By Manoj Pathak
Nearly 16 of the 38 districts in Bihar have been inundated with people rendered homeless and struggling to get food. Although the water levels in the Bagmati river at Bharthua in Muzaffarpur district and the Gandak river in Dharfari village have receded the flood-hit people are in dire straits.
People are living with their families in makeshift polythene-covered dwellings but now hunger is stalking them.
Like in the past, the floods have wreaked havoc in Muzaffarpur this year, too. Many smaller rivers, including the Gandak, Budhi Gandak, Bagmati, Lakhandeyi and Vaya, have devastated 240 panchayat areas in 14 blocks.
In some villages in the Aurai block of Muzaffarpur district, the waters though receding are still knee-deep. The floods washed away three dozen huts of Mahadalit families in Dharfari village. Since then, these people have been living like nomads.
Anjana Devi of Dharfari village says that the Gandak river has destroyed the village. We are now living in huts outside the village, she adds.
She says there is no milk for the children nor medicines and help is not forthcoming from any quarter. All politicians ask for votes, but no leader has visited us yet.
Villagers say the district administration’s claims of distributing relief material are hollow. Several families in Bharthua, Benipur, Mohanpur and Vijay Chhapra villages are still taking shelter in the elevated areas.
Some of the places where the flood victims have taken refuge do not have even the basic facilities. Community kitchens, say the villagers, provide meals only once a day. Now people have started taking to the streets with their problems.
People from nearby villages, including Vijay Chhapra, had blocked National Highway 77 two days ago and demanded assistance to the flood victims. On Friday, the Muzaffarpur-Darbhanga road was blocked by the flood victims.
Rameshwar of Mohanpur village says that more than half of the crops in the fields have been destroyed. People are putting their lives at risk to save the remaining crops.
The state government is engaged in conducting a survey of the damaged crops. Ramakrishna Paswan, joint director of the Muzaffarpur Agriculture Department, believes that the floods have caused significant damage. Nearly 40 to 70 per cent of the crops have suffered damage in the district but the exact figures can be known only after a survey has been completed, adds Paswan.
Over 14 lakh people in Muzaffarpur district have been affected by the floods this year. The district administration claims that 348 community kitchens are being run in the flood-affected areas in which over 2.41 lakh people are served food everyday.