Vibha Prakash, a middle-aged woman suffering from paralytic attacks and can’t move on her own, was lying on her bed when she noticed floodwater gushing inside her bedroom and kitchen on Saturday (September 28) morning.
The woman, who resides on the ground floor of her three-storeyed building with her family in the posh Rajendra Nagar locality of Patna, screamed for help as she watched in grief her household articles, including a steel trunk, floating on the water. The upper floors of her house are rented by some of her locals.
Immediately, her family members shifted her to one of the rooms on the first floor. Other members of her family too took shelter on the upper floors, which the woman had given out on rent to some of her locals.
The situation is even worse for Pradeep Kumar, who resides in the Bazar Samiti locality of the Bihar capital. “We didn’t eat for three days since our house was flooded due to Saturday’s rainfall. We had no drinking water as well. The motor couldn’t be operated since the ground floor was completely flooded and there was no electricity as well,” he says.
He adds that they have been completely disconnected from the outside world as they couldn’t charge their mobile phones due to the absence of electricity. “Thanks to the NDRF teams that we were rescued,” he says, heaving a sigh of relief.
This highlights the situation in Patna, the state capital of Bihar, where the local administration had only last month bulldozed hundreds of dwellings and shops as part of an anti-encroachment drive to turn it into a “smart city”. Now, following the heavy rainfall, be it the common men or the VIPs, all have been left to fend for themselves as they remain trapped in their flooded homes.
Ajit Singh, another resident of Rajendra Nagar, one of the localities that witnessed waist-deep to neck-deep flooding, complains that the city lacks proper drainage system despite being the state capital.
“Everyone calls Patna the capital of Bihar. But even after seven decades of Independence, we don’t have a proper drainage system. There’s no system in place to tackle floods and no alternate way to supply potable water and emergency help. There is no difference between Patna and any other small village or town,” he says.
The flood situation in Patna is in its worst state with food scarcity haunting the residents of the capital city. While most of the shops are shut due to the flood, the ones that are open are charging exorbitant rates for essential commodities like bread, milk and vegetables.
The prevailing crisis is also evident from the fact that two Indian Air Force helicopters had airdropped food packets in the city on Monday and a mad scramble ensued among the residents to grab those. Rescue operations too were undertaken by the NDRF, which rushed its teams to the flooded areas with bottled water. Residents were also seen riding tractors and even JCB machines to escape to safer areas.
“If this is the situation in Patna, you can imagine the situation in other districts. We feel ashamed to say that we live in the state capital,” comments SP Sinha, another Patna resident.
This crisis highlights the pathetic condition of the commoners, helplessness of the local administration and the claims of development of the ruling NDA government, which has been in power in the state for the past 14 years. The NDA government, headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, had stormed to power riding on allegations of gross mismanagement, large-scale corruption and the “jungle raj” of the previous Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) government.
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Meanwhile, it must also be noted that the major Assembly constituencies of Patna — Digha, Bankipur, Kumhrar, Patna Sahib and Danapur — which are completely flooded, are presented by BJP legislators. Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi himself had represented central Patna in the Assembly for 14 years between 1990 and 2004.
Yet, the state government could not escape major embarrassment on Monday when Sushil Modi and his family were rescued by the NDRF following his call for help. Sushil Modi, whose ancestral home is located in Rajendra Nagar, remained trapped in his flooded home for three days until the arrival of the NDRF teams. What conveys a peculiar message is that Sushil Modi, dressed in shorts, T-shirt and sandal, refused to speak to the media after he was rescued.
Likewise, a prominent folk singer, Sharda Sinha, too had sought help from the government through a recorded video message.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav has demanded the Chief Minister to issue a white paper detailing every expenditure made in the last 15 years in the name of urban development, sewerage system, and drainage structure and disaster management. “As always, he is blaming the weather, the nature, the nakshatra and the opposition for his 15 years of failure,” he said.
Although the disaster management department has launched relief and rescue operations, it is proving to be a drop in the ocean, literally, given the scale of the disaster.
In the past two days, the NDRF teams have rescued only 37,000 people whereas only 2,700 food packets have been distributed, according to a report by the state government itself. And if the growing anger among the people is any indication, the coming days could be really tough for the government.