Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bihar Flood Relief Visit Report Dec 16-19, 2008

Bihar Flood Relief Visit Report Dec 16-19, 2008

Priya Ranjan, Dharmendra Kumar, Sanjay Kumar
We started on 16th after noon from Patna towards flood relief zone.
Update from Beldaur 16th Dec 2008

We stopped overnight at Sanjay Kumar’s place in Khagaria to get a firsthand update of the flood relief in Beldaur block of Khagaria district. Many parts including Beldaur district has not been included in government’s flood relief zone for reason not known to us. Sanjayji stressed on the fact that help and solid support provided by United States groups gave him the confidence to lead the relief operation in a powerful fashion. His group was working with more than 100 people in 27 terribly affected villages for two months of intense relief support which very much continues even today. Now they are taking a much more structured approach which is required to do proper planning, accounting and reporting of all relief efforts along with relief material. His work has been broadly supported by Eureka Siksha Abhiyan, AID India, Ghadi Detergent Tikiya, Sarvapriya Khadi Gram Udyog. He was also able help the affected people in a very effective manner due to solid support provided by Goonj which made food packets available, provided both new and used clothing, and also arranged for blankets which was badly needed in the severe cold weather.
Some of the people who helped Sanjayji directly were Shailendra Kumar Verma, Vinay Kumar, Maheshwarji, Aamir Singh all from Beldaur.
Update from Alamnagar Block, Madhepura district 17th Dec 2008
Alamnagar is one of the worst affected areas in terms of damage, relief access due to terrible infrastructure and lower social, economical demographics. Even today it is not easy to reach there from district headquarter by vehicle because the road connecting the district and block headquarter is damaged in a terrible fashion. Due to this problem we had to travel from Khagaria to Alamnagar via zero mile Pirnagara which is a very circuitous route to reach Alamnagar facing 14 road cut-offs which are temporarily filled with swampy soil. Despite of all these efforts of two hours which was only eighteen kilometers we could only reach til Akha village and we had to return on the same evening without visiting Alamnagar block headquarter. We visited the whole village and particularly looked at Mushhar tola which was even more affected due to lack of political and social support mechanisms. Our local host Kamleshwari Sahu ji informed us that basic government promise of grain has NOT reached to this village.
It is important to note that local group of 200 young cyclists under the leadership of Kamaleshwariji transported basic goods for one thousand families in the same vicinity some 40 days ago when situation was terrible over there.
It is interesting to note that local shops are already functioning and people are transporting their basic goods using boats but local administration has not managed to muster its logistics to provide the basic government promised support. We observed that Mushhars are surviving on Khoobia (local variety of grass seed) and snails.
Relief Distribution in Akha Village
We witnessed relief getting distributed to 337 poorest Mushhar families. People were selected by local villagers themselves. Relief packet consisted of one carpet+one blanket+one sari+one sweater (all new)+two packs of biscuits+and some used pants and shirts.

Meeting in Shivnandan Mandal Law College Madhepura on 18th Dec 2008.
This meeting was chaired by Mr. Sanjay Kumar who is our local collaborator. Also present were Dharmendarjee, Shankarjee from Indus creative vision and Priya Ranjan from Maryland, USA.

 Shri Rajesh Kumar from Supaul addressing flood relief meeting. His heroic efforts have save many lives.

