Enduring the river fury: Living and losing in Assam

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Image: Prathap Ravishankar

The gushing waters from an overflowing Brahmaputra had slithered up into Tajuddin Ahmed's house in 2014 while he and his family were asleep. Ahmed, a resident of Digirpam char (sandbar) in Barpeta district, was not new to the annual ritual when the raging waters would swamp his house year after year. But that year was different and particularly brutal. "We could not save anything that day. My ration card, voter-ID and all other documents were washed away. Somehow, I managed to save my wife and our four children,” says Ahmed.

As flood waters submerged 27 of the 33 districts of Assam this year, the events of the fateful night started playing in Ahmed's mind all over again. "As we sat wondering what to do next, my youngest one had asked, 'why do floods come every year? Why is the river so angry with us?'" says Ahmed, who now lives in Guwahati and pulls a cycle-rickshaw in Rajgarh area.

Not too far away from Rajgarh, officials at the Assam State Disaster Management Authority in Dispur are also struggling to find answers to similar questions posed by a bevy of mediapersons. Why are the floods so devastating in Assam? Is there no solution to the problem?

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