Held at : Chandrayan High School, Dist, Saharsa (Bihar)
The meeting was chaired by Shri Gajendra Prasad Yadav and conducted by Chandrashekhar and the inaugural address was given by Shri Gajendra Prasad 'Himanshu', former Minister of Water Resources, Govt. of Bihar.
Gajendra Prasad Yadav
He formally welcomed all the participants and said that Dharhara has been a land of revolutionaries and it was his privilege to welcome everybody there. He welcomed Shri Gajendra Prasad 'Himanshu', a noted socialist, to the meeting and thanked him for accepting the invitation.
The meeting started with welcome remarks from Maha Prakash, a noted literary figure of Mithilanchal. Welcoming the Chief Guest Shri Gajendra Prasad Himanshu he said that Chandrayan is an odd place to come and hence there was some delay in his reaching the place and thanked him for sparing his time for the meeting. He welcomed Dinesh Mishra saying he is from Uttar Pradesh and yet so much interested in issues pertaining to Mithila. Mishra has become an integral part of the intellectual circle of Mithila and is a household name here. Our friends from Delhi Shri Rakesh Bhatt and Gopal Krishna are environmentalists while Shri Rahul Chaudhary is an advocate in Supreme Court dealing mostly with environmental issues. Tapeshwar Bhai is the President of state's Sarvoday Mandal and Rajendra Jha has been an effective local link over local issues. He welcomed them all.
Chandra Mohan Mishra
Dinesh Mishra has worked extensively for the upliftment of Mithila. He was here in a meeting in Navhatta last year and that was the time I met him for the first time and had lengthy discussion with him. I appeal to all those present here to remember what all is said here today and not to ignore it. Dinesh Mishra is not a local person and he comes here to share our problems but we do not respond to his gestures adequately. You must have heard about the Kosi Sufferers Development Authority. All those who were instrumental in its constitution and those who formed a part of that body are now dead. Many programs were announced by the authority that schemes would be taken up for the betterment of those living within the embankments and in a range of three kilometers outside the embankments. There will be programs for their economic uplift and so on but nothing happened in reality.
In the night of 5th September 1984, I received a phone call from the Superintending Engineer of the Kosi Project that there was the embankment was getting eroded at a frantic speed and I should report with all the tractors available with me. That embankment is in the same precarious condition even today but there is no call for help from any quarter. It is just possible that the embankment may breach today. I will request all of you present here to pay a visit to the embankment and have a look. This embankment is repaired only to make money. If there is no room for looting the exchequer, the embankment would not be repaired. We suffer losses due to floods and water logging every year and are silenced by paying some money in the name of cattle feed and compensation for the crop loss. Our media too covers the flood events but this happens only for three months, till the floods last. They forget the miseries immediately after that. A mother keeps the child in her womb for nine months but until that child cries, the mother too does not feed her with milk. We will have to agitate and unless that is done, nobody will ever bother about our problems.
Those living within the Kosi embankments, suffer the wrath of the river for three months but the ones living outside are suffocated round the year. What do we expect if we hold meetings every evening for three months apprehending a breach in the embankment and then go into hibernation for the whole year? We need to help Dinesh Mishra in his endeavor and make use of his expertise.
Ram Deo Sharma
Welcoming all those present in the meeting, Sharma said that Dinesh Mishra came to the Kosi area in 1984 after the breach in the embankment and then on continued to nurse the area. He must have traveled many times the length and breadth of the Kosi embankments. I must say, I was traveling when the Kosi embankment breached in 1984 and was midway in the Kosi stream. There were rumors that the embankment had breached and I could see that the water level in the river came down just within half an hour. The kosi embankment has breached eight times so far and the last incident took place on the 18th August 2008. Those who suffer such wrath of the river have to run away from the scene with whatever material they can carry on them. This area was known for its cattle wealth and agriculture. The Kosi Project robbed it of all that. Maize was a major crop here but that was lost because of seepage, flooding and waterlogging. Agriculture and cattle rearing suffered immensely in due course. There is no surety of survival of houses and villages within the embankment. Many villages have been eroded many times. Charpoy acts as an ambulance for women suffering from labor pain and a sizable number of them succumb on way to hospital. Many people are drowned or are simply swept away and if one asks for compensation, one is asked to produce the dead body of the victim. Entitlement of compensation of Rs. 50,000/- is linked to production of the dead body. We will have to raise our voice as the establishment is deaf. We have only received begging bowl against working in Punjab, Delhi, Bhadohi and diseases and hunger stark at us.
Pramod Kumar Singh
I pity my self confidence that despite our sufferings in 1984, we are again thrown into the same bin last year. It is a great consolation that not only we still remember those sufferings but there are many who did not undergo that trauma also remembers what had happened to us. This embankment could have breached in 1983 also but the sincere efforts on the part of the then collector of Saharsa, Madan Mohan Jha, prevented that tragedy. The embankment was under stress in 1979 also but this is not the time to gossip but prepare for a decisive battle. The Government does not have the list of the people who were swept away in Kusaha or Navhatta. Some 50,000 acres of land between Navhatta and Mahishi is deserted because of seepage. We cannot plant Agahani crop and the Government feels that we are only relief seekers. Get away with your relief and return our land and its fertility. Let us take that decision along with Dinesh Mishra and other friends.
Welcoming those present he said that the people have been facing the miseries of floods silently since 1984. He continued, '... I remember the incident of 1984 when 5 blocks of Saharsa were affected. We fought for our rights but got tired. We will have to rise again for our own safety. The 2008 breach at Kusaha affected 35 blocks, seven times more than those affected in 1984. This can happen only due to the callous attitude of the departments. The embankment is bound to breach again and we will have to strive hard to reduce the losses and make the government accountable for the accident. This is possible only if we can organize people. The embankment breaches and the establishment do not care about the people's view whether they want the breach plugged or not. We had contested a case for compensation in 1984 and had a degree from the Supreme Court of the country but could not follow it up. We will have to put an organized effort and struggle for our cause. There is a time bomb kept over our head. On behalf of District Sarvoday Mandal, Kosi Pramandal, we oppose embanking of the rivers.
He thanked those present in the meeting that they have extended a hand of solidarity to the victims of the Kosi Breach of 1984. That man made tragedy had snatched many precious lives.
Dinesh Kumar Mishra
He said that, '... I am an outsider for the area and it does not look nice that an outsider should narrate the sufferings of insiders. I came to this area for the first time on the 8th October 1984 and had boarded a boat at Navhatta to take a look at the situation. After roaming around for the day in that boat, I landed in Bangaon in the night. I had never seen so much of water after one month of an accident in my life. I may an engineer by profession and had a brief to build some houses as I had working experience of such situations. After coming here I realized that unless the water is drained out, there was hardly any role of an engineer here. While traveling on the embankment where hundreds of thousands of people had taken shelter, I used to enter the huts of the victims and look for food materials that they might have had for themselves, if any. To my surprise, I could not locate one in any of the houses. I developed a feeling that I could not do any thing there in the capacity of an engineer. A person like me had no existence before the might of the river. I had to send a telegram to my friend Vikas Bhai at Varanasi about the situation that I had seen here in Saharsa and I was at the end of my wits. I wrote to him about the unprecedented miseries here in Saharsa and told him that if he rated himself as a social worker, here was the place for him to work. If he could not do anything, he better wind up the show withdraw. Next day I wanted to go to Balua Hat and Chapram as I was told that further south, the situation was even worse. I tried but had to return from Balhi-Barsam. I went to Varanasi to meet my friend Vikas Bhai and the moment I entered his premises, he fired me with a question, '... Engineer Saheb! Are you ashamed of what happened at Saharsa that you dislodged half a million people from their homes and hearths?' '...Why should I be ashamed of something where I had no role to play?' was my reply to him. He, himself an engineer, told me that those who inflicted such miseries on the people were my fellow professionals and that should lead us to ponder and feel sorry. He had gathered some resources to build cheap huts for the flood victims at the rate of Rs. 1000/- or so. But I was unable to draw lines on deep running water for building such huts where the ownership of the land was not known. The Kosi had taught me the first lesson of engineering. We studied the flood problem of the area later and that led to regular contacts with the people of the Kosi Basin.
The Kosi embankments have breached 8 times till date. It was in Dalwa in Nepal in 1963, in Jamalpur in 1968, in Bhatania in 1971, in Bahuarawa in 1980, in Navhatta in 1984, in Gandaul and Samani in 1987, Joginia in Nepal in 1991 and in Kusaha in Nepal in 2008. The Joginia episode is quite interesting. The then minister of Water Resources of Bihar had asserted in Bihar Vidhan Sabha in the same year that should an embankment breach anywhere, he would resign his post and in the month of July 1991, the Kosi embankment breached at Joginia. The river, however, receded after breaching the embankment and a disaster was averted. The people could not be saved last year, however. Some 527 people are reported to have died in last year's Kosi Flood and this figure of deaths is highest in any single year in the basin ever since the records are maintained. The river is preparing for its next assault from the day the breach was plugged at Kusaha. It was in 1937 that the dam at Barahkshetra on the Kosi was first proposed in the famous Patna Flood Conference. This was presented as the final solution of the Kosi problem. The then Chief Engineer of Bihar, Captain GF Hall is on record to have said that Nepal would never be interested in this solution and will never put itself to inconvenience for the benefit of Bihar. Nearly 60,000 persons will have to be relocated if this dam is built and the way our displaced persons are treated in our own country is no secret.
