Calamity call for double challenge Flood battle awaits Nitish

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  • Published 8.09.13
A woman carries her child in a flood-hit village in Raghopur, Vaishali, on Saturday. (PTI)

Patna, Sept. 7: Chief minister Nitish Kumar is battling a flood that has thrown up challenges much bigger than those the Kosi had in 2008.

Chief secretary A.K. Sinha today alerted district magistrates through video-conferencing about the weatherman’s forecast of 300-400mm rain in 10 north Bihar districts. Yesterday, Nitish surveyed 12 flooded districts.

Despite the apparent flurry of activity, experts say the 2008 flood was confined to six districts — Supaul, Madhepura, Khagaria, Purnea, Katihar and Araria. The current spell, brought about by heavy rains in the riverbed of the Ganga in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh and growing monsoon pressure on rivers originating in Nepal, has inundated 20 districts — Kishanganj, Purnea, Araria, Muzaffarpur, Katihar, Supaul, Saharsa, Gopalganj, Bhagalpur, Saran, Patna, Bhojpur, Buxar, Vaishali, Begusarai, Khagaria, Munger, Samastipur, Lakhisarai, East Champaran.

Today, weather officials stuck to the prediction that the monsoon’s trough line was fixed on the Himalayas foothills since September 2, suggesting “havoc rain” (300 to 400mm) in 10 bordering districts in the next three-four days. It means more districts — Madhubani, Darbhanga, Sitamarhi and Sheohar — through which rivers originating in Nepal pass, could face floods.

In 2008, Nepal residents breached the Mahendra Rajmarg at Kusaha, making the Kosi change course and obliterate thousands of south Bihar villages. But the chief minister got adequate wherewithal to turn the challenge into an opportunity. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh landed in Purnea, declared it a national calamity and released Rs 1,000 crore in relief.

Nitish camped there, monitoring relief. He earned the sobriquet of “Quintalia Baba” for instantly distributing two quintals of foodgrain to every affected family. His work won him many hearts in a region that follows the adage: “Rome Pope kaa, Madhepura Gope kaa (If the Rome is about Pope, Madhepura is about Gope — the Yadavs)”. That translated into votes in 2009 when the then NDA won all five seats in Lalu Prasad’s stronghold. In the 2010 Assembly polls, the NDA bagged 12 of 13 seats. Then World Bank chairman, Robert B. Zoellick, visited Bihar, praised Nitish, and gave Rs 1,000crore as soft loan, enabling Nitish to quickly repair roads and infrastructure.

“The situation is different this time. The flood has hit 20 districts and may hit more,” said senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, Nitish’s right hand man in 2008 and now his biggest critic. “The government has done no homework this time.” he said. Even BJP cadres who helped in relief work in 2008, are now working against the government.