“Pull nahi to vote nahi” (No Bridge, No Vote) reads the banner hanging at the entrance of Dumri Shankarpur village, which came up in May this year, shortly before the Lok Sabha elections were to be held.
Last month, heavy rains in Nepal and adjoining north Bihar districts had caused the Lakhandei to breach its banks and flood several villages in Muzaffarpur’s Aurai block. Among the several villages badly affected was Dumri Shankarpur, located around 160 km northwest of capital Patna, and flanked by two rivers — Lakhandei on the west and Bagmati on the east — and is prone to floods almost every monsoon.
Over 221 people died in the two worst affected states of Assam and Bihar— 130 in Bihar alone, as 13 of the state’s 30 districts were flooded by six rivers in spate, displacing 8.84 million people.
A month on, districts like Darbhanga, Madhubani, Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi and West Champaran, which were among the worst affected, still have stagnant water in low lying areas. Close to 116, 653 people are still living in relief camps.
In Dumri Shankarpur, largely inhabited by Muslims, broken houses, water-logged fields, submerged bore wells and uprooted electric polls show the extent of the devastation. However, what affected the villagers most was the damage caused to the chachri, a 50-ft long bamboo bridge at least 10m above the river, which has been the main connection between this village and the town for the past 40 years.
The rains and flooding weaken the bamboo pillars, but this time around, a portion of it was washed away all together.
“This is our lifeline,” says Mohammed Jamshed, 65, a farmer, said. “Several people have fallen down while crossing it and got injured,” he added.
The villagers have been demanding a reinforced concrete bridge on Lakhandei for the last four decades. As their plea fell on deaf ears, the villagers boycotted the parliamentary polls held in April-May, this year.
“There was no option. Our people continue putting their lives at risk everyday to cross the chachri,” argued Mohammed Mukeem, 45.
The villagers hope the floods would at least help draw the authorities’ attention at long last.
District Magistrate Alok Ranjan Ghosh said the government has accepted Dumri villager’s demand for a bridge. “There were some technical issues that have been resolved now. A pillar-based bridge would be constructed shortly,” he said, but did not stipulate any deadline.
“Nobody wants to live in such conditions. We want to move to safer places but the government is not serious to relocate us,” asks Mohammed Saklain Raza.
After the 2017 floods, the government had offered to rehabilitate the villagers, with compensation. The residents however, refused alleging irregularities.
The story of Dumri and Bawangamha is repeated across villages. The government has not been able to reach out to many. Though the Nitish Kumar-led government announced a direct debit transfer of ~6000 to all affected families, only 836,000 have received funds. The rest would be paid by August 20, disaster management officials said.
Aug 19, 2019 01:04 IST