Friday, August 29, 2008
A Flood of Tears
But why my chief minister smiles?
By Manuwant Choudhary
A flood of tears…. as the river of sorrow Kosi swallows 1598 villages and some 2.7 million people are marooned, officially 12 days after the disaster only 200,000 persons have been rescued to safety.
The above figures are from the National Disaster Management which has woken up to the tragedy after 11 days and only after India’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh declared the floods a national calamity offering a thousand crores for flood and relief work.
If you’ve been watching television you would perhaps not have seen such a human tragedy for basic survival before ….victims carry a single box on their heads and wade through water without food or water and while they walk you can even see a tear in their eye.
But I am still trying to understand that in all this why does my chief minister smile?
Even when he announced `paralaya’ or `the end of the world’ on television, he smiled at the end of it.
He does it more often now. Like in one interview in the Times of India he even joked, “I love Barh (his Lok Sabha Constituency, so barh (floods) love me.”
And soon after the floods being declared a national calamity, only yesterday a large advertisment in a national newspaper announced the chief ministers main program of the day…a Khel Yojna program for sportspersons perhaps competing with India’s President Pratibha Patil who had her own program for sports awardees in New Delhi.
So while Nitish says its pralaya, Ram Vilas Paswan says its Mahaparalaya and Laloo says it’s a Tsunami!
But only 1491 boats are taking people to safety and for Bihar’s politicians its business as usual.
On live TV the distress shows when people call up and say they are being robbed in the middle of a swollen Kosi by armed dacoits!
Even after an all-party meeting they are not telling their people why they have failed.
So I tried to find out.
And this is what I have found.
I wondered why in such a flood no television channel or newspaper reporter is questioning Bihar’s water resources minister Bijendar Yadav.
Bihar faces a paralaya, mahaparalaya or Tsunami not just because of the embankments perennial neglect but also because this time the job of repairing the embankment was given to a Ganpat Yadav from Tulapatti in Supaul. And he did not do his job.
But no action was taken against Ganpat Yadav because Ganpat Yadav is the brother-in-law of Bihar’s Water Resources Minister Bijendar Yadav.
Says Chandan, a resident of Madhepura, “We know that Ganpat Yadav was given the contract to repair the embankment between 12.30 to 12.90 near the Bhimnagar Barrage and that’s the embankment that collapsed."
“The work should have been completed latest by May when the water discharge is low in the Kosi but he did not do it and only on August 16, two days before disaster struck, he files an FIR in Supaul saying the Nepalese have prevented him from repairing the embankment.”
He says, “Now Supaul is 80 kms away from the place of occurrence. He should have filed a case at Birpur police station which is just 10 kms away from the place of occurrence at Kusaha.”
In fact, on the first day the break in the embankment was only 60 metres, on the second day it was 600 metres and now its 2 kms wide and its moving steadily towards the Kosi barrage, only 7 kms away.
And why did it happen? Perhaps, the silt deposits were so high at the barrage that the pressure on the embankments before the dam grew over the years.
The river Kosi shifts 120 kms and floods heavily populated districts in Bihar in the middle of the night.
I know why my chief minister smiles.
But I am still trying to find out what is a national calamity?
On the government of India’s website, there is no urgency..just another statement on the floods from the PM.
But on Congress Party’s official website there is just Sonia Gandhi and her interviews with Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai etc, etc..why she does not want to be India’s PM.
On the BJP website, L.K. Advani, the leader of the opposition’s statement demanding that Bihar’s floods be declared a national calamity and how even floods in Assam and the north-east should be on the national agenda for a permanent solution.
Mr. Advani praises the NDA chief minister Nitish Kumar and deputy Sushil Kumar Modi.
So we know why the PM-in-waiting has still not visited Bihar.
The JD (U) does not have a website.
And like all things unofficial…Laloo’s RJD has an unofficial wbsite with official addresses and telephone numbers of RJD leaders.
Shiv Sena’s website is under construction, while Raj is busy looking for Marathi names for lingerie shops in Mumbai.
It takes India’s PM 11 days to decide Bihar’s floods are a national calamity.
Will it also take him so many days to declare war if attacked by Pakistan?
So it takes 11 days for this national calamity to become headline news.
The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Hindu all finally got the PM’s nod for giving Bihar their front pages.
Indian Express did not have Bihar on their front pages at least not on the internet edition that I saw.
And The Telegraph from Calcutta had Singur..while The Statesman had a story on Rahul Gandhi wiping dust from his grandfather, Firoz Gandhi’s, grave in Allahabad.
NDTV 24/7 had Burkha Dutt anchor the 9 p.m. news and the terrorist hold-up in Jammu was her main story.
NDTV profit had Singur where top industrialists like Ambani, Godrej and Birla support the Tata’s in Singur, and the anchor even agreed with them.
Hindi channels had floods but with more music and drama, not leaving any scope for Prakash Jha to make a film.
But within a day…all reporters have become astrologers with Shani entering God Knows where?
Blame it all on the system or Shani.
I know why my chief minister smiles.