By Basant Kumar:
I am from Jharkhand and part of a 13-month long grassroots immersive fellowship called India Fellow, that collaborates with non-profits across rural India. Young Indians like myself become part of the organisation’s work/projects and get exposed to the myriad social challenges of our country. And thus my life and work brought me to an organisation called APMAS in the Saran district of Bihar.
In the district, the town of Diara is situated on one side of the river and only two kilometres on the other side is the urban area of Digha Ghat. The story of both the sides is extremely different.
While I was originally supposed to work on a women empowerment project; the flood altered my role here and I found myself in the middle of it. So I decided to understand the ground realities.
Surprisingly, one half of Diara belongs to the Patna District and the rest is under the Saran District. There is only one police station in the whole of Diara that is run by Patna’s authorities; even in the Saran half. This piece of land is inhabited by approximately 1.25 lakh people.
After almost seven decades of independence, there are no basic amenities. There is no high school for this huge population; electricity has not reached it yet. The worst situation though by far are the existing medical facilities. There is a single government hospital. According to local citizens, no doctors are ready to work here. They have the same excuse of poor transport connectivity as the waterways are always dangerous to travel on for half of the year. In situations of medical emergencies, they have no way but to cross the Ganga. Most of the time this leads to the loss of life.
When I met Pramod Kumar Singh, a villager from Akilpur Diara, he told me, “In spite of the short distance from the capital city Patna (only two km), we are far away from the word ‘development.’ Basic amenities are a dream for us; we are nothing but vote banks. Floods are a recurring phenomenon, every two years and the situation gets worse. Each flood drags us away to an infantile stage of development and we have to start from the beginning.”
At Diara, agriculture and animal husbandry is the main livelihood for people, and both are highly victimised by the floods, making people suffer. Although, the land in Diara is highly fertile, the lack of connectivity and agricultural extension services make it less productive. There are no other opportunities for employment because people have to either migrate to Patna city or the nearby districts and that is life threatening, especially in the monsoon. After the floods, the situation has gotten worse. Mr Singh continued, “We don’t want to migrate to other states for employment. We get threatened under the label ‘Bihari,’ but it is for the family and mostly nature that compels us to tolerate and hope for a bright future.”
My own understanding today is that there is no way to stop the anger of the holy river. The force of the water is more powerful than the government structures. It must be tackled logically. Only allocating funds can’t bring changes. The government must reach the areas that haven’t been reached so far, in order to hear them. They have been voiceless for decades now. Some new initiatives are instantly required for Diara, at least effective and efficient flood relief that can help them avoid the loss of property and life. Continued efforts are needed to better the situation. ‘Shining India’ here is only just looking for basic amenities.
About the author: Basant Kumar is an India Fellow of the 2016 cohort currently working with a grassroots organisation in Bihar called APMAS. India Fellow is a 13-month long social leadership program that takes young Indians through an immersive and reflective leadership journey that sets them on the path to be socially conscious leaders of tomorrow, and thus bring about positive change in our society.