Floods remain as a kind of burgeoning myth in the country, a routine call, routine reporting, routine news and of course routine death says Dr. Ananya Guha while recounting the latest wave of flood in several states of India’s northeast.
Once again there are the recurring floods in North East India. A news headlines said that over 30 are dead in floods in the country. In Garo Hills the number of people affected by floods is over a hundred thousand. Who talks about it? Does the so called national media report? In Assam this has been a phenomena which I have been regularly hearing about for at least the last thirty years. Earlier there used to be talk of ‘ relief ‘. Later on it was discovered that this relief never reached the people it was meant for. Slowly floods became a routine affair reported by the media. Floods in Assam meant Majuli. Floods in Assam meant only ten dead. A former Chief Minister of Assam was on record saying that the government was helpless, the people would have to live with it, or change circumstances. Gradually flash floods started occurring in Meghalaya as well in the rural areas, and, in the capital town. Floods in North Eastern India or for that matter Eastern India do not matter for mainstream India. Reports will only talk about the country in general. So much for mainstreaming news and the country!
The fact of the matter is that the poor people, labourers, people who work in domestic places, domestic workers; are the most affected. Climbing trees does not become an adventure for them, but a must to survive. Garo Hills already a much backward area of the tiny state of Meghalaya is now the worst affected along with Assam as flash floods have taken toll of lives as well as displaced people from habitats. And we talk about eco friendly environment, we talk about how to live ‘ intelligently ‘ with floods. Can we have some of this intelligence as a support base from the powers that be, both within the state and outside it? Can we have something beyond lip commiseration? If we use the Army to kill our own people, why can’t we keep a battalion ready every year for such impending disaster?
Natural calamities happen at any time taking people off guard and unawares. States like Meghalaya and especially Assam are prone to floods due to obvious reasons, and the Garo Hills of Meghalaya border both Bangladesh and Assam. Flash floods cause more disaster as there is total lack of preparedness.
I am not saying that we declare national calamity, mourning for the state and so on, ritualistic observances. Those who are being affected are mourning enough. What I am talking of is the collective will for preparedness. The danger of tsunamis also cannot be ruled out. The tragedy with India is that the people who do not matter after the vote bank system has been replenished are the left over stock. They can rot or die like cattle. Even the routine aerial surveys by Ministers are missing. It is no longer a novelty! Floods remain as a kind of burgeoning myth in the country, a routine call, routine reporting, routine news and of course routine death of the poor, shunted out from homes to fend for themselves in wilderness.