By Ananya Guha
Floods in India create havoc every year. More than a quarter of the country is affected. Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra, parts of South India were among the worst to suffer this year. In Meghalaya this year in Garo Hills more than a lakh people were affected and displaced. This went largely unnoticed in the national media, because after all Garo Hills is a minuscule division of a minuscule state Meghalaya, which has just a population of twenty eight laks. But that precisely is the enormity of the situation. For over the last thirty years or even more one hears of the ravaging floods in Assam. The river island Majuli, otherwise also known for its historical and cultural appeal is among the first to be affected. But governments are impervious to any idea as to how we tackle such floods, leaving the people to their mutable fates, seeking hide outs in trees and make shift places. True, floods are a natural calamity and their predictability is uncertain, but surely one can foresee the time, that it occurs during the monsoons, that also measures on a war footing can be undertaken to combat them, and thus give the inhabitants, mostly very poor some succour. But when New Delhi or Gurgaon are flooded the media has its antenna overworked.
There must be a sense of preparedness for floods, call it disaster management. There must be a mapping of vulnerable areas and on that basis preemptive measures be taken or should be ready. The poor in India matter mostly like cattle, in numbers. Their’s is the story of untold misery day by day, they become significant and most wanted during voting time. That is how education is kept at bay from them, making them pawns in a vicious play of pelf, money and power. Even as I write this on Independence Day, the day will mean nothing for them except maybe a vacuous stare at the television sets that some of them have managed to procure.
After the floods abate there is no murmur. What were the efficacy of the relief measures? How many displaced people have gone back to their homes or rehabilitated? Till how long will the measures continue? What has been done for those whose family members have perished? All such information should be tabled in Parliament, circulated in the media for public consumption. Only then will there be a soul searching awareness among the public.
The scourge of India today still remains poverty, tenuous settlements and risky living. It is a vicious cycle. Those affected by natural calamities are those afflicted by the struggle to live and eke out a daily existence. Unless their lot is ameliorated it will be useless to talk about smart cities and their like.
We have many Indias- the India of floods, the India of racist divides, the India of malls and the India of slums and hovels. Let the latter two speak out their grisly stories, to probe a country’s conscience!
About the Author: Ananya S Guha lives and writes from Shillong in North East India.