Mahananda river in eastern Bihar has put 10 villages on the risk of submergence. However, the local administration either seems ignorant with the issue or has only assurance for the aggrieved people. It has left 50,000 people on the mercy of God. MOHD MUSTAQUIM reports
Suffering was all written on his face. A river, which is supposed to be respected as a gift of nature, has brought distress, disgust and depression to thousands of villagers in Seemanchal in Bihar. Standing on the bank of river Mahananda, Alimuddin, 58, from the village Mathwatoli narrates menace of the river and thereby his plight. The river has made him a landless labourer, fighting hard for survival. Showing his submerging house, Moinuddin, 44, from Kashibari village, tells a similar tale. Over a period of time, Mahananda river, by changing its course in zigzag manner, has made lives in 10 villages miserable and they are finding it difficult to survive in the absence of any help coming from the government or local administration.
Thousands of villagers, like Alimuddin and Moinuddin, have changed the way they used to look at river Mahananda. The river now gives them sleepless nights.
Mahananda river, known as the ‘Sorrow of Seemanchal’ has put 10 villages in the Amour and Baisa blocks of Purnea district in Bihar, on the risk of submergence. However, the local administration either seems ignorant with the issue or has only assurance for the aggrieved people. Two villages, Kashibari and Hijli in the Baisa block have already lost their existence due to massive soil erosion by the river.
The devastation began 15 years ago when the river, started flowing zigzag manner, hit one village after another. Now an entire village Kashibari has submerged, compelling residents to move out for relocation. The apathy of the local administration and leadership, towards a natural disaster, only created havoc. With two villages losing their existence and identities, eight other are just waiting for their turn. During this period, destroying agricultural land and villages, Mahananda changed its course and moved towards 2.5 Km west. The changed course proved catastrophic.
The misfortune of the region can be seen by a well established fact that the residence of the 5-term local MLA, Abdul Jaleel Mastan who is also the Excise Minister in the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar, is located only one Km away from the submerged Kashibari village. Mastan first won as Independent MLA in 1985. Except two terms, since 1990, he has been representing the constituency with a symbol of Congress Party. “Despite such devastations, the MLA did not bother,” the local residents allege.
Adding more distress, the river took a new course in August 2016 near the erstwhile Hijli village, one Km downstream from Kashibari. The new course is merging with another river which has put at risk lives of 50,000 people residing in the villages such as Mathwatoli and Chilahani in Baisa block and Malhana, Hafanea, Balwatoli, Telanga, Laalchura, Tarabari and some other villages in the Amour block, located downstream.
Alimuddin, describing his pain, said, “My three acre agricultural land was submerged as the course of the river moved towards my village. Today, I am a landless person who do not even have money to relocate my family from here. If the Government does not take any action, I along with my family would be in deep trouble.” “ I am not able to think how my family would survive without the government’s help,” he added.
Anwaar, 35, from Kashibari who has relocated his mud houses thrice in 15 years, told Rural & Marketing, “In the massive devastation, the river has subsumed the entire village. My family has lost around 50 acres farm land. Today, we are living in makeshift arrangements on road. Neither, I have farm land nor any job. Thus, I have only option to work as a farm labourer in the nearby villages.”
He has plenty of complaints with the local MLA from Amour constituency. He added, “We visited the MLA many times, but he always pretended that he did not have any fund so he could not do anything, only the Government could make things better. When the river took a new course in August 2016 which has put many villages in danger, he just gave us assurance. But nothing has happened so far. We spend every day in a fear.”
Residents said that between 2013 to 2015, the then district magistrate visited the place around 3-4 times. But, neither he said anything nor anything happened. That time only the soil erosion was an issue which led the river moving towards west. But, the situation has become more devastating when the river took a new course which is merging with another river.
Around 350 families alone in Kashibari village had to move as the river swallowed the entire village. The agricultural land of the nearby Hijli mauza is subsumed by the river too. “We only get assurance from the leaders and administration. Despite, this devastation, no action is taken.” Zia Haque, 44, a resident of Mathwatoli village said. The residence of the nearby villages feel like orphans who have no one who can heel them.
“If any step is not taken, we will have to relocate from the current place within 3-4 months as river will swallow our makeshift houses too. But, we don’t have any idea where we would move as we don’t have land anywhere,” Anwaar said.
The aggrieved residents allege that they are not getting any support from the local MLA. Despite repeated requests, he is not bothered. The administration and the local leadership has left them on the mercy of God. After repeated efforts, Rural & Marketing could not get comments from the MLA-cum-Minister.
Moinuddin has lost his 8 acre land to the river, his makeshift arrangement can any time be subsumed in the river. He is currently working as a daily wages labourer and has no clue where to move from here.
The aggrieved residents have similar complaints with the 2-term Congress MP from Kishanganj, Mohammad Asrarul Haque. According to them, he did not visit the place after winning election in 2014.
“I am well aware about the Mahananda menace. Though I have not visited these villages, I have written to the concerned departments to take immediate measures. If necessary, I will write another letter to the concerned departments,” the Kishanganj MP told Rural & Marketing.
After shattering expectations from the local MLA and MP, the villagers had some hope from the district administration. When Rural & Marketing tried to talk the District Magistrate and Collector of Purnea, Pankaj Kumar Pal, he seemed to be ignorant with the issue and said, “Achchha? Dikhwale lete hain” (Will check the matter).
The river has not only led to devastation in the area, but has also forced the villagers to migrate to the cities, thereby stopped the overall economic growth.