Why Nepal does not take interest in these projects is never told to the public. Anugrah Narayan Sinha had told Bihar Vidhan Sabha on the 22nd October 1954 that if anything goes wrong with this dam min Nepal, then areas up to Bhagalpur will be at risk and hence the dam will not be built. Many reports have been prepared about another such dam at Nunthar on the Bagmati and it is repeatedly mentioned in all the reports that there is no flood cushion provided in that dam. There was a meeting in the Water Resources Development Centre of Patna University in 2004 and the Secretary of the Water Resources Department categorically said in that meeting that the financial position of the state would not permit any dam on the Kosi to be built for at least 60 years to come. If this dam starts taking shape in 60 years, it will take another 20 years to build it. Does the Government have any interim plans to face floods for the coming 80 years? They have no answers to such questions. The bed level of the Kosi is rising at a rate of 5 inches annually between Mahishi and Kopadia. In the past 45 years the bed level of the river must have risen by 225 inches. If that be so, the embankment should have been raised by as many inches i.e. 18 feet 9 inches. Will the river be stable if the embankments are raised that high? What will happen to the people if such an embankment breaches?
The Kosi used to flow in 15 different streams between the Parmane and the Lagunia. The engineers left 14 streams and forced the river to flow through only one stream i.e. Lagunia and assured the people that they were safe from the floods of the Kosi. But Lagunia is flowing now 15 to 20 feet higher than its initial level. Where all the water will go if the embankment on it breaches, nobody thought. We will have to think what should be done in that situation. We should try to send the river back to its original profile of 15 streams. This will allow the silt carried in the river to spread over a vast area along with the flood waters. There will be moderation of floods and the water levels would reduce automatically. If this is done, then even if the dam on the Kosi is built, there will not be any need for providing the flood cushion and the height of the dam can be lowered. If we are able to face the floods on our own land, this will be in the larger interest of the country and the society.
The Government also says that it will link most of the rivers. Is it possible without involving Nepal? Will Nepal respond favorably if the scheme is proposed to her? The state government is talking about linking the rivers of south Bihar and also says that there is not enough water in those rivers. What is the use of linking those rivers then? If this is to be done to cater to the whims of someone, it is a different story then. Let us now talk about those who were displaced due to construction of the embankments on the Kosi. These people were encouraged to sacrifice their interests in larger interest of the nation and the society. They were ditched when it came to their rehabilitation. Why a package that is given to the oustees of the Narmada cannot be given to those in the Kosi? Narmada oustees got the land and housing both because they could fight for their rights. Our people did not fight; they left for Delhi, Punjab and Mumbai etc. If all of them come back, there will be a civil strife here. They opted for easier options of looking for employment elsewhere and those left behind do not have the will to fight it out.
I was talking once to Shri Ganesh Prasad Yadav in Sitamarhi. He has been a minister in the state and talks about the people's oriented approach. I asked him how injustice is met to the people when outright persons like him were there in the cabinet or in the government. His answer was you cannot motivate dead bodies to rise and respond. Nothing can be achieved without struggle, he said.
I wish to extend further what Dinesh Ji had said earlier. He said that the struggle is yours and no outsider will be able to lead the struggle on your behalf. It is worth noting that he is an outsider and circumstances led him to do what he could do for you all. I must say that the rulers and the subjects have a relationship that is linked to taxation. The ruler taxes his subjects and in lieu of the taxes, he promises certain services. When we face floods, it becomes the duty of the ruler to take care of our well being. To say that this is a relief is an insult to the subjects. It is desirable that whatever taxes we pay to the rulers should be returned to us in such cases because it is the sins of the rulers that lead us to unbearable situations. It should be our right to get our well being ensured in such situations till our lot gets bearable.
The other thing is that whatever Mishraji has written or said, he has learnt it from you. It is your job to check what all is left to be said or written. Kindly go through all his writings and verify that he has written only those things which you expected him to write. Many friends here have suggested about starting a movement. Should you proceed in that direction, we will accord all the help that we can.
Mishraji has written a lot about the Kosi issue for a long time now. Having read all that, I arrive at a conclusion that Kosi Crisis is the biggest environmental crisis of South Asia. Among all the environmental movements running in the country, Kosi is not getting the attention it deserved. The crisis not only relates to environment but also to public health. This crisis should be defined and identified on those lines alone. The story of embankments starts from the writings of Mishraji seems to be unending. When the embankment breached at Navhatta in 1984, the Government had said that the life of the embankments was only 25 years and that was over. It added that it was not possible to maintain those embankments and keep them in good shape of repairs. Twenty five more years have passed since then. And on the same logic the embankment of the Kosi is not safe anywhere. This was not intended to provide permanent protection either. The debates in Bihar Vidhan Sabha are an indicator to that affect. The year the barrage was completed (1963), the shortcomings of the project were manifested as the Kosi embankment breached in that year itself.
The people of Chhattisgarh had given a slogan recently when their houses were being demolished in the name of development. It said that 'We are the Government in our villages, and our's is the Government in Delhi and Raipur.' You are residents of the Kosi basin and, in fact, you are the government here and it is your government in Delhi and Patna. Unless this feeling comes in each one of you here, the problems will continue. The persons whom you sent to Vidhan Sabha have not done anything for the area and to assume that they will do something in future will be a mistake. Our parliament and Vidhan Sabha is silent about the outcome of the treaty between India and Nepal and we are facing the consequences of it. This is the time to scrap this treaty first. When our elected representative fails to perform, movements are born. The government uses force to suppress the movements. Sometimes, in order to oppose the state's repression, the movements also get violent. If the movements get violent, the things go out of hands. Mishraji has written many things and has repeated them time and again. The repetition becomes necessary because the one who should listen to the woes of the people refuses to listen to the voices. He said that there was no point in giving a call to the dead. Let us resolve here today that if a call comes from somewhere, the dead will also start waving their hands. The embankment will keep on breaching till such time we are silent and the Kosi Treaty is in force.
Gopal, Krishna has said that Kosi Crisis is a big environmental concern. There was a meeting in Patna recently in which concerns were shown that no environmental impact study is made in case of projects concerning flood control. This means that the flood control projects would not be discussed in public and objections, if any, by the public will not be attended to before the construction starts. It was in this meeting that I came closer to the Kosi issues. Later, I tool many books written by Mishraji over the issue and now I have developed some understanding of the problems here. I have been roaming around in this area for the past few days along with Gopal Krishna and Rakesh Bhatt to acquaint myself with the environmental issues of the area. No impact study is made when an embankment is constructed. There was a provision of environmental impact assessment of embankments in the notification of 1994. It was possible then to know before hand the number of families likely to be trapped within the embankments, the extent of waterlogging, impact of breaches and the means to deal with etc etc. That policy that was changed in 2006 and the flood control projects were kept out of the purview of environmental impact assessment. We are not aware why this change occurred and we are trying to identify its reasons. If an embankment is built in your area, no environmental assessment of its impact will be done unless there is change in legislation. It is quite likely that there may be political reasons for withdrawing this provision or else it may be the handiwork of vested interests. We have to understand the is because if there is a construction of a dam in some area, then there will be engineers and labors coming there from outside, the value of the property will shoot up, a house that may not be fetching rent of Rs. 500/- may now get a monthly rent of Rs. 5,000/-. Vehicles will be needed for movement and the people will start renting vehicles also, road construction would start and that might benefit the local contractors etc. When there is so much of activity around, the question of making an impact study id relegated to background. If somebody raises these concerns, there may be other set of people to advise him to keep quiet. Now, one has to carefully examine whether the project will benefit the small or big contractors, politicians, and other vested interests or will it be useful for the masses and that too in a distant future. I am trying to understand all these factors and the matter appears to be serious. We will have to decide what legal course is available to us.
Gajendra Prasad 'Himanshu'
You have organized a meeting to observe the 25th anniversary of the breach at Navhatta and you should be congratulated for that. You have invited me for this meeting and gave me an opportunity to talk to you all, I am grateful to you for that. The Kosi is a very vibrant river. If the Kosi is left to its own device, it will create disasters and even if it is abandoned after taming it without proper repairs and maintenance, it will create problems. Our body gets into old age from youth and contracts many diseases in the process. We take all precautions and visit doctors with the hope that he will cure the disease. If we go to an incompetent doctor for treatment, he will not be able to diagnose the disease and prescribe right medicine. We must exercise care in choosing the doctor. Same thing holds true for the river also. If a river falls sick, who will treat it is the crucial question. This is the job of the Government. If the government is strong, it will choose the right doctor. We used to read in our child hood that the Hwang Ho is 'Sorrow of China'. Likewise, the Kosi was rated as the 'Sorrow of Bihar'. For the past 40-50 years this statement is withdrawn from the books. Neither this is taught nor are questions asked in examinations if the Kosi is 'Sorrow of Bihar'. This happened because the river was tamed in 1950s. This is no more a river of sorrow. Mishraji has given a detailed account of what had happened in 1984, in his base paper but whatever happened in Kusaha last year, has brought the river back to its 'sorrow' phase. You can call it sorrow or name it a killer river now. It is quite likely that the questions may appear again in examinations why the river is called the 'Sorrow of Bihar'. The river under control is useful for the society but an uncontrolled river can cause devastation.
