Assam Flood: Who Cares? : Abdul Kalam Azad
An apprehension is mounting among the people of north-eastern region that the mainstream media is ignoring the flight of its people and has been working like a PR agency of the government to justify the imposition of AFSPA. Recently, it has been observed that the media was flooded with chest-thumping news and views on cross border operation on NE militants in Myanmar. All of sudden one IPS officer is being marketed as ‘face that militants fear’ even with factual errors. However, at the same time a huge portion of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh was witnessing devastating flood. No media was running ‘hastag’ race for the flood victims of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
As per the official release of Assam State Disaster Management Authority dated 13th June 2015, more than six hundred villages were submersed and over three lakh people affected in the recent flood. Though officially not reported, at least three persons have died so far in this devastating flood. This is harvesting season in Assam and the flood has destroyed a huge area of ready to harvest corps, the official figure is 11041.53 hectors.
I was getting disturbing updates from my home district Barpeta since 11th of June, 2015. Subsequently, I communicated with the district administration and got a quit relaxing response “we are monitoring the development and ready to act if any necessity arises” The concerned Circle Officer categorically informed me that the flood situation is still manageable and no need of taking rescue and relief operations. However, I was still getting SOS calls from my native district and finally decided to visit the area next day morning to have stock of the situation. While travelling from Guwahati to Barpeta, as I entered Nalbari district, I could easily see the devastation in the nearby agri-fields. The farmers has abandoned ready to harvest rice cultivation due to flood water. They have occupied half of the road for drying up the partially damaged harvested crops.
Situation in Barpeta district is more depressing; officially it is worst affected district in recent flood. Innas Ali, a marginal farmer who cultivated high yielding rice on his one hector agri-land and invested nearly sixty thousand rupees has been able to harvest only half of his total cultivation. Ali says that one fourth of the harvested crops have been damaged as it germinated due to heavy rain. Since last two/three decades, the peasants have started cultivating high yielding variety of rice replacing traditional one. They have been irrigating their paddy fields by diesel run power-pump machine incurring higher cost comparing to government provided irrigation facility. In lower Assam, irrigation facility is mostly managed by the farmers, which forces them to incur more costs and forces them to knock the door of money lenders for credit to meet the costs. A study conducted by Gorky Chakravarty of Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata revealed that nearly 67% of his respondents in Mandia, Chenga and Ruposhi block of Barpeta district are indebted and only 2.43% of them got credit from organized financial institutions. A huge chunk of people who get their credit from moneylenders often agree to repay crops instead of money. His study says that those ill-fated people are forced to pay an annual rate of interest ranging from 72% to 360%. In such a situation, any one can imagine how this flood is going to affect the lives of people like Innas Ali.