Lack of Proper Management Mars Flood Relief Work in Bihar

A team of activists including those of Al Khair Charitable Trust, Patna is working painstakingly for the relief work in Kosi area of Bihar. The team visited Katihar,

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A team of activists including those of Al Khair Charitable Trust, Patna is working painstakingly for the relief work in Kosi area of Bihar. The team visited Katihar, Araria, Purnia and Madhepura. It visited the camps and villages, met the affected people, even where nobody had visited earlier. The team listened to the woes of the people, who have not got proper relief even after a month since the Kosi broke the dam.

Thousands of tonnes of relief material are sent to the District Magistrate Katihar, by national and international organisations everyday. As Katihar junction is connected with the rest of the country the relief materials reach here more, in comparison to other stations. Nearly all the platforms of Katihar station have relief materials lying in huge quantity. The delay in disposing of the relief materials consisting of food, medicines and clothes is causing it to get destroyed due to weather condition.

When the delegation reached the railway’s parcel office and enquired about the heaps of relief material lying at the platform, one official spoke, “Nobody is taking their consignment, what can we do?”

Later, the visiting team came to know that a DM office official asked the railways parcel office whether the consignments had reached proper destination. Though all the consignments were there, he refused to receive them, saying he needed three trucks to carry them.

When the delegation asked the in-charge of the commercial department in the Divisional Railway Manager’s office, Katihar, he showed them the letter written to the DM Katihar requesting him to get all the consignments taken away from the station. The in-charge of commercial department DRM Katihar had also attached a list of consignments dumped on the station. But there was no proper response from the government official to make way for the material to reach its proper places in time. This shows the government officials’ mismanagement and irresponsibility.

The quality of relief camps vary from place to place. In Purnea, around one hundred tents have provided shelter for about 7000 people. These tents are of high quality to resist rough weather.  Almost 20-30 toilets have been made at the far end of ground with good sanitation facility. All the government agencies like Anganbadi, ANM, and UNICEF sponsored child care programmes are being implemented. Some policemen were also posted there. The doctors and government agencies were working in close contacts, to help the people in guiding them to stay in hygienic condition to prevent spreading of any contagious diseases which are common during and after flood. Hence, the situation in Purnea is in sharp contrast with that in Katihar.

In Araria town eight camps were running, with the help of local organisation. A camp with the help of a Muslim organisation was running in a school. But the camps there were not big in comparison to that in Purnea. Medical facilities were not reaching there as demanded, though the doctors were in regular visit but shortage of medicines made them handicapped.

Barring the mega camps in Araria College, the condition of all other camps was poor. Therefore, the Government is planning to shift the masses to mega camps so that schools could be reopened. This camp has provided much relief for the people there, who were earlier in small camps with less facilities.

As we go towards west we found that devastation and vulnerability was more serious. The western part of Araria district was deeply affected by the flood. The north western part was the worst affected area. The block Narpatgunj, Forbesganj, Bhargama and Raniganj came under the influence of Kosi flood. There are several camps in Narpatganj blocks. Some camps are beside the small canals. The people there are still vulnerable. In all these camps medicines and medical facilities were needed but medicines could not be distributed like rice and wheat. For this work practising physicians were required but doctors were very few.

Madhepura seems to be worse than other places, as 11 out of the 13 blocks were still under water. The remoteness of some areas has added the worries to the relief providers as they remain unexplored.  Uda Kishanganj and Kumarkhand are some of those areas.

In Raghopur block of Supaul village where 40000 people took shelter along the National Highway 57, are now moving to their villages, as the water has started receding. The delegation members used boats to reach those villages.

It took the delegation nearly three-and-a-half hours from Madhepura, to reach the village known as Kantahi. The stretch of water was in expanse and villages were seen as small islands. A number of villages adjoining Kantahi such as Ramni, Hanumannagar, Raghunathpur, Rajni and Rahta were completely ruined.

In Dumaria and Kolahipethi villages of Kumarkhand block, the visiting team could see dead bodies of animals being carried away by Kosi water.

The information provided by the government website does not hold the true picture of the affected areas. It needs a physical verification when the website says that the government is providing food for 5000 people in camps located at Buniyadai School, Babhangawan panchayat of Bihariganj block in Madhepura.

Moreover, when it says that 35 people are making food twice daily, ten hand pumps bored in the premises and headmaster of the school was in-charge of the camp are all false.

Medical facilities are in shortage and the water has become contaminated due to the dead bodies, which is resulting in the spread of epidemic rapidly. A young woman in Babhangawan died of labour pain in Kantahi as there were no medical facilities available.  Her kin took her to Purnea but she died in the train. In few camps in Araria where the doctors visit regularly, the medicines are not dispensed properly.

In Purnea the IMA hall was full of relief materials. IMA has given it to the volunteers coming from all the sides to make it a base camp. Though the authorities of the IMA hall provided the hall but were reluctant to provide doctors for the flood affected people.

Communication between Purnia and Madhepura route has not developed properly after the flood.  A separate small and single rail road runs from Banmanki to Bihariganj, which has created a major hurdle between the two links as only one train can pass through at one time.

There are several villages in Madhepura where the relief work is still to reach; one of them is the Ramni village in Gwalpada block of Madhepura. There are people still stuck in the flood, except the army no other mode of rescue has made a way there.

There are some villages where the people do not want to come out because of their cattle but as the situation is becoming worse there and epidemic spreading rapidly they are now looking for safer places where they could get medicine and relief materials.