The Kosi is not an ordinary river. It is a cancer. One really does not know where and when the cancer will become fatal. Nobody knows when this river will erode the apron or the spur or when will it do away with the embankment. When I was the Irrigation Minister of the state, I used to visit the area and our engineers used to tell me that the behaviour of the river is quite unpredictable. One does not know when will sand cast an area, erode a village, water log fields and overturn a boat? The government wants to tame such a violent river by distributing relief material and then self pat its back. How would you feel if I inflict an injury on you that you start bleeding and then I come with ointment to apply so that the injury is healed fast? The question arises, why should the embankment breach? It breached because the structure was weak and it breached because the government was weak and it did not bother about proper maintenance of the embankment. Rats and jackals kept on digging holes into the body of the embankments, it was never repaired and the Government was not aware what was going on. The bed level of the river kept on rising and the government did not know. Earth should have been put on the embankments and they should have been raised and strengthened. This was not done. When I was the minister, I had raised almost all the embankments by about five feet. It was never done thereafter. Breaching of the embankment was an obvious corollary. The government has asserted this year that no embankment will be allowed to breach. Why the same thing was not said last year? You could save the embankments this year but could not save them last year because you were asleep. You were not concerned. When I was the Minister of Irrigation, there used to be Chief Engineer Mr. Nilendu Sanyal. He was a very competent engineer. When the embankment breached in Kusaha last year, the government looked for him. Many committees were constituted under him and solutions were found out. Why the government could not prepare an engineer of his caliber in these years?
The government says that it has prepared plans and budget to implement schemes etc etc. But this all is the part of governance. You should show the results of the works that you have done. Gopal Krishna has said that the government is not functional. What all is expected from the parliament is not getting fulfilled. This is true. We will have to take the struggle from parliament to streets. Mishraji has written a lot about the plight of the people before the embankments were constructed on the Kosi. The same thing was said by Parameshwar Kunwar. Lahtan Chaudhary and Hari Nath Mishra also. Sufferings were there before the construction of the embankments and they continue to exist even now. But nobody talks about the prosperity that dawned in the intermediate period. Mishraji has written a lot about all the aspects of the Kosi in his book and that has been compiled at one place to facilitate any debate. I am surprised that he is not from Bihar and belongs to Uttar Pradesh and stays in Jharkhand these days. He is here in your village along with many learned people from Delhi. Many seminars are held in Delhi, from Mavlankar Hall to Constitution Club, everywhere. People assemble there to discuss how to eradicate poverty from India. But such seminars are rarely held in places where from poverty has to be eradicated. This you and Mishraji have organized in a village and we should be grateful for his gesture. I can imagine the hardship that our friends from Delhi must have faced in coming here. I can understand that such people are brought to Patna or Delhi but it is beyond my imagination that they will ever come to Chandrayan or Muradpur. There is no facility available here and if one cares to go a bit inside, within the embankments, there is no road, no electricity, no school or a college, nor there is any hospital. Who will study or teach there, who will get an employment there and what treatment will be available there to a patient; we will have to ponder over all these aspects.
No debate on the Kosi Project is complete without making a mention of Parameshwar Kunwar. Whenever the issue was debated in the Vidhan Sabha, he would make it a point to talk about the plight of those trapped between the two embankments of the Kosi and water logging and put all the blame over the officials of the Kosi Project. He used to say that the benefits accrued by the Kosi Project offset the losses incurred by it. The Government was expected to clear water logging from the project area that was not done. This was failure on the part of the Government. A board should have been constituted to take care of the development needs like roads, schools, hospitals and employment of those trapped within the embankments. If the government could not do even this then it should acquire land afresh and properly rehabilitate them once more so that they are relieved of the rigors of the hard life they are subjected to. This project was primarily a flood control project but was not implemented the way it should have been. This has converted a boon into a bane. This bane will have to be reverted back into a boon. Some people suggest that the embankments have done immense damage to the area and should be demolished or they even suggest that lot of sediment has been deposited within the embankments and that should be removed. But the sediment is coming in the river waters since ages; this is not a new phenomenon. Removing sediments would involve billions of rupees. It is also suggested to build a high dam at Barahkshetra on the Kosi in Nepal. It is hard to talk about the political and local impact of such a construction. We hear quite often that the Chisapani dam on the Kamla and the Nunthar Dam on the Bagmati should also form the package. Somebody has just taunted on the proposal of these dams. All these dams are debated between the two countries at least four times a year. But what is the outcome? That country is like our brother; we share the common culture but just look what kind of questions it raises in talks? Just few days back, the Vice -President there took the oath of his office in Maithili and that led to turmoil there. The objection was why the oath was not taken in the local official language. In that situation if we build a dam at Barahkshetra, Nunthar or Chisapani and if their security and safety is threatened, what will happen to us? If anything goes wrong with these dams, then Bihar will submerge. It will be a deluge here. Therefore, building dams there is not an easy thing to do. Otherwise also, Nepal will never submerge its villages for the benefit of Bihar. The location of the Kosi Barrage is also not favorable to us.
Not an inch of the Barrage land belongs to us. It is fully located in Nepal. As long our relations with her are normal; things go well but a slight shift leads to checking of our luggage. We live close to the area and are aware of what goes on there.
Dinesh Kumar Mishra
We have compromised our position and accepted the status quo but do we have any obligation towards our coming generations? Our friend here was saying that a three kilometer wide strip of land here is permanently waterlogged and should be improved. I remember, the same issue was being debated in Bihar Vidhan Sabha once and it was suggested there that benefited by the project should be asked to pay a betterment levy. Lahtan Chaudhary was opposed to a blanket levy and was of the view that only a narrow strip of about three miles width along the embankments have really been benefited by the project and hence if any levy is to be imposed, it should be imposed on those people only. This was in 1959. The land that was worth taxing in 1959 has now been waterlogged and its remedy is being sought. What will be the remedy and who was responsible for this lapse? As I look into the annual reports of the Water Resources Department of Bihar, I find that for the past over 20 years, the report says that 1.82 lakh hectares of land east of the eastern embankment are waterlogged. This is being said regularly since about 1980 and it is written in the latest report of 2009 too. There is total silence about reclamation of this land ever since. The Kosi Canals do not irrigate this mush of land. Water logging has overtaken the irrigation figures. The Eastern Kosi Main Canal was smashed into smithereens last year following the breach in the Kosi embankment at Kusaha. Nobody knows or bothered when the irrigation would be resumed from this canal. This canal was supposed to have irrigated 7.12 lakh hectares of land. As Chandra Mohan Ji has just said that unless one raises hue and cry, there will not be anybody to listen to your woes. The government will never be aware of its obligations to the people. I have a feeling that if such things hurt us or if there is a possibility of getting hurt in near future, then I must say that the time has come that a beginning is made to make the government listen to us. If someone among you takes the initiative in that direction, we are there to help you in whatever form we can. The suffering is yours and you alone will have to fight it out.
You have just listened an elaborate analysis of the situation by Dinesh Mishra that whether the embankment stays or gets breached, different people are impacted adversely. I am attached to the district of Saharsa since 1955 when it used to encompass Madhepura and Supaul also. I have spent lot of my time in Bhudan and Gramdan movements. I am well versed with every nook and corner of the district and have been a witness to distribution of land. The people of this district have suffered a lot and it will not be wrong to say that they have been cheated. They were told that after the construction of the embankments and barrages, all their sufferings will come to an end, the floods will get extinct, future of agriculture will brighten, compensation would be paid and they will get jobs in the project and so on. Nothing of the sort happened and decades passed bye. The barrage was completed in 1963 and should one reckon from the days of independence, it is over sixty years that have passed without any appreciable change in the condition of the villages. Governments, whether in Center or in the state and the political parties of all shades have not looked on to our villages the way that was expected out of them? Twenty percent of the population consumes eighty percent of resources and eighty percent of the population has to be contended with just twenty percent of it. It is not possible to narrate the harrowing tales of the destruction of 1984. Hundreds of people must have perished in that deluge. We are struggling ever since. Mishraji came around the same time to Saharsa but his priorities and thinking was different that time. He had come here for conducting relief operations while we were busy with agitation as demanding compensation instead of relief. We used to try to cripple the district administration by gheraoing by 5 to 7 to 10 or 20 thousands people. Most of them used to be women. Administration used to be moved by the people on one side and on the other, it used to put pressure on us to suspend the movement. Satyagraha, however, always remained peaceful. We all went to meet Lahtan Chaudhary at his residence in Patna and we told him point blank that the breach had occurred because of the negligence of the government and the department failed to perform its duties and since the breach at Navhatta was a result of carelessness and hence those who have suffered should be compensated for the losses incurred by them. I am sure; Lahtan Chaudhary did not like what we told him.
Parameshwar Kunwar was also from this area and he not only had fought against embanking of the river but was a veteran freedom fighter too. There were many people with similar background with us then. But the government was adamant that the flood water comes from Nepal and unless Nepal cooperates, no solution to the problem of floods was possible. That was in 1984-85. If Nepal is not cooperating then what the Government was doing for the past 25 years that the embankment breached once again at Kusaha affecting millions and killing hundreds among them? The government remained just a silent onlooker.
Last year the people suffered because of floods and the same people are facing drought this year. The problem remains that of handling water. Sometimes it is less, sometimes it is more. If the situation prevails, what will happen to the family, education of the children, their marriage and so on? Our Gajendra Prasad 'Himanshu' was minister in the cabinet of Karpoori Thakur. It was around that many leaders assembled for a meeting at Birpur. It led to a lot of commotion and resulted even in fist fights. Many leaders were hurt and the meeting had to be postponed but the same conference was held with full vigour successfully later.
