| In grief: Sub-divisional officer Bijendra Kumar holds a picture of his parents who died recently. Picture by Amit Kumar
This engineer toiled hard to check erosion and save a water treatment plant during the floods but could not attend to his unwell parents, who died one after the other.
Bijendra Kumar (43), a sub-divisional officer in the irrigation division of the water resources department, Bhagalpur, might find some solace in the fact that while his parents lay dying he was toiling hard to save many other parents and young ones. The Patwa resident from neighbouring Banka district was tasked with saving the stretch of Ganga embankment from near Bhagalpur College of Engineering to Babupur and the Barari Water Works’ wells from the river’s wrath.
“The river threatened the lives of those living on its banks. To counter erosion, we dropped geotextile bags from the boundary walls of the college. On August 25, my wife began calling me up, saying my mother, Shaibya Devi (70), was seriously ill,” Kumar said. He returned to his quarters at Tilka Manjhi only around 8pm that day. “No doctor was ready to attend to her. Finally, I admitted her to a nursing home where she died the next morning.”
But fate had more trials in store. His father, Bhageshwar Baitha (73), a retired additional district supply officer from Godda in Jharkhand, returned to his home in Banka on September 2, for his wife’s last rites. “On September 3, I was at Barari when my elder brother informed me that our father was unwell. I rushed home around 4pm and took him to Dhoria public health centre. The doctors referred him to Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital,” Kumar said. “After spending the night at the hospital I left for Barari early next day. Around 8am, my father died. I could not attend my parents’ funerals. The rituals would have held me back. My presence was needed elsewhere,” he said.
The leaves of all department engineers had been cancelled from June 15 to October 15 owing to the floods. “Given my condition, my seniors told me to do what is appropriate. But I could not shirk responsibility. We checked erosion and saved Barari Water Works, preventing an acute drinking water shortage.”
Kumar has left for Banka for his parents’ last rites. He applied for leave from September 13-18, but it had not been granted. Chief engineer Kailu Sardar refused to comment on the delay.