga district says,

“The district has been flooded due to Adhawara Samuh and Kamala Balan River. Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and a team of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) have been deployed in the district, and are keeping a close watch on the situation.”

Rivers flowing above the danger mark

Rivers continue to flow above the danger mark at more than a dozen gauge stations and floods are expected to spread to more areas. Officials of the Water Resources Department inform that the Gandak River is flowing 1.12 meters above the danger mark at Dumariaghat gauge station in Gopalganj while the Budhi Gandak is flowing above the danger mark at the gauge stations of East Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Samastipur and Khagaria. In the Rosda gauge station of Samastipur, this river is flowing about four meters above the danger mark. Similarly, at the two gauge stations of Bagmati / Adhwara river in Sitamarhi and three gauge stations of Darbhanga the water levels are above the danger mark. The Kamla River is also flowing above the danger mark at Madhubani's three gauge stations Jayanagar, Jhanjharpur Railpul and Jhanjharpur. The Kosi River has risen above the danger mark at Balatara in Khagaria and Kursela in Katihar. Like Kosi, the Mahananda River is also flowing above the danger mark in Purnia and Katihar.

Administration carry out repair work of the embankment in East Champaran (Source: @WRD_Bihar Twitter handle)

Leakages and breach of embankment continue to occur. Recently, an embankment broke in Darbhanga district, causing panic in the surrounding villages. In two weeks, the embankments breached at seven places in the district's Kewati block. According to locals, the embankment broke at Gopalpur on 19 July, Madhopatti on 24 July and Karjapatti on 31 July. Locals proactively informed the administration about the situation. 

Kishore Kumar Jha, the head of Karjapatti told the India Water Portal, “We received  news of embankment breach around 11 pm on 31 July. As soon as the news was received, people of the village reached the spot and tried to repair the embankment on their own. We also informed the administration, who arrived and repaired the embankment.” He further said that owing to the embankment breach many houses in the village got inundated.

Due to heavy rains, the Gandak River embankments in Gopalganj and East Champaran also broke, which have been repaired. The Sirisia-Sironia embankment in Samastipur district was also damaged due to the rising river water. However, the Samastipur officials informed that the broken embankment has been repaired.

Along with this, the embankment at Bagmati breached at three places in Muzaffarpur on Monday. DM of the district Chandrashekhar Singh has ordered an inquiry into the breach of the embankment. He said that the surveillance on the embankment has been increased and that the possibility of deliberately damaging the embankment cannot be ruled out, so an inquiry has been ordered.

Your cooperation

In case you notice any cracks or other problems in the embankments in your area, then call the helpline number 18003456145 and share the information immediately.

You can also report on Twitter by tagging #HelloWRD, @WRD_Bihar (Department of Water Resources). On obtaining the information, the department will immediately inform the officials of the concerned area and prompt action will be taken.

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You can read the article in Hindi here. Authored by Umesh Kumar Ray; Translation to English by Swati Bansal


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