The situation within the country is far worse now than it was then. Nearly 1,75,000 farmers have committed suicide in the past ten years in the country. This is the statistics given by Sharad Pawar. This disease started from Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh and is slowly spread to other provinces too. Even a prosperous state like Punjab has fallen prey to the tragedy. The farmer of Bihar is not committing suicide but is leaving his home to work in states like Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Assam to make his living. Without resorting to such recourse, it is hard to run the family. Then the question arises whether the efforts of Vinoba and Jay Prakash on Bhudan and Gramdan will go down the drain? We will try to revive the efforts once again and prepare a cadre of workers at the district and block level. We will further our struggle. We just observed anniversary of the Kusaha breach the other day. It is over a year that the breach occurred at Kusaha but the assurances given by the government remain largely on paper. The Governments of Bihar and the one at the Center are busy sending the ball in each other's court.
Then, the crucial question of corruption in Government remains unanswered. Every government that comes to power promises to remove corruption and then sinks in the same pool in due course. Even this cannot be removed by making requests to the establishment, one will have to fight it out and this can be done only with the help of the younger generation.
The hardships that the people faced last year following the breach at Kusaha have got to be faced every year by you. We have many engineers, scientists and environmentalists with us now to help us; we should make full use of their company. Please decide some concrete program and we will be there to go hand in hand with you in your struggle. Even if it amounts to going to jails, we are there to stand by you.
Ramesh Chandra Jha
Last year the embankment breached at Kusaha at a discharge of 1,68,000 cusecs. The day we were observing the anniversary of the breach at Kusaha, it was rumored that the flow in the river had touched 2,38,000 cusecs and that sent tremors in the minds of the people in the basin. If the embankment breaches at even at this low a discharge, one was not sure about one's fate. Gandhi Ji fought the battle of independence but that fight was only partial. I am giving a call to all the young men and women to come forward like Chandrashekhar and Bhagat Singh to get that fight to its logical conclusion. We want freedom from all the ills. There are many elderly people sitting here who might have seen the floods of 1954. There were floods in 1968, 1974, 1984, 1987 and now Kusaha is before us. Was there any difference observed between 1954 and 2008?
The MPs and MLAs of our areas should raise these issues on the platforms that they are elected by the people. Our friends from distant places have said that we have accepted the status quo and have resigned to fate. It is a fact that the voices that should have been raised are not raised. We will have to put a joint effort in that direction.
Dina Nath Patel
Floods are in the root of all our ills and this we have been watching since our childhood. We have been a witness to the deluge caused by the breach of the embankment on the 6th September 1984 but we escaped its jolt because our village Kabira Dhap is located within the embankments. It is altogether a different matter that part of the Kosi water flows over our village every year. The breach at Kusaha last year brought some relief to our area. The breach at Kusaha got a wide publicity but the when it had breached at Navhatta in 1984; the media did not cover the event the way it did last year. Our problem is that nobody is prepared to believe the conditions that we live in within the embankments and when the basic trust is not there, there is no question of listening to our woes. The waterlogging that exists outside the embankments also comes under the same scanner of disbelief. This problem, too, does not get the attention it deserves. The ratchet condition of education, health services, communication, erosion, meandering of the river, are some of the problems that cannot be believed unless somebody physically goes there and see it for himself.
There is another problem within the embankments. If a land of a rayyat is eroded, it is declared government land by law. This land is often settled in the name of others by back door with the connivance of revenue officials. This problem of ownership rights that is peculiar to the area within the embankments will acquire menacing proportion in years to come.
We are watching all this helplessly but our resentment is impotent reaction. It is not becoming a collective voice. Mishraji has suggested that let the Kosi be made to flow in its old channels to reduce the flow load of 15 channels into just one. That sounds sensible. But Mishraji and his friends from distant places maintain that they are outsiders and will be of limited use to us. I have a request to all the persons of socialistic bent of mind, wherever they are in the country, to extend a helping hand and we will fight for our cause. We desperately need your help as no local leader is likely to come forward to help. We have no trust in them. We have been taken for a ride always. The promises made to us by Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Jawahar Lal Nehru remains unfulfilled so far and so were the assurances given by Kosi Pidit Vikas Pradhikar. The assurances given to the victims of the breach at Kusaha also remain on the paper despite declaration of national calamity. Unless we come to a stage that we can pressurize the government, nobody is going to listen to us and there will not be any solution to our problems.
Shambhu Nath Jha
It was a mistake to embank the river in 1955 as nobody is happy whether living within the embankments or outside them. The governments are indifferent to the problems faced by the public and the only course left before us is to initiate a movement to seek our rights and bring the administration to a halt.
He thanked Prof Vidya Nand Mishra, Ram Deo Sharma, Gajendra Prasad Yadav and Anwar Azad for taking all the pains to make the meeting a success. (Heavy rain at this stage led to premature closure of the meeting.)
Proceedings of the Sixth Delegates Conference (6th Sept. 2009) Held at Vivah Bhawan, Shanker Chowk, Dist. Saharsa (Bihar)
Today's meeting was held under the chairmanship of Shri Shivanand Bhai and was conducted by Prof. Vidyanand Mishra and Anwar Azad Prof R. P. Shrivastava, Vice-Chancellor of BN Mandal University, Madhepura delivered the inaugural speech.
Prof. R. P. Shrivastava
I am working as Vice Chancellor of BN Mandal University at Madhepura for the past sometimes. I had my first encounter with the Kosi through the books of Phanishwar Nath 'Renu'. After coming to Madhepura I had an opportunity to get exposed to the sufferings of the people last year. People say that there has not been such a tragedy in the pats fifty years. In the past 2-3 days, I happened to read the books written by Dinesh Mishra and have a feeling that there is no dearth of information with us. Prof. Vidyanand gave those books to me which I have not been able to read fully for the want of time. Dinkar used to say that it is very difficult to explore the origin of rivers. Mishraji takes you to those secrets and you should make full use of his presence.
India is the only country in this world where rivers are bestowed divinity on them and all of them have some divine origin. I was not aware that the Kosi is an elder sister of sage Vishwamitra. This I came to know after reading Mishraji. He was the one who had denuded the forests of the sons of Vasishtha, performed the yagna of a chandaal, tried to send Trishanku to havens without embracing death and so on. All these revolutionary works were done by Vishwamitra. How then his elder sister, the Kosi, could live in peace is hard to imagine. What other than chaos she can create?
This, of course, is mythology and not the history. There are some learned people who are trying to decode these mythological factors. We often have Satyanarayana Puja in our homes and it is mentioned there that Kalavati, Lilavati, Sadhu, and the king, all of them had heard that story of Lord Satyanarayana but what is that story is not mentioned in the book. Stories are narrated, probably, because it becomes easy to get the message across with the help of stories. Rajneesh used to say it through stories. Stories are assimilated easily in the thinking process. Respect your rivers - this statement takes you no where but say it with the help of a story and it gets imprinted. Save the Pipal tree - what for? Even if you say that it is a storehouse of oxygen, the fellow listening to you is not moved. Tell him that the tree is an abode of Lord Vasudeva that changes the whole context.
Survival of mankind was difficult if the rivers were not there. We all blame the Kosi for its destructive tendencies but it has got a flip side also. In our own country. in the city of Indore, the water table has gone down to about 600 feet below ground. The people there long for water and they die in the absence of it. We are sick of abundance of water here but, at least, it is there and hence adored.
Why should a mother be angry with her children that she eats them by hundreds and thousands? It is said that a son can be wicked but the same is not true for a mother. Mishraji will tell you that there is relation between the human beings and nature and the human beings broke that relationship unilaterally. They cut the trees, stopped the river flow, spoilt the hills by digging them indiscriminately and they have not allowed even the oceans to live in peace. It is reported that the sea is advancing towards Mumbai. If you are disturbing the ocean, how long will it not react? How long the hills will keep, they will also do something to you.
Dr. K. L. Rao was a big name in engineering circles. And whatever he used to say, Nehru used to ditto it. If I become the prime minister of this country, I will do whatever Dinesh Mishra tells me to 'do. He has influence over me. Now, if you hold water from flowing, it will seek an outlet some day. If you have dammed it, it will break that barrier. Who was benefited by the dams that we built in past?
Democracy manifests through numbers. You are only 100 persons sitting here, there are more people outside. If you propose to break the embankments, you are bound to face resistance. If you de-silt the river, is that the solution? If that is the solution, how will it work and if not, why not? You will have to discuss all these aspects.
I roamed around the Kosi area a lot last year. Villages after villages were devastated. People became roofless. One stroke of the river created that situation. If that happens over and over again, what will be the situation? Please discuss all that and try to give a feedback to the government. My good wishes are there with you.
