Tuesday, July 3, 2012

In the land of paradoxes, monsoon floods hit Assam


In a land of paradoxes, there are many woes -  some are natural causes, many are man made or rather mismanaged !

Metropolitan cities are fast becoming the epitome of the difference between filthily rich and those who struggle for day’s bread. You read of thousands of  children starving and dying from illness related to malnutrition, and in the same page you also read about heaps of rodent-infested wheat and rice are rotting in fields across the north of their own country.  There are some subsidies to farmers, poor marketing facilities, woeful lack of storage facilities and an inefficient, corruption-plagued public distribution system that fails millions of impoverished people.

With all that the Govt never appears embarrassed nor plans anything in advance to alleviate the sufferings of the poor, to fill the empty stomachs with available food, which otherwise only rots- criminal neglect of the administrators and rulers in wasting million tonnes of grain worth many a crores.   In the bread basket of Punjab, bumper crops are often left lying in open,  exposed to searing summer heat and monsoon rains; down South in what was once rice bowl, paddy fields are barren as inter-State rivalries have ensured no water and no crops.  There is always lurking fear that what is rotten in FCI godowns somehow find their way to distribution system for the poor who buy through their ration cards.

The yield from crops are lying for years, there is no proper distribution, no takers in local market and export is not feasible at the rates of procurement with additional necessary expenditure. There was a newsitem that New Delhi is considering the export of up to 3 million tonnes of wheat to sanctions-hit Iran, but traders say Tehran will not be falling over itself to buy because of concern that Indian grain may be tainted by fungal disease. And whether the Eurozone and US would allow supply unstrangled to the sanction-hit Iran is another moot Q.  There are also reports that wheat stocks could not be channeled into the country's rapidly expanding animal feed sector,  as there is  already exportable surplus of corn.  In 2010 the Supreme Court urged the government to distribute grain free to the hungry rather than let it go to waste in warehouses and open fields, but that hasn't happened.

There are parts of the Country which are rain starved and are drought hit during major part of the year.  Elsewhere, is Assam, in North East of India, one of the most culturally and geographically distinct regions of the country.  Its landscape includes tea gardens, the river Brahmaputra, and many historical monuments and temples. Assam also has five national parks, around half a dozen other wildlife sanctuaries, and is home to two-thirds of the population of the unique one-horned rhino.  Geographically, Assam is located south of the eastern Himalayas. Assam comprises the Brahmaputra and the Barak river valleys.  Assam is surrounded by six of the other Seven Sister States: Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya. Assam also shares international borders with Bhutan and Bangladesh.

Assam is in news due the worst monsoon floods in a decade which have  killed more than 80 people and forced around 2 million to leave their homes.  Sadly close to  half a million people are living in relief camps that have been set up across Assam state, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told journalists Monday in Guwahati, Assam’s capital. The rest of the 2 million displaced are living with relatives or sheltering under tarpaulin sheets. Assam officials say 81 people have been killed over the past four days. Most were swept away when the mighty Brahmaputra River overflowed and flooded villages. Sixteen people were buried in landslides triggered by the rains. At least 11 people were missing in six districts, the state disaster management agency said.
photo courtesy : The Hindu

Flood havoc normal life – it would be pathetic plight when villagers are displaced, with their living places marooned – nothing available, not even potable drinking water – children would suffer more and due to unhygienic conditions, there could be some endemic diseases.  Sad and pathetic is the plight of poor…….

Air force helicopters were dropping food packets and drinking water to marooned people; Army soldiers used boats to rescue villagers from rooftops of flooded homes.  Teams of doctors have opened health clinics in the 770 relief camps that had been set up across; the hilly tea growing areas have not been affected, but lower rice fields have been washed away. Thousands of cattle have perished after being swept away by the raging water or getting stuck in the mud. The stench of rotting animal carcasses was adding to the woes of the people in tents at the relief camps, officials said. In the worst-hit Dhemaji district, raging waters of the Brahmaputra River swept away entire villages. Officials said the entire Majuli island, one of the world’s largest river islands, was awash as the Brahmaputra rose above the danger level.
photo of affected villagers in Assam : courtesy - msn.co.in

After the aerial survey, PM of India Manmohan singh is quoted as saying that this is one of the worst floods to hit assam.   He announced the national government would give immediate assistance of 5 billion rupees ($90 million) to the state. Railway workers were working round the clock to restore train services disrupted after railway tracks became submerged. The situation was expected to improve over the next few days as the rain was tapering off and water was beginning to recede.  The initial focus would be on rescuing people marooned and extending relief to those forced to leave their homes. Once  the search and rescue operations are complete, then focus would shift  to restoration of damaged infrastructure – it will take a long time for the affected to limp back to normalcy.

Authorities have expressed  satisfaction with the rescue and relief operations, -  16 NDRF teams and 71 boats were operating in the state to rescue marooned people; the Army has rescued more than 4,000 affected people. The Army has deployed 752 personnel for rescue and relief operations and 400 persons have been transported to safety.

Do you have a Policy covering your home and property and does that extend to cover ‘storm, cyclone, typhoon, flood & inundation’ ?

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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