Assam and Bihar Floods
By: Shubhangi Mishra
As you read this article, the lives of people in Assam are under colossal threat. Amidst the battle against coronavirus, people in Assam are also fighting a battle of their own. Ever since the monsoon season came around, various districts and villages in Assam started flooding, threatening the lives of the very citizens. When the Brahmaputra River's water level rose, the wrath of the floods came crashing down on the already suffering country. The floods alongside the spread of the virus only posed a hazard for the people of Assam and their survival.
Assam floods are believed to be an annual issue; every year the floods start out in the northeast and leave the states defaced. We always read about the deaths and fatality caused by these floods, but the improvement seen over the years hasn't been accommodating enough for the citizens. The different factors responsible consist of both natural and artificial causes including the rise in the river bed due to siltation, the unstable nature of the river, the breach of embankments, deforestation and the frequent release of water from the hydroelectric dams located in neighbouring areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Bhutan. This year too, the state is facing the same crisis situation. The rainfall began around the 12th of July and has ever since submerged houses and affected more than 24.30 lakh people, leaving more than 90 people dead, with the number still increasing. As the loss of life and nature increased, the Assam Disaster Management Authority also reported that the Kaziranga National Park had been fully submerged by the floods. The agriculture industry also took a big hit with around 1,15,515.25 hectares of the crop being ruined because of water-logging. Consequently, there has also been an increase in the number of landslides caused due to excessive flooding. The flood has taken a significant toll on the wildlife as well with almost 85% of the park underwater. Around 120 animals are dead and 147 have been rescued as per the report by the Divisional Forest Officer, Eastern Assam Wildlife division. Many animals from the national park were also seen migrating to higher places by crossing the streets after water entered Kaziranga.
The western parts of the state have suffered the most, where according to the officials out of 24.30 lakh people affected 16 lakh are in five western Assam districts - Goalpara, Barpeta, Morigaon, Dhubri and South Sakmara. The rising water has damaged houses, bridges, roads, culverts and has also displaced many. This has resulted in people using boats as makeshift houses and sitting on the roofs of their homes in order to protect themselves. It has especially affected indigenous people. Being a vulnerable community, they are prone to losing their habitat and crops, making it impossible for them to afford to feed themselves. As people continue to struggle, the government and NGOs have come to their rescue. The State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), Circle Offices and locals have rescued 452 people so far. The Centre also announced that it will release Rs 346 crores in the first phase, under the Flood Management Program (FMP) scheme for Assam. The Assam government has set up 496 relief camps in which more than 1.18 lakh people have taken shelter so far. Many NGOs including Goonj Child-fund India and Akshaya Patra are also working restlessly to provide basic amenities and shelter to the people.
Bihar, on the other hand, is also facing a flood crisis that has brought the state proceedings to a standstill. The situation began when the water overflowing from Nepal entered 16 districts of Bihar, leaving more than 50 lakh people affected due to floods. Amid the widespread damage, more than 30 teams, including those of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and SDRF have been deployed to help out the people, according to the Disaster Management Department of the state government. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expressed his condolences over the loss of lives in three different incidents of capsizing of boats in flood-hit districts of Khagaria, Saharsa and Darbhanga in the state and instructed the district administration to provide ex-gratia amount to the kin of the deceased.
This has been a tough time for the two states and they are in grave need of help but the media has majorly failed to help out. The people are fighting for their lives and the mainstream media has turned a blind eye towards their problem. This has also caused many to recognise how North-East India is often left feeling alienated. With Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, Sachin Pilot rebelling against the Congress Party and Ram Bhoomi Poojan being the highlight of the Indian mainstream media, the struggle of the people living in these two states was downplayed. The coverage and information regarding the flooding was barely provided on the TV channels resulting in people not even being aware of the issue. Since the media seemed to have lost interest in the protection and relief of the people of Assam, many took to various social media platforms to spread awareness and bring attention to the trauma being suffered by the people in Assam. While this did make people become familiar with the situation, the low media coverage resulted in a slow response from those who were capable of making donations. The NGOs working for the welfare of the people were also delayed due to the lack of funds.
The dual-threat has yet again endangered human lives as the fight for survival begins. The tremendous loss of human life, nature and wild life has left Assam impaired. It has deeply scarred the people and they need our help now more than ever. As citizens, it is our responsibility to look out for our fellow citizens and be present for them. The starvation rate is high and with barely any employment at the moment, it is difficult for people to feed themselves and their families. I urge everyone reading this to try and donate whatever amount possible in order to provide necessities to the Assamese population which needs our support and helping hand the most right now. At the end of the day, we all belong to the same nation and need to assist each other in such crucial times.