Dinesh Kumar Mishra
We had discussed the ill effects of the Kosi embankments in greater details yesterday at Chandrayan. The history of breaches of these embankments is quite interesting. It breached for the first time at Dalwa in Nepal in 1963 when Binodanand Jha of Congress Party was the chief minister. Work on the Kosi Barrage was completed the same year. It breached for the second time at five places in Jamalpur in Darbhanga district in 1968 and the state was being governed under the President's Rule. The Bhatania breach took place in 1971 when Bhola Paswan Shastri of Sanyukt Vidhayak Dal was the Chief Minister. The breach that took place at Bahuarawa in Salkhua block of Saharsa district in 1980 was cause during the rule of Dr. Jagannath Mishra of Congress Party and in 1984 the embankment had breached at Navhatta when Chandra Shekhar Singh of Congress Party was in Power. In 1987, when the state was ruled by Vindhyeshwari Dubey, two breaches took place at Gandaul and Samani, south of Jamalpur. In 1991, the breach at Joginia in Nepal took place when Lalu Prasad of Jarita Dal was the Chief Minister and the last breach took place in Kusaha in 2008 when the state was ruled by Nitish Kumar of JD (U). BJP was the ruling partner of JD (U). Thus, there is no party left, including the President's Rule in the state in whose regime the Kosi embankments have not breached. Despite this, there is no party that has not pointed an accusing finger towards the other for not maintaining the embankments properly. We will have to understand this drama. Unless questions are raised at these half truths and untruths, the people will always be taken for a ride.
I came to Saharsa for the first time in 1984 and the events here left a lasting impression on me that I could not leave the place. We are bound to take help of engineers in protecting the embankments or even in finding alternatives to that. If I say that all the old dhars of the Kosi should be reactivated, we will need engineers to that. If we are averse to the word 'engineer' then whosoever is given the charge to do whatever the society wants him to do, he will do something that involves some sort of engineering. It is essential that this 'engineer' has a dialogue with the society which does not take place. If we tell the 'engineer' that the embankments are not working satisfactorily, tell us some alternative. He may say, let us embank the villages and set the river free. That may be an alternative.
But there are many examples like Nirmali, Mahadeomath and Bairgania where throwing a ringbandh around the settlements proved to be costly mistake. Ask the people of Nirmali and they will tell you that boats start plying in the town with outset of monsoon and train services have to be suspended. Not only that, those livings outside the Nirmali Ring Bandh were given rehabilitation sites within the ringbandh. All that gets submerged during the rainy season. These people were much better outside the ring.
Then comes the question of de-silting the rivers which is often suggested as an alternative. Narsimha Rao, when he was the prime minister in 1963, had visited Bihar and said that the Government had not thought seriously about de-silting of the rivers and will do that now. I have got many friends in the Water Resources Department and asked them if Narsimha Rao knew what he was talking about when he suggested de-silting of rivers? I asked them that Narsimha Rao may be a prime minister but was a lay man as far as rivers and floods were concerned then someone among you must have prompted him to say something about de-silting of rivers. Nobody answered. I had some data about the annual silt load of the Kosi. It says that between Mahishi and Kopadia, the river is aggrading annually by about 5 inches. I calculated the amount of sand coming on this reach every year only to find that excavating sand from the river bed is possible only during the months of December to May and the amount of sand that gets deposited in this reach annually would mean that nearly 37,800 trucks will have to take that sand every day to somewhere from Mahishi. That place could only be Ganga Sagar in the Bay of Bengal. To move that much of sand, a six lane express highway would be needed over which only trucks carrying sand will move. To support the movements of these trucks, one will have to reconstruct almost all the bridges, import Diesel, look for spare parts, arrange for Dhabas all the way and so on. And all this trouble will have to be taken for just 33 kilometers length of the river. The Kosi is around 250 kilometers Long River within Bihar and there are 7 more such river. If all the rivers have to be de-silted to maintain their bed level as it is today, then I am sure, entire nation will be digging earth only for all times to come. Leaders should exercise control while assuring people as it raises aspirations among them.
The proposed dam on the Kosi at Barahkshetra in Nepal is in the news for the past 72 years and the negotiations with Nepal are an unending process. It is reported that this darn when built will solve all the flood problems. The state government has come out with at least four reports in the past five years and all these reports suggest that there has been no provision of flood control in the reservoir. If this also is true then what is the need for constructing such a dam in the name of flood control. It is further said that the dam would irrigate 12 lakh hectares. Was the current Kosi Project not designed to irrigate 7.12 latch hectares? Why then it does not irrigate more than a lakh and a quarter hectares? If the Barahkshetra Dam is needed for irrigation, why not achieve the target set by the present Kosi Project first? Now, let us have a look at the claim for producing 3300 Megawatts of power. Kataiya Hydro-power station is designed for producing 20 megawatts of power and how much it generates? What guarantee is there that the Barahkshetra Dam will not suffer the same fate?
If the dam is to be built, the decision should come from Nepal as the site is located on her soil. Their villages are located there and we have no right over that land but our deputy Minister of Water Resources at the Center issued a statement in 2004 that the government has sanctioned the dam in Nepal and has allocated Rs. 29 crore for the purpose. How a dam that is likely to cost Rs. 47,000 crores can be built in Rs. 29 crores? Actually, this sanction was only for making the detailed project report (DPR) over which more than 69 crores have already been spent and the DPR is not yet ready because the offices were closed in Nepal following public resistance. Bombs used to explode in those offices and the engineers had left those offices long back.
River linking also is on the cards and this scheme is not likely to be completed without the help of Nepal. But Nepal has not been officially told about our proposed venture. We will have to expose the canard that is spread by officials and politicians in the name of development. We will also have to set the limits of the framework within which a particular technology is effective. When the embankment breached at Kusaha, it took ten day for the government to reach there. Society faced the calamity alone and people died in hundreds. Engineers and politicians take us to a level of destruction and then leave us alone there to face the music. They make embankments and dams for our benefit. The embankment at Kusaha must not have been taller than 20 feet and the breach there took so many things and lives along with it. Same people will build 880 feet high dam at Barahkshetra on the Kosi about which Anugrah Narayan Sinha has said in Bihar Vidhan Sabha that the government was concerned with the welfare of the people living downstream and hence will not build this dam. Is that concern for the people being compromised now? The breach at Kusaha points towards lack of such concerns.
Then there is the question of the people living on the riverside and the countryside of the embankment. Embankment draws a line between the two. While playing Kabaddi, we draw a line between the two contending parties and the interests of the two parties work in opposite directions. This is what happens incase of the embankments too. Those living within the embankments want the embankments to be demolished or else they should be rehabilitated at some safer places. Those on the countryside want the embankments to be raised and strengthened so that they do not breach and they also call those living within the embankments as relief seekers. Kabaddi is being played there for a long time and it becomes very easy for the politician to tell the contending parties to sit down and decide what the government should be doing. He knows fully well that the two parties will never reach a conclusion. Let the parties go to hell but the politician will wade through his crisis. Our Deputy Chief Minister, when he was in opposition, used to visit the villages within embankments and promise the residents so many things. He never came to the area after coming to power.
I used to communicate often with late Parameshwar Kunwar. He often used to say that the embankment should be done away with and if the river wanted to go to Purnea, let it go there. Otherwise also, it will go to Purnea one day, he used to say and the river did go to Purnea last year. Kunwar Ji is no more with us but the river kept his words. He used to say that the embankments should be removed but he amended his statement in 1984 that the embankments should be removed but in summer and in full length at a time so that disaster is averted. He was moved by the suffering of the people after the Navhatta breach. He maintained that this was the way to avert disaster as the river would spread slowly all over.
The problem is to explain these facts to the government and its officials. The fact remains that even a peon on work charge is more powerful than a Nobel laureate outside the establishment because the peon's voice is heard. The politicians know very well how to give a slip when caught in debate. I have had an opportunity to discuss these issues with some ministers, they accept that whatever is happening is not right but they do not listen to alternatives. If surrounded from all sides by dissenting voices, they become very humble and say that when thinkers like you have started taking interest in the issue, the solution is bound to come. They satisfy your ego and leave the place on the plea of some other meeting.
There was a meeting in Samastipur to discuss the flood issue there in 1956. An engineer suggested that if two hills are constructed, one along the east coast of India in the Bay of Bengal and the other in the Vindhya region, then the winds coming from both the directions would get intercepted and there would be no rains and hence no flooding of the plains. There will not be any rains and hence there will be no losses due to floods. This dolt did not know what he was saying. Fortunately, there was no politician who could say that the suggestions was unique and invited the engineer for detailed discussion and implementation of his scheme.
Similar is the logic of interlinking of rivers. They have spotted a girl named Cauvery in south and a groom for her in the northeast, the Brahmaputra, in Assam. They want the marriage to be solemnized. The estimated expenses will be to the tune of Rs. 5,60,000 crores. Every concerned person in a marriage gets some gift or the other. If the consultants and evaluators get a fee of about six percent, there share comes to about Rs. 30,000 crores. This much of money is enough to buy the intellectuals of the country because the offerings are made when the marriage is consummated. It doesn't pay to say that the marriage is not feasible. In a marriage, the drummer, the shehnai player, the band party, the caterer, the tent house wallah, etc etc all get paid and suits them all that the marriage is performed. They do not bother what happens after the marriage is consummated. Let the bride and the groom party murder each other, they will not be bothered saying that this is a matter between husband and wife and they are matured enough to sort out the differences. He, who interferes between the two is a fool, it is said. This entire plan is a cause of concern because it is reported to be the last and final solution of the entire drought and flood problem of the country and there will not be anything left to do if this scheme is implemented. One needs to be extra cautious with such schemes. These matters should be widely discussed before any scheme is taken up.
