Bihar is the most flood-prone state of India. The floods have inundated 18 of the state’s 38 districts, killing 27 people and displacing over 7 million. Around 76% of its population in the northern region lives under the constant threat of floods. Bihar is host to the annual flooding of the river causing it to make up 16.5% of India’s flood-affected area and 22.1% of India’s flood-affected population.
These floods are caused by the flooding of these rivers – Mahananda River, Koshi River, Burhi River, Gandak River, and Ganak. These rivers coupled with the heavy rains in the monsoons have added to the plight of the Biharis. Crops were damaged and millions displaced from their homes. The elections are due to be held in three phases i.e. on October 28 and the 3rd and 7th of November at a time when Bihar still recovers from the devastating consequences of the recent flash floods. This article aims to analyse how prepared Bihar is to go into elections at this time.
Floods in Bihar is an annual phenomenon. Then the question arises, that being aware of the upcoming disaster, why does Bihar fail to address it and minimise the damages? The Kosi Deluge: The Worst Is Still To Come report provides the answer. The careless construction of embankments to protect the land from floods has actually increased the intensity of the rivers and led to greater floods. The greater collection of silt in the river bed has increased the level of the river and caused some regions to be water-logged. Bihar needs a long term plan to address the floods, temporary short-term political gimmicks are only going to add to the problem and make it worse.
The Kharif crop that was due to be harvested has been damaged by the floods. The floods have inundated the fields which would affect the next crop season as well. The Rabi season which comes next sees the sowing of maize and wheat crops, essential food crops. Bihar primarily depends on agriculture for its economy as it provides employment to thousands in the region. The inundated fields might force the farmers to sow the seeds halfway into the season which might result in a lower yield.
Lakhs of Biharis are being served food at community kitchens even as people gather their limited belongings and move to higher regions to escape the flood. The only 6 functional relief centres in the state host over 5000 displaced citizens.
The Bagmati river as well as the Ganga river have been flowing above the danger level at several places in the state. There was no change in the figures for the fifth consecutive day.
The highest number of deaths (11) have been reported from the Darbhanga district of Bihar accounting to a total fatality tally of 19.
The flood has gradually receded in most parts of the state. But while the floods have disappeared, the destruction hasn’t. The destruction of infrastructure has taken the most dreadful toll on the rural lower class. In a state where the National Disaster Response Force, as well as the State Disaster Response Force, has been deployed to battle a deadly flood, how feasible is it for its population to vote? The government would be wise to roll out facilities and measures that make the transportation of such citizens easier who are still dealing with the aftermath of the floods.
The Aam Aadmi Party in a surprising move recently announced its decision to boycott the Bihar elections. The Bihar chief for AAP, Sushil Kumar Singh after consultation with AAP leader, Arvind Kejriwal stated, “When people are struggling for two square meals and cattle are not getting fodder, schools are closed, there are restrictions on puja celebration and there is still very little economic activity, holding elections and employing six-lakh government employees for it appears dangerous. Does the government guarantee the safety of its six-lakh employees? said Singh, adding the polls could leave the entire state population vulnerable.”
Bihar is facing its worst crisis with the flood season in the middle of a raging pandemic. At this time, Bihar hopes for a stable leader who can guide them through the crisis through strong policy action plans.
While the political parties engage in public political sparring, Bihar resurfaces from drowning floods.
The EIC has been firm on its decision to hold the elections on the scheduled dates and has effectively solved all the issues arising in the lead up to the election. However, provisions must be made for better transportation and easy accessibility of polling booths, as no fair election can occur if half the public is simply unable to vote. As we assume new normalcy in all aspects, including the voting process, we must remember to bring everyone together and strive for equality starting with our election process.