|Flood affected victims take shelter on an embankment and (above) a farmer stands on his ravaged potato field at Bela Rikabganj area of Krityanand Nagar block in Purnea on Thursday. Pictures by Mohan Mahato
Residents of Bela Rikabganj panchayat in Purnea district have been forced to take shelter elsewhere after five days of rain caused by cyclone Phailin inundated their houses and destroyed their crops.
Rain from the cyclone lashed the Purnea division, which comprises Purnea, Araria, Kishanganj and Katihar districts, from October 13 and destroyed hectares of crops.
At least 700 residents had to evacuate the area with their domestic animals, as rainwater entered their homes. Losing hectares of recently sown fields, they have taken shelter in relief camps set up on the embankments of the Kosi’s tributaries.
Another spell of rain on Thursday morning compounded the victims’ troubles, as they do not have access to proper relief material yet.
The rain, according to estimates of the villagers, has damaged 3,000 hectares of recently sown potato and around 2,000 hectares of standing paddy crops in Krityanand Nagar block, around 365km northeast of Patna.
In Purnea district, at least 10,000 hectares of potato fields and 50,000 acres of paddy have been damaged. The district administration has formed teams at the panchayat-level to assess the loss incurred by farmers. It is yet to start relief work in the panchayat though.
Rikabganj resident Panchlal Rishi said: “We have taken shelter on the embankment but have not received any relief from the administration. Even if it rains for an hour, like it did today (Thursday), we have little option but to get drenched. Neither do have we ration nor fuel to cook. Feeding the animals is a challenge too. We are been left to live in abysmal condition under the open sky.”
Bhagwan Singh, the circle officer of Krityanand Nagar block, said: “About 57 families of Bela Rikabganj panchayat have taken shelter with their domestic animals on the embankment of the Kosi’s tributaries. The camp has been set up on the embankments so that relief material can be delivered to the affected people. We will provide the victims three square meals. We are also trying to arrange for polythene sheets for distribution among the people to shield against the rain.”
He added: “We have already formed a loss-assessment committee at the panchayat-level to ascertain the loss to agriculture.”
The rain caused by cyclone Phailin has destroyed potato and paddy fields in Purnea and Katihar, while it has also ravaged paddy fields in Araria and Kishanganj.
Sources said Purnea has faced the brunt of crop damage among the surrounding districts.
The state co-ordinator of Bihar Kisan Majdoor Sangh, Aniruddh Mehta, told The Telegraph: “According to our estimates, around 10,000 hectares of crop in Purnea, 6,000 hectares of crop in Araria, 5,000 hectares of crop in Kishanganj and about 4,000 hectares of crop in Katihar have been destroyed because of the incessant rain over three days (since October 13). The damaged crops include paddy, potato, banana and vegetables.”
Mehta said: “We are meeting the farmers whose crops have been destroyed in the rain. We will also meet the district magistrates concerned to demand adequate compensation for the tillers. The reports of the district administrations on the estimated loss of agriculture have not yet come.”