Thursday, May 7, 2009

Floods of Mithila Region: Raising Questions on Survival

“Ael Balan to bandhalon Dalan , gail Balan to tutlai Dalan( The year floods come we have a good crop and house, in a year without flood , we loose whatever we possessed)”.
This age old saying was once the reality of this region now became a distant dream for Maithili folk as the flood turned into a perennial problem throughout the Mithila region. The flooding rivers in this region were not felt as a problem until the drive of unplanned embankments were getting momentum, earlier the floods lasted in merely two days besides depositing the valuable silt. The past fifty-four years of fortifying efforts of Kosi and other rivers of this region instead of decreasing the calamities have actually increased state’s flood-prone area 2.5 times.
Previously Kosi frequently changed courses through numerous channels but with feeble force of its stream, in post embankments period floods last after the two months apart from severely degrading the soil and forming conditions for exodus in this area.

Losses of unplanned development are being lucidly visible; in 1952 Bihar had 160 KM of embankments and a flood prone area of 25lakhs hectare, today Bihar has 3,440 KM of embankments and a flood prone area of 68.8lakh hectare (1994 figures), an increase of more than 2.5 times. These outcomes refers towards empowerment of rivers through the web of embankments because restriction on its natural flow fueled its velocity, consequently it impacts severely in catchments areas.
What we are witnessing today in Kosi and other rivers that complete escapement from basic embankment technology like planning over water levels during the infrastructure building. Consequently magnitude of loss grew deeper yearly; census 2001 suggests that almost 9.88lakh peoples in 380 villages are living between the river kosi and its embankments.

In such grim circumstances they gave there emaciated life a chances to survive by migrating to safer places, these unfortunate compulsions badly altering the age-old socio-cultural fabrics of entire Mithila region. A practical observation can easily revealed the tragical floods of this region that largely aggravate by the failure of integrated management system of state machinery because all efforts are being enforced to lessen the effects instead of finding a permanent solution, indeed the floods of this region is equally influenced through short sighted human actions including the insensitive leadership.
Ofcourse situation was something different in initial years when this region was voiced through relentless leader like Late Lalit Nr Mishra, who contributed immensely but his premature death had weaken the plight of this region at center. By records it would not be exaggeration to say that he was the last leader of Mithila region who did stand to combat all maladies in the way of its development.

After his sudden demise some aspirations were partially sustained during the stint of his younger brother Dr Jagganath Mishra as chief minister of Bihar; but non successive governments shown any genuine considerations towards these calamity prone areas in later period.It has been equally unfortunate to face partiality and moderation of central government with the grief ridden Mithila region, even though its policy in general on natural disaster remained similar on other cases also.
This could be appropriately acknowledged through the fact that India is alone accounting for one fifth of global flooding deaths besides it’s ranked 36th in vulnerability to natural hazards, apart from this 50% of its GDP accrues from areas at high risk and a third of the districts are hazard prone.

Even the reality is we are lagging behind to neighboring Bangladesh in disaster managements as the precautionary measures taken by the Bangladeshi government in 1970’s through the early warning system has considerably reduced the losses of cyclones in this country. Similar policies including indigenous propositions are need of the hour to tackle the ferocity of rivers in India.
According to an expert Rajiv Sinha (IIT Kanpur)-“ Embankments don’t offer a permanent solution also jacketing of the river can be dangerous since Kosi carries around 80 million tones of silt every year “. Silt yield of the river Kosi is about 19-cusec meter/hectare/year; it’s one of the highest in the world. This is a major reason behind this year’s disastrous flood (2008). In 1968 Kosi carried a maximum of 9,13,000 cusecs when the western embankments broke at five places in Darbhanga district; the embankments were designed for accommodating the flow of 9,50,000 cusecs water, this year Kosi was carrying only 1,44,000 cusec water when it breached the embankments because being highly silted up.

Since the inception of Kosi Project (1955), it’s risen five inches annually climbing as high as the original embankments (18 feet). The river Kosi is an unpredictable creature which requires extremely cautious tackling during the infrastructural planning; Kosi shifted exceeding 120 KM in the last 250 years through the channels in more than twelve districts. Once the river used to flow near Purnea district in the 18th century now flows west of Saharsa district. Entire Mithila region has been witnessing the series of devastating floods of 1954,1974,1987,2004,2007,2008 which broken the spine of socio-economic structure of this region.
In the old folk songs of Mithila, some sort of curse on Kosi being symbolized to lessen its devastation, according to local beliefs the river Kosi is an unmarried entity so peoples tried to lure through praying, offering vermilion etc. These were the indicatives of their symbiotic relationships that damaged in course of time.

An IIT educated civil engineer turned an environment activist Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra doing fine work in this area with intensive research and great patience that is extremely condemnable. He have penned a very comprehensive book over the flood problem ‘Dui Patan ke Beech Mein (Trapped Between Devil and Deep Waters, 2006,Peoples science institute, Dehradun) which suggested some alluring solution to check the perennial devastation of floods like-

1.Improvement of drainage
2. Check the silt load by spreading it
3.Skill and wisdom based on the concrete intimacy with the river
4. Freshlook on the Indo-Nepalese treaties including the agreements of the 1950’s which was not a regional co-operation etc.

