| Flood victims take shelter on a mango tree at Ghoshpur Bagicha in Bhagalpur on Wednesday. Picture by Amit Kumar |
On Wednesday morning, 26-year-old Lajwanti’s family set out to arrange for a boat in the flood-hit Rajandipur diara to take her to Sabour primary health centre for delivery.
As the country celebrated the birth of Lord Krishna, the woman went into advanced labour pain. Fighting the rising level of the Ganga, the family, like many others, took shelter on mango trees in Ghoshpur Bagicha, as their houses are submerged in the floodwaters. Lajwanti lay on a cot on one of the trees in the orchard famous for its Jardalu and Malda varieties of mangos.
Worried about how to take Lajwanti to the hospital for a safe delivery, her family approached boatmen around 10am but returned empty-handed. The boatmen refused to ply their vessels in the cyclonic weather, as rain and heavy winds lashed the area.
After four hours when the expecting mother was still experiencing labour pain, women in the area familiar with traditional modes of delivery checked her and advised the family that Lajwanti still had a couple of days before she would deliver. But the family still arranged for a boat around 4.30pm and took away Lajwanti. The villagers said they were not aware where she was taken.
Ghoshpur Bagicha — in Rajandipur panchayat, around 8km northeast of Bhagalpur district headquarters and some 2km from the Sabour block headquarters — is home to around 130 families for at least the past fortnight. They have set up makeshift tents in the trees to remain safe from the rising waters. For all the flood-hit people in Rajandipur diara, Laluchak and Vinoba diara, whose houses have been eroded by the Ganga, the situation might not be as dire as Lajwanti’s but they too are encountering problems at every feet.
Jai Prakash Singh, an engineer in the Central Water Commission, said: “In 2003, the water level of the Ganga rose to 30.2m, which was the highest in Bhagalpur till then, but this time that record has been breached. It is at 34.08m.”
In Bhagalpur district, the danger level is 33.68m. In the orchard, the water has reached 4-5 feet (13.12m-16.40m).
Kapildeo Mandal, a villager from Laluchak, said: “On Monday night, my two minor sons fell into the water from our makeshift hut on the tree. I was sleeping when my wife woke me up. I somehow managed to fish out my children.”
The flood-hit people, however, feel they have little option but to seek shelter in the mango trees.
A villager from Rajandipur diara, who did not wish to be named, said: “We live on government land. Our houses are submerged in the water as are of many of the other people who have taken shelter in this orchard. Among the affected people there are many from Laluchak and Vinoba diara whose houses have even eroded. We fear they might capture our land or steal the household items that have not yet been washed away if we move to safety on higher ground.”
Ashok Kumar, circle officer, Sabour, said: “We have established relief camps in safe places in Sabour, but the people don’t want to stay there and prefer to stay in the trees.”