Prof. Vidyanand Mishra
Mishraji has cleared many doubts after the speech of the Vice Chancellor. When the embankment had breached at Navhatta, local people had contributed and worked in the plugging of the breach thus gained some employment. This time the contract of plugging the breach has been awarded to a construction firm of Andhra Pradesh and that has brought to an end whatever local participation was possible in works. These issues are quite serious in nature and I hope that those present here will try to formulate strategies to deal with the situation in future.
When the breach occurred in Navhatta, I and Shivanand Ji had come to have a look at the situation. We first went to Mahishi in a boat and after seeing the situation there, we thought of running some relief program. We roamed around in villages and collected some 100 young men to assist us. Drinking water was the top priority followed by construction of bore well latrines and sprinkling of DDT to maintain some amount of cleanliness. This was the beginning stage. Then we thought that it was the government that was responsible for the breach which occurred only because the callous attitude of the officers. We decided that we will not accept relief but will demand compensation instead. By this time, many top leaders of Sarvoday like Thakur Das Bang, Siddha Raj Dhaddha and Amar Nath Bhai had joined us.
We started organizing the affected population and concentrated more on the women folk. We made intense contacts in Kahara, Navhatta, Mahishi, Simri Bakhtiyarpur and Salkhua blocks and brought all of them to cripple the administration here. All the officers advised the collector to negotiate with us but the collector refused to budge. Then we went to Patna to meet Lahtan Chaudhary. He was the Agriculture Minister of the State and Mahishi was his Vidhan Sabha constituency. He was a friend of my father but had a view that the government was doing everything; it was giving clothes, grains and cash doles to the affected population. What else was needed, he asked. We reminded him that he became a minister because of his background of Bhudan, Gramdan, Gram Swarajya and Gandhi and requested him to remember those values. We asked him not to make beggars of the flood victims. We suggested him to give Charkha to women so that they could weave cloth for their use and get some employment, create soft and hard manual scheme for income generation and compensation for the losses incurred by the people because of the breach because the embankment gave was because of carelessness of the Government. He promise that he would come to Saharsa and discuss all these issues. He did come to Saharsa but never alighted from the plane and went to Purnea. He must have been suspicious of questioning by public; the answers to many of those questions were not there with him.
We also took a padyatra from Birpur to Kopadia. This was a stretch of about 125 kilometers and gave us an opportunity to talk to those who were living within the embankments. We also noticed waterlogging in the countryside of the embankments. This laid the foundation of the Compensation movement. Indira Gandhi was killed around that time and elections were announced. We placed photos of Jay Prakash and Vinoba and offered Dharna there with a view to boycott the election saying no compensation, no votes. Siddha Raj Dhaddha had visited us around that time and we had taken him round to see dharna that we had organized. We tried our best but slowly politics crept in and the resistance got crippled.
Last year, the situation was far worse than what it was in 1984 at Navhatta. We worked there also but these incidents will keep on repeating and there is no readymade and easy solution to the problems faced by the people. This solution will have to be worked out.
The place where we live and work is in Jamui district and is a Naxal infested area. In the pats fortnight there have been major incidents there. We are trying to organize people there also but we will have to fight for our rights and that has to be a continuous process.
We are extending the discussions that started at Chandrayan amidst heavy rains yesterday. The Vice Chancellor very meticulously presented the case of the Kosi before and after the construction of the barrage. Dinesh Mishra, too, has detailed various aspects of the Kosi and has given a call for continued and prolonged struggle for justice. I was born in Madhubani but I have spent over 50 years in Saharsa attached to Sarvoday and Bhudan movements. Saharsa has always been my work place. Saharsa once comprised of what Supaul, Saharsa and Madhepura of today and some 48,000 acres of land was given in Bhudan in composite Saharsa of which 42,000 acres has already been distributed. Because of the Kosi and the embankments on it you have faced lot of difficulties and many Sarvoday workers assembled here share your miseries. Those days, there was a tremendous spirit among the workers to fight it out and the presence of Sarla Behan gave a boost to the women to come forward and join the movement. It was so easy to collect 5 to 10,000 people at a very short notice. Mishraji was also working in that area in those days but his approach was different and he was here to provide relief and help others but what he did for the area subsequently is unique. He has written extensively about the Kosi, its embankments, its history, the breaches in them, the losses, life within the embankments and so on with a rare devotion. After reading all that, it appears, that the kind of resistance that should have emerged has not emerged. Sarvoday, Gramdan and Sampoorna Kranti of Jay Prakash have four main facets - organizing, training, constructive work and struggle. The first three are desirable to attempt but the last one, the struggle, demands collectivity and we will have to come together to fight for a cause. All the jails will have to be filled. We had a slogan during the emergency, '...Kitni lambi jail tumhari, dekh liya aur dekhengein implying we are not scared of your jails, we have seen it and would also see that in future.' The situation is different today and many learned people and fighters are there with us. We should strengthen our organization and learning with their help. The governments of Bihar and Delhi have pushed us to the wall and all the doors open towards struggle alone. From my side, I can assure you that District Sarvoday Mandal, State Sarvoday Mandal and the National Sarvoday Mandal will put all its might in any struggle for justice and if we have to make sacrifices, we will not lag behind.
We came to Saharsa with a view to distribute relief or do something on the similar lines following the breach bin the embankment near Navhatta. When we started probing into the causes of the breach, we came to know that just a week before the breach, a payment of Rs. 52 lakh was made to the contractors. When we talked to the people around, they were of the view that not even 52 rupees were spent there. The department, probably, conducted an enquiry into the causes of the breach but nobody was charged or punished of dereliction of duties. Then we started the movement for asking for compensation instead of relief. At a stage, we gheraoed the district administration of Saharsa with the help of 40,000 persons and totally stalled it. The collector wanted to fire at the demonstrators and was seeking permission from the state, the Chief Minister, which he never got. Lahtan Chaudhary, however, did come to talk to us by an aero plane but seeing the number of demonstrators; he changed his mind and left for Purnea. Politics infiltrated in that movement and it fizzled out. If we had been cautious, the situation had been different. It was a mistake on our part that we allowed that to happen.
So much of hardships were faced following the breach at Kusaha and nobody was held accountable for the tragedy. A judicial enquiry is in a progress but we do not know when it will be completed. It is also not sure whether the responsibility will be fixed and the guilty punished. In 1984, be it a drama but Lahtan Chaudhary took the moral responsibility of the accident and resigned his post. This year, even that drama was not enacted. We all read about the tragedy and we read also this that the people in Saharsa, Supaul and Purnea are apprehensive of repetition of the event but nothing tangible happens on the ground. What could be the reason? Can we bring all the stray efforts on to one platform? Mishraji has told in detail how an unscientific fraud is perpetuated on the people. Embankments might have worked on the other rivers of the state but they have been quite ineffective in case of the Kosi.
Our understanding about the embankments is crazy. We had taken out a padyatra under the leadership of PV Rajgopal of Ekta Parishad, from Banailipatti, our first village adjoining Nepal till Saharsa. We were shown black flags when we reached our first camp in Birpur. The people there told us that we had taken a wrong step. The embankments must be built and repaired, they said. Now, it should be our job to explain to the people that the embankments are built to breach. This will push you into a death trap once again. There is no arrangement to intercept the sand coming into the river water and that will keep on raising the river bed level. The risk will be more in future but everybody is behaving like an ostrich. The people want relief and relief is a tool to turn people into a beggar. This is true and the only option left before us is Satyagrah. This embankment is neither useful nor scientific. It has given way eight times earlier and may breach any moment in future. Mahatma Gandhi had used the weapon of Satyagrah to defend the truth. And he used it with peaceful struggle. This will be an effective weapon to bring the government to terms. Let us organize people, collect a million people and march to Patna. The Government will be compelled to listen to you. It is not that as many people will not respond to your call. They are there but not together, they are located at different places. We will have to go to the villages and convince them. It must be understood very clearly that no outsider will fight on our behalf. He, who is suffering will have to struggle and he alone will give the leadership. Rest all others will be helping hands. Let us decide a strategy, all those who are struggling separately should come on to a common platform and work unitedly. Let us make a strong coordination committee and show our strength to the Government before the next monsoon season.
Dev Narayan Yadav (Raj Biraj-Nepal)
The Kosi has breached its embankment eight times and this incident has occurred thrice in Nepal. I am a resident of the village Dalwa where the embankment had breached for the first time in 1963. I was a child then. I vaguely remember the erosion, relief operations and the hardships faced by all of us there. I have been keeping a watch on the Kusaha point since May 2008. When the embankment breached in Navhatta in 1984, it was repaired along the provisions of the Kosi treaty between the two countries. That treaty governs all the activities on the Kosi. The Kosi Barrage unit is manned by Bihar engineers and they tell that all their work is based on the recommendations of the research laboratory at Pune. Whether the gates of the barrage are to be opened or closed etc is all directed by that laboratory. If a solution to any problem is to be found out, that also is done according to the instructions of Pune or Delhi. Bihar engineers only comply with what they are directed from these two places. As the breach occurred in Navhatta, in 1984, most of the river water was passing close to the eastern embankment. The eastern embankment was protected and lot of crates and stones were dumped there and all the spurs were repaired and extended. This pushed all the waters towards the west and the embankment at Joginia was eroded in 1991. Many villages were given notice for vacating then and about 10-12 villages of Nepal that were located close by to Joginia were vacated. The real danger, however, was in the villages of Madhubani district in India up to Jhanjharpur. It was the good luck of all of us that the river receded after eroding the embankment. Weather conditions were also favorable and there was no rain. What followed next there was that those displaced due the construction were not rehabilitated till date. The people on whose land the retired line was constructed were given compensation but all others who were living on the Government land were totally uprooted. They were poor, landless and Dalits. They were forced to live along the canal.