This meeting was organized to understand and learn from the ongoing relief efforts. More than 200 people participated in various capacities and basic idea was to invite one person from each village so that more than 187 villages from Supaul, Saharasa, Madhepura, and Khagaria districts where relief effort is being continued can be represented. Meeting was very well organized and multiple speakers one after the other spoke about their inspiring heroic efforts which saved multiple lives. They also described gut-wrenching scenes of how they saw their own colleagues sinking in the flood waters while trying to help out people. There were people from political families, students, lower caste people and various social, economic, political groups who agreed on the fact that this was one of the worst tragedies they have ever seen in their life and local people rose to the occasion and provided a great example of courage and support while outside support from different national and international groups only reinforced their belief in humanity. Various reasons for the dam breach were also discussed and accusations were made but major stress was on moving beyond the current problematic state and providing all possible help to some of the neediest people who were having tough time anyway.
Local poet Shri Dharmendra Verma described the pain of people in Kosi region in his usual powerful style of Maithili poetry “Kona ke tutalai sakhiya, Kushha ke baandh, kona ujarali sakhiya mulk jahan..” asked the most important question of how dam in Kushha was breached which essentially destroyed the world for many people in Kosi region. A “two-minute” nukkad natak piece performed by local group of Shri KK Rathore relived and reminded people of the pain, fear, and agony of people who are suffering dramatically under flood stress.
Role of media
It was also realized in this meeting that media in particular large national and international media houses have complete failed in their self assumed responsibility of becoming the fourth pillar of society. May be its supposedly inferior status of people of Bihar or lack of communication, media and transportation infra-structure, coverage of such a calamity in such proportion was minimal and often cursory. International media houses were certainly busy covering other stuff while people dying on daily basis in flood zone.
Government’s fuzzed figures
Meeting was also informed of various fuzzed figures by many different government agencies. According to our coordinator Rajeshji just in Supaul district 746 deaths were recorded by the administration while more than 26 thousand people died in the same area due to flood and related reasons. In 27 villages of 8 Panchayat’s of Beldaur Block (Beldaur block has 13 affcted Panchayats out of 16 Panchayats) which are not even listed in official flood zone and where our team has been working, more than 330 homes were complete and thoroughly washed out, 8 people were reported dead immediately and more than 25000 acres of land is underwater.
Some of the shared experience and testimonies are;
1. Shri Kamaleshwariji ( Alam Nagar)
· Witnessed many dead human bodies and cattles.
· Organized medical camp with the help of AID-India.
· Appreciated relief work, since it reached to many people including some of the poorest communities like Mushhars in an organized and peaceful manner.

2. Enthusiastic voluneteers like Nitish Kumar from Saharsa, AID volunteer Suneel who heads Madhepura office, Chandrasekar (who runs his own group in Saharsa), Anil Varma (Saharsa) who are with the people on field for past four months also shared and expressed their feelings. These volunteers had sense of satisfaction during their service to some of the most unfortunate victims of flood. In fact, they form strong base of volunteers who can work tirelessly at the grass roots and they have managed to get a lot of things done.

3. Jagat Yadav (Kumarkhand)
Witnessed many dead bodies been floating during flood.
Expressed heartfelt thanks to AID-India, because it was the only organization which reached with relief materials and conducted medical camp in their village before the government.
Demand: He kept a big demands during this meeting to construct a big community hall in their village so that in future people can take shelter during such disaster.

4. Dharmender (Poet)
He expressed his deep poetic feelings for the sufferings of people in flood zone and also blamed the administration in his poetic style.

5. Pavan Kumar (Madhepura district coordinator- AID-Bihar)
Expressed his grief on the disaster and continued his talk with emotion.
Overwhelmed with anger on state government relief work condemned government for announcing this flood as natural disaster rather accepting it as man made disaster and failure of his administration in Bihar.
Made appeal to participant to know the reality and fight back for their rights.
Expressed his interest to work with AID-India in long run especially to enlighten people towards education.

6. Raman (Murliganj, Madhepura)
A senior citizen and social activist helped AID-India in distributing relief material in their village.
Expressed heartfelt thanks to AID-India for providing blankets to victims of their village timely where no one has done much relief work especially for winter.
Interested to work with AID-India for children and youth with regard to education.

7. Akshudev (Madhepura, Kranti Club)
A young person hailing from Madhepura came forward to share his house to use as store house and office for relief work at Madhepura district.

8. Seema (Madhepura)
A girl belonging to Madhepura district talked about her experience of how her family members helped out in relief action.

9. Dr. Shivkanth (Pratapganj, Supaul)
Very much satisfied to work in medical camp organized by Aid-India.

10. Priya Ranjan (Maryland, US)
Priya Ranjan talked about responsibilities of scientific and technical communities in informing people about such calamities before they happen and putting alarms in right places so that lives and livelihoods can be saved. He also talked about such human calamities in the context of India declaring itself economic and IT superpower when some of its most vulnerable citizens are suffering under severe financial distress.
As a whole meeting was a huge success, 200 people came to show their gratitude to AID-India. This essentially puts more responsibility and raised expectations on AID India, Goonj, Paratham and supporting corporate groups to serve the people it claims to work for.

No comments: