Battling Floods and the Nitish Government’s Callousness
— Dhirendra Jha
Darbhanga is the worst hit in the current floods in Bihar. The people of Darbhanga have lost their homes, and are forced to take shelter in the Mithila University campus, on embankments and higher places under the open sky - open to the furious rains and the vicious sun. Leaders and cadres of our party spend the days reaching out to people who need help - using boats or even swimming in the murky waters to do so. They pressurise the Administration to arrange for boats, polythene, chura, jaggery, khichdi and so on.
The first political protest against the floods was held by our party in the face of a heavy downpour. Following this demonstration, a memorandum was submitted to the DM. we informed the DM that wherever and whenever volunteers would be required, our party would be happy to provide them. Our comrades took pains to distribute whatever food andpolythene was provided, and helped to arrange treatment for the sick. Meanwhile, the Chief Minister chose to visit Mauritius – and this was taken by people to be the height of callousness and contempt for the flood-affected people of Bihar. Thanks to our campaign, this became a burning issue among the people of Darbhanga.
Eventually, the Chief Minister was due to visit Darbhanga. Initially his itinerary included just one stop at the Commissioner’s – and no plan to interact with the flood-affected. We held a militant demonstration of the flood-affected on this occasion, raising slogans: “Nitish Kumar go back to Mauritius! Institute a judicial enquiry into the neglect of preparations to cope with the floods! Apologise to the people of Bihar for your callousness towards the flood victims!” Hearing of our protest, the CM’s programme was hastily shifted to the Guest Hall of the Postal Training Centre, and arrangements were made for his helicopter to land directly in the campus itself.
We continued with our plans for the protest at the Collctorate. We also organised for the flood-affected from neighbouring areas to gather at the PTC campus. Flood victims managed to enter the PTC campus despite the police barricading. As soon as the helicopter landed, our procession – with over 1000 people – began to march. The gathering surrounded the main gate of the PTC and raised slogans. In view of the tense situation, the CM sent for a delegation. A CPI(ML) delegation led by Comrade Laxmi Paswan met the CM and submitted a written memorandum. The CM made a statement that many parties were playing politics over the floods but the CPI(ML) was the only party to submit a detailed written report of the flood situation.
As soon as the Chief Minister left, and the Collector, DIG and other top officers reached the Collectorate, the protestors gathered at the Collectorate gheraoed them. Eventually the Administration was forced to announce that flood relief materials would immediately be distributed amongst the flood victims who had been waiting in vain for relief at Basantpur panchayat in the Bahadurur block for the last three days. Only then was the gherao called off. Despite the fact that most roads and means of contact had been cut off, more than 1000 people took part in the protest at the Collectorate.
Kansi village along with dozens of other surrounding villages on the Darbhanga-Muzaffarpur Road have been submerged for several weeks. But the Administration has not made any arrangements for relief. Kansi, incidentally, is the village of CPI(M) State Secretary Comrade Vijay Kant Thakur, of which he has been mukhia in the past. In this village, flood victims led by CPI(ML) leader Neyaz Ahmad gheraoed the visiting DM and warned that if relief was not provided officials would be taken hostage. The next day, the SDO and DSP came to the area to monitor the road-repair works. Angry flood victims surrounded them in thousands and took them hostage, declaring that they would not be released until relief materials reached the flood-affected. After four hours, boats arrived with relief materials, and the officials were released.
From 7-10 August, people held vigorous Ghera Dalo Dera Dalo programmes in 12 blocks, with thousands of people camping outside the Administrative offices, with the central demand of compensation to peasants for the devastation of their crops. The Administration is at present giving compensation at the rate of 25 kilos of grain and Rs. 200; we are demanding 100 kilos of grain per family and Rs. 1000, with Rs. 500 more for those who own cattle.
Through our persistent efforts, we succeeded in getting the Administration to despatch more than a dozen relief boats to the worst affected villages. Around 5 quintals of chura and 200 polythene bags were distributed among people. AISA conducted medical camps among the flood affected people for several days on end, manned by doctors and students. They pressurised the Civil Surgeon to provide medicines for the camp. Till date more than a 1000 people have received medical treatment at the camp.
The District Administration called an all-party meeting on 5 August, in which CPI(ML) submitted a 10-point charter of demands.
In Samastipur, a medical camp was organized for the flood victims, where more than 500 people were attended by the renowned doctors of the city. Around 500 food packets with match- box, candle, biscuits etc. were distributed by CPI (ML).
In many parts of rural Patna flood has caused great havoc forcing poor people to starve and live in open amidst rain as their mud houses have collapsed. On July 25, the Patna-Gaya road was blocked by thousands of flood victims, under CPI (ML) leadership, forcing the administration and the local MLA to yield and declare relief distribution from next day. Again under the leadership of AIPWA, flood victim women came on the streets and blocked Patna-Gaya road.
On July 30, a militant gherao of Punpun block by thousands of flood victims forced the SDM to rush to the block HQ and declare relief distribution from the next day. In Madhubani, a CPI(ML) team investigated the police firing near Gumti No. 12 where two persons were killed and many injured. CPI(ML) activists observed protest day on August 4, burnt the effigy of Nitish Kumar and organized huge mass demonstration in Bisphi Camp Office Khairi Banka.