When we raise the issue of rehabilitation of the people uprooted from Dalwa or Joginia, our government says that India has not paid the amount due for rehabilitating these people. Unless that money is given to Nepal these people will not get anything, we are told. There are many committees constituted between India and Nepal to discuss water / flood/ embankments etc but issues related to erosion and rehabilitation are never discussed there.
The incident at Kusaha is fresh In the memory. The Kosi was doing its work but nobody knows what the department was doing all these days. This is a controversial matter. I was once talking to an engineer of the Kosi Project. When the embankment was getting eroded, they all had left the site and were watching the proceedings as strangers. Promotion or demotion was the hot issue that time in the project. Upgrading a junior engineer, demoting a senior and transferring some was what was going on there, protection of the embankment was not on the agenda. That the embankment was threatened was known much before 5th August. The media was active but the project authorities were, probably, convinced that the embankment would not breach. Their carelessness was the main reason behind the breach.
The Government of India maintains that the dam at Barahkshetra will be built but the signals that the Government of Bihar gives suggest that Nepal is responsible for the floods there and it is Nepal that releases water. If Nepal is releasing water, why do you want to build the dam there? The fact is that the water is release by Bihar and its engineers perform that job. There are three treaties between India and Nepal related to water. These are about the Kosi, Gandak and the Mahakali and are monitored by India. If we need water, we need to take permission from India. Indo-Nepal Friendship Organization wants that concerned people and intelligentsia of the two countries sit together and discuss the issue of common concerns and become a voice to be heard. Should that happen, we will extend all the cooperation.
Dev Kumar Singh
I am a resident of a village within the Kosi embankments. It is essential to look at the problem in two parts. One for those living within the embankments along with those living outside the embankments facing acute waterlogging within a distance of three kilometers' from the embankments. There are 380 villages within the embankments with a population of about a million. The flood waters of the Kosi passes over these villages every year and every year Kusaha is enacted there. Nobody bothers about the ratchet conditions that we live in there. We are thankful to Mishraji that he wrote extensively about our conditions in his book, 'Dui Paatan Ke Beech Mein' that the outside world has started knowing something about us. When the breach at Kusaha occurred, the whole world assembled there to help the victims but nobody has sympathies with us. No government, no NGO or no organization like Sarvoday comes there to help us. Our citizenship of this country is threatened. I do not know whether I am also a citizen of this country. The victims of Kusaha breach were given relief, financial help for removing sand from their fields and there are plans for building houses for them? Are those living within the embankments not entitled for these things? If they are victims of flooding by what logic we are not? The land for which we pay the cess automatically becomes Government land after it gets eroded and it starts settling that land. It is our land but the Government becomes the owner. All promises made to us after the construction of the embankment were fake. There is no school, no college, no health service, no transport, no entertainment for us and nobody is bothered about it.
There was flood this year also in our villages and somebody came to us to give some polythene sheets. This might be left over of last year's Kusaha stock. We approached the district administration to run a relief program in our villages only to be told that no relief is possible because model code of conduct is in force because of bye-elections. We demonstrated before the collector for relief but his version was the same. We asked him if he had told the river not to flood the villages as model code of conduct was in force. He had no answer but that was of no use to us. We never get relief but this time the law came to the rescue of the administration. The electoral constituencies have been so carefully reorganized now that nobody from within the embankments can become an MLA or an MP and an outsider will never have any interest in our problems. There is little possibility for us to send anybody to legislature. A bridge is being constructed near Bhaptiahi by the Rails and Railways Department. They are building a guide bandh for the same and that is objected to by us so that our villages within the embankments are not adversely impacted by the construction. I talked to the concerned authorities and they paid no heed to it. Then I talked to the collector and he was convinced of what I told him and he wrote to the bridge authorities expressing his concern. There was no action and we stopped the work on the bridge site. I have been told that the bridge authorities have written to the higher ups that the work is being held up because of us and the delays would result in financial losses. They have recommended legal action against us. If that happens then I will go on a fast unto death. Our struggle will intensify after the rainy season is over.
Our problems are different and should be discussed separately. Linking it to the general flood problem of Bihar will be diluting the issues facing us. We have sympathies with the victims of the breach at Kusaha. Some 500 houses belonging to the families of Saraigarh-Bhaptiahi and Kishanpur blocks were gnawed by the Kosi this year but does anybody know that this has happened? Is anybody sympathetic to our cause also?
Awadh Nandan Yadav
When the embankments on the Kosi were built, those living outside the embankments became complacent that they are out of any danger now. Was this true? In 1968, there was a flow of 9,13,000 cusecs in the river and the government on its part made the water to flow within the embankments giving a choice to the people that they could move to some safer place if they wanted to or, else, they were free to die within the embankments. The people suffered immensely but did not die. Last year, only one and half lakh cusecs of water spilled out of the river and that killed people in hundreds, debased millions and snatched the employment of as many. They were all people from the so-called protected area. The bed level of the river was nearly 15 to 20 feet deeper than what it is today when the embankment was built. It is the job of those living outside the embankment to ponder over what will happen to them if the river discharge touches the figure of 9,00,000 cusecs? It is beyond the capacity of the embankments to hold that much of flow. My sincere advice to those who are celebrating the plugging of the breach at Kusaha is that they better think of their future. The silt contained in the river flow used to spread over a vast area but the government has now created a 125 kilometer long hill within the embankments. Who will hold that hilly river in its place?
We are talking about the floods of 1984. The situation that the river created in the protected countryside of the eastern embankment that year is our fate of those living within the embankments all these years. I can well imagine what had happened to the people faced with the breach at Kusaha. No media person, no social worker and no politician visit our area. The government does not recognize that we are in trouble and it does not realize our agony. It does not treat as flood affected persons either. Our folks are compelled to migrate in search of employment along with their families. Those living within the embankments oppose the embankments but the ones facing waterlogging outside the embankments are never that vocal. There is conflict of interests among the sufferers also. Last year, when those living inside the embankments started opposing the plugging of the breach, those outside the embankments resorted to dharna and demonstration against them. I have a feeling that we will have to search for a solution accepting the existence of the embankments otherwise we will keep quarrelling among ourselves.
An authority was constituted in 1987 to look into the well being of those living inside the embankments but that is a non-functional body. Before getting elected to the Bihar Vidhan Sabha, Kishore Kumar Munna came to our area once. Fortunately, he is present here in this meeting and that leads us to believe that he will raise the points in the Vidhan Sabha that we are making here. What should we do when the schools do not function in our area, the Mukhia does no work there and the government officials do not visit the area at all? It is not true that the upper caste people have harassed the lower cast people there. The fact remains that those who could get an opportunity be it because of education or otherwise, left the place irrespective of his caste. I am also living in Saharsa for the past four years. I am not aware whether my land within the embankments is in its place or has it been eroded? I also do not know if it is being tilled by someone else. It is rumored that the land will be settled in the name of the tiller. Some of my land was eroded a few years ago. The Amin transferred the ownership to Government of Bihar. When the land re-emerged, he got it settled from back door in the name of someone else. Now, papers of that land is with me but the possession of the land is with the other. There may be many cases like this. If the former owners of the land go within the embankments, they will naturally pick up quarrels with the new owner. The situation is going to be fearsome in days to come.
Vijay Kumar (Bhagalpur)
I have been working in the Ganga basin since 1982 and had not much relationship with the Kosi. There was an embankment built in our area at a cost of Rs. 45 crores and this was located between the Kosi and the Ganga and had breached a few years ago. That was for the first time that I got so near to the Kosi. We came to know later that the embankment was cut by the local people. I had only that background before the breach at Kusaha. The Kusaha breach took place on the 18th August and I came to this area on the 22nd August. After reaching Saharsa I came to know that there was no government here, no NGOs and corporations here but the people of Saharsa were here. I asked many if the workers of the political parties have been active here. There was no answer. I then contacted the teachers of Saharsa College. I came to the Kosi to develop my understanding about the river but this turned out to be wonderland for me and I am unable to get out from here even after a year. I am in job and teach Gandhian philosophy, Gandhian literature and Gandhian thoughts in Bhagalpur. My background prevents me from leaving the place. I have seen the society and without imagining the role of the society, it is not possible to find a solution to the Kosi Problem. I do not know when we start talking about the Kosi, why do we get stuck at the embankments? The place where I live is located at a height of 45 feet above sea level and Birpur is located at a height of 143 feet. If the water starts gushing from that height it would, obviously, be causing immense damages in the lower areas. To find a solution to this problem, I started reading the books of Dinesh Mishra. I did not get a clue. We can split the Kosi area into four different blocks. First is the population living within the Kosi embankments from Birpur to Kopadia, the second is the population living east of the Kosi embankments, the third being the west of the western embankment of the Kosi and the fourth is the population located between Kopadia to Kursela.
I would like to tell Mishraji and elderly people with him that they might have done so many things but they haven't; done anything for the people living below Kopadia. They were stuck with the embankments and did not know how to get away from there. There is a way - it needs to open up the dialogue a bit. All the four segments have been devastated, but you failed to raise the demands for their reconstruction. This demand of reconstruction should have been made for those living within the embankments, and also for those living outside them from Birpur to Kopadia and up to Kursela. This was not raised till date. Is there any way other than Satyagrah? If it is not, then I have full endorsement for Satyagrah. We must have placed the demand for reconstruction before those who make plans and those who claim to be the government that it was because of their skewed policies the area has suffered immensely.
