Why Northeast floods fall off the radar once again as Mumbai rains hog the limelight
Guwahati, June 29: The floods are an annual ritual in the Northeast India. Miles away from the "mainland" India, if (by mistake) the Northeast ever gets a mention in the national media, people in this part of the country celebrate--they get reassured that they do exist for the rest of the country.
Sadly, most often the region's seven states (now eight) are discussed by policy makers, authorities and journalists in Delhi if ever there is a militancy attack, a natural disaster or an election. Otherwise, there is nothing much to talk about if there is no "turmoil" in the region.
Even the deadly floods in the Northeast don't get a mention in the national media, while rains in Mumbai get constant attention from one and all. Every monsoon, the floods affect almost all the parts of the region for several weeks causing death and destruction in its wake.
To compare the Northeast flood with the Mumbai flood is in no way an attempt to dismiss the sufferings of Mumbaikars as heavy rains in the last few days have caused massive waterlogging in various parts of the city. At least, five people have died due to heavy showers in India's commercial capital since last week.
Every bit of weather information about Mumbai is religiously shared by the media and social media. But try to get any updates on the Northeast floods; there would be hardly any reference in newspapers, television channels and Twitter.
Now, if statistics are to be compared, so far, floods in Assam have killed 31 people and left thousands homeless. Similarly, floods in Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram have also rendered thousands homeless. Several people have died in these states too due to floods and landslides.
Submerged homes and agricultural lands are a testimony to the havoc created by the monsoon rains in the region. Poor women and children taking shelter in relief camps highlight the plight of people in the rainy season.
According to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), over 68,000 people were affected by the flood in Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Biswanath, Charaideo, Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts till Wednesday. Karimganj is the worst-affected district with nearly 44,000 people hit by the current wave of flood, followed by Hailakandi with around 10,000 affected people, the ASDMA report stated. It said currently 144 villages are still inundated.
The Jia Bharali river was flowing above the danger mark at NT Road Crossing in Sonitpur district on Wednesday. The flood waters have damaged roads, embankments and other infrastructure in Biswanath and Karimganj districts.
In fact, due to the floods, Assam will not be able to meet the Supreme Court's June 30 deadline to bring out the remaining National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft.
"It's not possible to publish the remaining draft of the NRC on June 30 since the floods have affected our work in Barak Valley, West Karbi Anglong and Hojai. We lost eight to 10 working days and won't be possible to make up for the delay before June 30," NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela told reporters.
In Manipur, most of the rivers have crossed the danger mark and normal life has come to a complete standstill. Several relief camps have been set up across the state to rescue the affected people.
Massive landslides and flash floods have displaced hundreds of families from their homes in four districts of Mizoram.
Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb recently carried out an aerial survey to take stock of the flood-affected areas and announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 5 lakhs for the families of the deceased.
Earlier, while chairing the fourth meeting of the Governing Council of the NITI Aayog, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured the CMs of flood-affected Northeastern states that the Centre would provide all assistance to them to deal with the crisis.
The ministry for development of north eastern region (DoNER) on Tuesday said the Centre had so far released Rs 340 crore for flood relief in Assam.
While the governments in various states are trying their best to provide relief and rescue measures, the fury of nature is too huge to mitigate the problems of the flood victims.
Experts in the region say the lackadaisical attitude of the governments in various states is the reason behind the never-ending problem of floods. "There is no infrastructure to fight the havoc of floods in the region. Every year, floods hit the region and every time all the states fail to reduce human casualties and destruction. Unless and until, a proper flood-fighting measure is not prepared the crisis won't be solved," said a Guwahati-based environmentalist, who did not wish to be named.
He added that blaming the Centre or the national media for the problems of the Northeast won't solve anything. "The local politicians have to be serious to provide timely relief and rescue measures to the flood-affected people."
While many in the region whine about the apathy of the Centre and the national media towards the Northeast floods, even the CMs of the region hardly speak about the annual disaster.
The last time Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal tweeted about the floods was on June 24.
Visited the flood relief camp at Silchar Govt HS School. Interacted with the flood affected people and took stock of conditions. The Government is doing its best to provide prompt relief to those affected by floods. pic.twitter.com/DNG1YH2uqH— Sarbananda Sonowal (@sarbanandsonwal) June 24, 2018
Similarly, the Tripura CM's last tweet on the floods was posted on June 18.
It is true tweeting about the floods won't solve the problem. But when the crisis is hardly known to the rest of the nation, it becomes pertinent for the heads of the states to constantly highlight the plight of the people in the region due to floods to make it a national conversation like Mumbai rains.