REPORT-from-the-Frontlines: Kosi flood affected Murliganj (Bihar)

Kosi flood affected Murliganj (Bihar)

Dr Sandeep Pandey

Asha Parivar and
National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM)

Report from visit to Kosi flood affected Murliganj Block of Madhepura Dist. in Bihar on 31st October and 1st November, 2008

Mahendra Yadav and his team of Asha Parivar is stationed in Babhangama, 15 kms. from Muraliganj Block headquarters of Madhepura Dist. of Bihar for over two months now to carry out relief operations and help people access relief from government schemes. Muraliganj is 80 kms. from Katihar railway station.

The salient points that emerged from my meeting with Asha Parivar and NAPM volunteers as well as from interaction with flood victims during a open debate organized by Mahendra on 1st November, 2008 at Muraliganj which was attended by 600-700 people are:

(1) People are being forced to vacate camps and mega camps as the government wants to abdicate its responsibility towards flood victims. While in camps the government has to take full responsibility of the affected people, including providing them food, health care, education to children, etc.

(2) The agricultural fields from which water is receding is now covered with various levels of sand. It is not cultivable until the sand is removed. On the other hand earth had been dug deep at several spots because of sharp water current. It'll take a year or two before people can start recultivating their fields.

(3) The farmers will need agricultural tools, seeds, fertilizers, etc., to start agriculture again. The question of how the sharecropper, who doesn't officially hold any land but undertook major part of agricultural activity, will receive compensation still needs to be addressed. Similarly other artisans will need their tools.

(4) People also need compensation for dead/lost cattle. The cattle which remain with the people are facing problem in being fed. The hay is all wet and government supply is unreliable because of rampant corruption.

(5) Health care facilities are poor. People have to often rush to private practitioners when the government system is not able to attend to them. There have been number of casualities due to negligence.

(6) All educational activity is standstill. It needs to begin.

(7) The compensation of Rs. 2250 in cash and one quintal of foodgrains is not being distributed honestly. At some places only 50-70 kgs. of foodgrains are being given. If somebody's name doesn't figure in APL or BPL lists, they are being denied relief.

(8) People should be encouraged to use RTI to access benefits flowing through various routine government schemes as well as those announced specially for flood victims.

Suggestions to Government:
(1) Make NREGS provision for 365 days for the next 1-2 years for flood affected areas of five districts affected by Kosi. People should be allowed to claim wages under NREGS for working to rebuild their own houses and for removing sand from their fields. People may have to be invited from other parts of Bihar and even other poorer states to remove sands from the fields under NREGS.

(2) PDS benefits to be extended to all families under BPL category. Supplies should be given on the basis of per member in family rather than per family. People need kerosene for lighting lamps in the night so that they can be saved from snake bites.

(3) Special package for reconstruction of Kosi flood affected area should be given by Central Government which should aim to help people get onto their feet. Various employment generation schemes will have to be implemented. The unemployed educated youth in this area should be provided with jobs.

(4) All flood affected families should be provided one Indira Awas housing.

Appeal to Civil Society:
(1) Volunteers needed, esp. doctors, veterinary doctors and teachers.

(2) Asha Parivar has decided to reach out to 10,000 families. Blankets are needed for these families.

(3) Asha Parivar has decided to provide alternative housing at the cost of Rs. 700 per house to 1000 families. Funds needed for this.

(4) Asha Parivar needs volunteers from 10th November to 30th November for carrying out a survey.

(5) Equipments needed - computers, laptops, printer, modem and digital camera.

(6) One volunteer is needed who can take care of bookkeeping/accounts.

(7) Medicines needed.

(8) Cattle feed needed.

Any relief material from anywhere in India should be booked for railway station of Katihar (NF Railway) and the 'bilty' (to claim the material from the railways) should be sent to Mahendra Yadav at the address: Asha Parivar, c/o Paramount School, Babhangama, Muraliganj Block, Dist. Madhepura, Mobile: 9973936658.

Any financial contributions may be sent in the name of 'Asha' to: Vallabhacharya Pandey, Village Bhandaha Kalan, Post Kaithi, Varanasi-221116, Ph: (0542) 2618201, 2618301, 2618401, Mobile : 9415256848,

For more information, please contact:

Dr Sandeep Pandey
Asha Parivar and
National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM)
Phone: 0522 2347365