The Central Government got away by declaring the floods as national calamity and the state government got away by making promises for a beautiful Kosi. The bed level of the river has risen by 18 feet. We should make houses there that are 24 feet high from the original level and in the form of stilted structure. We will have to give them a solid alternative. The responses of the Government remains the same, whether it is at Delhi or at Patna. We have a background experience of 34 years of Bihar Movement and I can say on the basis of it that unless all those subscribing to those views come together, we cannot form that government and that opposition that would solve the problems of the people. The same thing is said by my other intellectual friends too. I tell the same thing to my students. The other important thing that I want to share with you is that there is an infinite mineral wealth buried under the land of 22 districts of north Bihar and foreign powers have fixed their eyes firmly on' this wealth. There is oil, gold and silver, everything there. But the multinational companies are well aware after the incidents of Nandigram that it is no more possible to drive away people from a mineral rich area. They want to create situations that life becomes impossible for the people in such areas and they move away from those places on their own. Kusaha's incident is not natural; it is an outcome of such greed. I guess that nearly 12 lakhs people have fled from the Kosi area and this was a conspiracy of the central and state governments. One of them caused the breach and the other opened up the railways to flee the area.
Let us resolve today to strengthen our movement against these forces. There is a need to have a check on them.
Whether it is the incident of 1984 or the one of 2008 at Kusaha, it is certain that none of these incidents were natural. We all understand, they were man made. It is also a fact that backward castes were given a raw deal by being forced to live within the embankments. The third thing is a suggestion that is the Kosi water could be led to three streams namely the Sursar, the Genra and the Kosi; its pressure will be reduced greatly. When the river water gets distributed in many channels, its eroding capacity will come down and so will be the extent of waterlogging.
Ram Pukar Singh ‘Gopal’
Having listened to Mishraji, one thing is certain that after spending so much of money, we have not reached anywhere. I am basically a Congressman and after the embankment breached at Navhatta in 1984, I wrote to the government to call a meeting of all the MPs and MLAs of the area to discuss the issue and then work out a plan for the future. When there was no response from the government, I organized a seminar myself and invited all the MPs, MLAs and the engineers. Nobody turned up. Probably, they did not have the courage to face the audience and answer to their queries. The problem is who should be blamed for the debacle? Is it one who misleads the people or the public that creates those who mislead it and then get cursed to tolerate them?
Ram Deo Sharma
The embankments of the Kosi have breathed eight time and they will also breach in future is a certainty. A committee under the chairmanship of justice Walia is looking into the causes of the Kusaha breach, the reasons of it will be known only after the report is ready. The embankments are made of sand as that was the material available locally. That this sand wall cannot withstand of the Kosi, we all know. A national debate is needed over the issue but we are not sure about the competence of Bihar politicians. I cannot understand the logic of embanking a river that a river that had a spread of about 150 kilometers and was flowing through 15 channels. Even when that was done, the people trapped inside the two embankments were not properly rehabilitated. Those days, mostly the upper caste people were in power and a large number of them managed to stay outside the embankment. The alignment of the embankment was changes to suit their requirements but the poor and the backwards remained inside.
When the embankments were not there, the life everywhere was normal. The flood used to last for not more than two to two and half days. It used to recede with the beating of drums of the Durga Puja. The flood now bothers us for over two and half to three months and those living outside the embankments face waterlogging round the year. To make situation worse for us the embankments are now being raised and strengthened. The government ought to have improved the drainage system so that water could have drained out easily and quickly.
Kishore Kumar Munna
You are discussing the Kosi issue with so much of information here is amazing and I wish success to your efforts. In fact, I do not have the proper understanding of the matter that I will be able to suggest you any solution but I am hopeful that if you can diagnose the problem correctly, that will be a major step in the direction of finding a solution.
The problems of the Kosi and its embankments is not a new thing. When the embankment was being constructed under the auspicious of Bharat Sevak Samaj, veteran fighters like Parameshwar Kunwar had opposed its construction tooth and nail and had held the fort for a long time. Unfortunately, there was no taker in the government of what he was saying. He was sent to jail many times for his commitment to the cause. Building embankments on the Kosi had its own arithmetic. The people living outside the embankment had to be provided with flood protection and the price of it had to be paid by those living inside the embankments. The way the people living inside the embankments had to be rehabilitated, that was not done. They were kept in dark and injustice was meted to them. Innumerable number of committees were formed and a Development Authority was also constituted. Nothing followed on ground. I must say here that there are people of all casts and creeds within the embankment and I do not think that there is any dispute on that count.
The government tried to brush aside the Kusaha breach incident initially calling it a minor event. I am not sure how many people died in the floods that ensued after the breach at Navhatta but official records following the breach at Kusaha indicate that 527 persons have died in that flood with nearly 3740 persons are missing. If so many people have died and so many missing, this is not a minor incident by any standard. The government website suggests that 3,46,000 houses were destroyed in that flood. The question arises then that where did the people who did not go to relief camps go?
The engineers of the state are also not sure what if the floods repeat themselves. Their concern about the safety and security of the embankments are as deep as we are discussing here. Their only problem is that they cannot put forth their views with such an ease with which we are expressing ourselves here. The only achievement of the 21st Century so far has been that we have learnt how to backtrack truth. Gandhiji had worked relentlessly in the 20th Century to let the truth prevail. Shying away from truth is now the operational mantra of all the religions; sects and parties. No one is above this.
When the embankment breached at Navhatta, no commission was appointed to go into the causes of the breach. This has been appointed this time. It was suggested that the report of the commission will be available within six months and it is likely to take time. By the time the report is made available, the story will get old. Similarly, a controversial report on land reforms has come recently prepared by Bannerji Commission. If we implement the findings of the report as it is, there will be turmoil in the state and as fighting will ensue in every village. There will not be less trouble even if the recommendations of the report are not enforced. We have to wait and watch. The government and all the political parties are busy at the moment in bye elections. There are 12,000 court orders on which the government has not acted so far. In many cases, contempt of the court proceedings are also on. It is a customary to institute an enquiry if an accident occurs somewhere but how far the government remains serious about the findings of such an enquiry becomes a matter of controversy. When the embankment had breached in Navhatta in 1984, Lahtan Chaudhary at least accepted the moral responsibility of the breach and resigned his post. This might have been just a formality but even that formality was not observed in case of Kusaha. All of them are glued to their chairs.
I was in Mumbai the day the embankment at Kusaha had breached. I saw the news on TV and left immediately for Supaul. I think I was the first public representative to have reached Supaul after the breach. The Government was saying that it had problems repairing the embankments because of Maoists. But didn't you have one whole year to keep the embankment in good state of repairs and why did you not write to the Liaison Officer in Nepal about these difficulties? Why there were delays and irregularities committed in paying the salary of the Liaison Officer?
The kind of photographs that we had seen of the partition of India in 1947, the same situation was repeated after the embankment breached at Kusaha when people were leaving their homes and hearths with whatever materials they could salvage from the sinking house. We need to remember all that we have suffered and struggle that it is not repeated in future. Please keep raising voices against injustice and I am available for any help.
Dinesh Kumar Mishra
He said he was thankful to what Kishore. Ji had said and Added that, '...We will be grateful if he could raise two points in the Vidhan Sabha. Please try to get a new district carved out that extends from Basantpur to Kopadia and beyond through the flow route of the Kosi with la district HQ near Parsauni and Gopalpur Sire, west of Supaul. Should that happen, there will be collector and SP sitting in that place and that will be the time when the administration will realize the difficulties faced by the people living within the embankments.
My second suggestion will be to merge the Departments of Water Resources and Disaster. Management failing which it must be ensured that the ministers of both these departments are present together in any meeting. The main reason for disasters in Bihar is related to water. A slight deficiency in rains causes drought in the state while a slight excess of water brings floods in the state. In a way, the Water Resources Department creates employment for the Disaster Management Department. Lack of coordination between the two departments is the main cause of disaster in the state.
The third suggestion would be that we have many positive suggestions to make; to the Government but that is ignored on the plea that this is being said be an environmentalist and they are used to say like that and then the suggestions are consigned to the dustbin. This trend should be changed.'
Prof. Vidyanand Mishra
Many issues have come up in these discussions of two days. Waterlogging is one such issue and impedance to flow of water should be checked as far as possible. There is a question of livelihood rehabilitation of the people living within the embankments and we must keep on working over the issue. The new bridges that are likely to come up, be it the one in Bhaptiahi or that in Baluaha, will ease the transportation but at the same time create problems for a sizable number of people. We should try to sensitize the government of the genuine problems of the people. Those living within the embankments have suffered for a long time and it is unlikely that their lot could be improved without continued struggle. Those living outside the embankments are at a greater risk and they must take cognizance of the imminent danger on them. They should join hands with those living within the embankments and try to reach some conclusion. We will have to decide our course on the water logging issue and will be in touch with you all.
The meeting ended with a vote of thanks by Anwar Azad.
बाढ़ मुक्ति अभियान के छठें प्रतिनिधि सम्मेलन की रपट
(इस पुस्तक के अन्य अध्यायों को पढ़ने के लिये कृपया आलेख के लिंक पर क्लिक करें।)