In 1961-64 the treaty were amended to take care of Nepalese concerns, but that didn’t materialized, further the Tanakpur episode/ Mahakali treaty (Feb 1996) worsened the situation of co-operation between the India and Nepal.
It’s an absolute truth that the flood problem of this region couldn’t be solved without the co-operation of Nepal, so it would be quite imperative to take some practical measures by the Indian government like to withdraw of their present plan on Karanali, Pancheswar and Sapta Kosi and put some pragmatic efforts to construct the appropriate flood controlling infrastructure with an active co-operation of Nepali government.

Prime minister Prachanda had shown positive response in this regard during his first official Indian trip, although recent political developments in Nepal may create some fresh challenges in this regard. Despite this time is ripe to draw a comprehensive plan by both the government to short out the practical hurdles of long-term solution of water management.
Any positive outcome from the further action would have capacity to relieve the pain of around three thirty Million population on both side of the border. We must admit the fact our rivers are auspicious even today as they were hundred year back, any violation of these relationships are caused by our own humane vision… so we need to save first our ecology to save our life.

Atul Kumar Thakur
Tuesday, 5th May 2009
New Delhi

Let Plot a Fight back for Democratic Participation

Often statistics are considered a complex stream because deciphering its fundamentals needed a meticulous observation, despite this it’s so relevant that an escapement is not possible when judging the core of any organized happening. Obviously statistics remind us about the actuality of an outcome besides also insulate to look after on some deciding implications, even though we are quite aware about it’s not being the sole proposition of inquiry in present context.
On the date these words are taking place there could be also seen a smooth progress of parliamentary election 2009(at least on cards); but neither the word smooth nor the progress justified the genuine claims in present election. It’s alarming to see the scale of violence and lower turnout of voters in so far completed three phases of voting.

These two ill indications are I think countering the spirit of Indian democracy and making it elusive to form a genuine representation at the center. Violence jeopardizing the democratic sentiment of nation because it’s chocking the peoples from exercising their franchise freely besides this it also revealed the growing impatience of a large number of peoples toward the existing political and social order.
Such feelings among its practitioners creating a sense of distortion in their cognition state further which shaping their action of fauxpas. This miscommunication between the government and aggrieved groups are deepening the mistrust that is proving disastrous and failed to acknowledge each other’s plights.

It should be a foremost aim of next government at the center to restructure the governance with the help of respective state governments to tackle with this growing divide at social, economic and political sphere. It will require a set of conscious efforts including some drastic reforms in growth agenda and honest disbursement of opportunities throughout the country, which would indeed lessen the isolation of backward areas and infused parity in socio-economic order.
The falling polling turnout is another area of grave concern which dampening the overall electoral practice in recent times. So, it would be worthwhile to acknowledge the regional variance in this regard because completely contradictory conditions are prevailing among the rest states and Jammu & Kashmir.

Many crucial determinants and their magnitudes differs state-wise; where in Jammu &Kashmir a lower poll of 26% is indicative of decades long prevailing turmoil in state which is a unique case because the security of this state is immensely critical from national point of view as it consists utmost concern of India’s external security as well.
In such state of affairs even the peaceful completion of election in the state should not be seen less than a breakthrough but the same are not justifiable in the case of state like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where the polling got confined on a meager 44%. It’s extremely regrettable because alone these two states have deciding capacity in any political formation with its strength of more than hundred parliamentary constituencies.

Even we cannot compare these two states and Jharkhand with lower turnout of polls in Mumbai (50%), because a metropolis like Mumbai has some inherent characteristics in which we could locate a consistent alienation among the sizable number of its participants from political arena, I think its not a noble happening in Mumbai although it’s equally unfortunate in broader sense.
Situation of India’s two states is awesome on development front as these two states have a history of bad governance and parochialism at their political sphere. Such political anatomy harassed the plot of development and caused for weaker socio-economic indicators like poverty, unemployment, migration or better saying exodus, casteism, illiteracy etc.

Such state of affairs formed a sense of deception among the common men whatever they are facing in daily life impulses them for political alienation. Another major reason of lower turnout is state of exodus in these states due to lack of employment opportunities in their home states they forced to migrate in metro cities. Majority of migrants are flew conditionally to survive in material world.
So, lower turnout of polling in these states are caused by the forcible migration generated through absence of proper sustainable infrastructure and opportunities in their near by areas. To some extant political participants reflects the overall picture of socio-economic progress and its entitlement with the common men’s.

So, being the most worlds most esteemed and vibrant democracy, India now needs some fresh look at their electoral mechanism by which it might be possible to strengthen the alternative system of voting and many other conducive approaches in this regard. Remote system of voting and a rational ceiling on electoral expense of candidates would infuse fresh hopes among the masses. Indeed democracy would emerge in its finest form and masses of this country have lot to cheer in their life through their genuine political participation.
As a common man I am optimistic about such reforms, but presently very remorseful to missed the casting my votes in present election… because of having physical remoteness from my constituency. Hoping to see new dawn in Indian politics through fresh approaches on our electoral institutions.

Atul Kumar Thakur
Saturday, 2nd May
New Delhi