Kosi Tragedy Poses Serious Livelihood Challenge

Image and Content courtesy: Infochange India

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Anosh Malekar - a senior researcher and writer - recently went to flood - hit regions in Bihar and found thousands of survivors still in deep trouble. The following report explains all about the favorable and unfavorable schemes offered by the state as well as the central governments. It also reveals how some relief works went well and some turned sour. Through the report we visualize the real face of this devastating flood and current state of its victims. Exact figures of ruined land, paddy fields and lives. The report also explains the agony of migrants who were forced to leave their villages or even the state itself.

Five months after the Kosi deluge of August 2008, fields remain waterlogged, boats are still plying in paddy fields and thousands have lost their livelihoods as their cultivable lands have been permanently ruined. Around 500,000 people are believed to have migrated in search of livelihood The Bihar government began distributing the second round of relief to the Kosi flood-affected on January 5, 2009. The relief, being distributed at special camps, is expected to include one quintal of foodgrains worth Rs 1,590 and Rs 250 in cash to each family. Another Rs 250 will be given from the CM’s Relief Fund for purchase of blankets, announced Chief Minister Nitish Kumar from his official resident on New Year’s Day. There is also a special package for farmers: an agricultural input subsidy of Rs 4,000 per hectare.

The world might have forgotten the Kosi deluge of August 2008 in the aftermath of the recent Mumbai terror attacks, but the suffering of the people in Bihar continues. In the immediate aftermath of the floods, the Centre declared it a national calamity. Apart from rendering some 3 million homeless, the floods washed away farmland boundaries as the river changed its course due to a breach in the barrage on the Kosi built in the 1950s on the Indo-Nepal border. According to some reports, the river has shifted over 120 km eastwards, going back to the course it had abandoned more than 200 years ago. Fields in the flood-affected districts of Bihar remain waterlogged at many places nearly five months after the deluge. Boats are still plying in the paddy fields and farmers wonder whether the water will recede for another couple of months. The fact is their only source of income — the paddy fields — may have been lost forever. Madhepura district magistrate Atish Chandra says a survey to confirm the loss of cultivable lands is still on. The district administration does not have a figure for land lost permanently to the floods. But according to the Bihar government’s crisis management department, the floods have ruined thousands of hectares in 11 blocks under 140 panchayats. Some 119,270 hectares of cultivable land may have disappeared under water in this one district alone. With so much farmland rendered barren, there is a serious livelihood crisis for the people in the vast area adjoining the river. Dinesh Kumar Mishra of Barh Mukti Abhiyan, who has been campaigning on the flood issues for years, in a note with a historical context of flooding in the Kosi basin, says: “…….The worst is yet to come. When the water recedes, the people will get to know how much of their land is sandcast, how much has gone under waterlogging. That is the time they will come to know that the kharif is already lost and the chances of rabi also may not be there as moisture of the land will not allow for ploughing operations and without ploughing no agriculture will be possible.”

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