Analysing Patna Floods of 2019: Worse than in 1975?

Analysing Patna Floods of 2019: Worse than in 1975?

“Pehle talle tak paani bhara hua tha. Khidkiyon ki madad se naav mein laaya gaya khana parivaar ko paas hota tha” – My mother recalls the devastating floods of 1975, “Ek hafte tak poori family pehle talle par hi atki hui thi”

Gone are those days when we used to play ‘gully’ cricket in Ashiyana Nagar of Patna. Still, the name of the town and the colony brings down a smile on the cheeks like every other child of Patna, living job-bound in other parts of the country. The month of October in Patna would bring joy with the smell of Gayatri dhoop and Saraswati kapoor and a special flavour in the festive season of Durga Puja. The Puja Pandals which would be worked hard upon in different parts of the city for months to bring in reminiscence especially at the Dak Bungalow Chauraha (Chowk) and the last three days of the Navratri festival would be recalled throughout the year. What happened to the city the last year? 

Comparing the flash floods in Patna this year to that of 1975 would be wrong if we compare the settings both these calamities took place in! Or should we say that these floods are far worse given the developments the state of Bihar underwent as the power shifted from Lalu Prasad Yadav to Nitish Kumar – the current Chief Minister of the state? Let’s look at the facts suggested in one of the old archives of the New York Times published in 1975, that I recently came across:

New York Times archive on 1975 Patna Floods
Source: New York Times/Sept 1975

The old archive reports:

“Devastating floods have receded from Patna, the capital of Bihar state in northeast India, leaving 17 people dead and damage estimated at more than $500‐million…At least 50 more people in Patna have died of cholera, but the final death toll is expected to be much higher. The floods were Patna’s worst in memory…More than 450 people are believed to have died in the floods…”

As this report suggests, talking about the flash flood this year, it wouldn’t wrong if we compare it to that of the 1975 floods. The question is, could this have been avoided? 

Source: ANI

Nitish Kumar – the six times Chief Minister of Bihar has often been looked down by the media over the situation in Bihar. This has again been escalated by two major incidents under his rule – one being the Encephalitis outbreak in the Motihari district and the seasonal floods in Darbhanga and other districts of North Bihar. Kumar was even seen evading situations where he was bashed by media, asking him about the flood and why necessary steps weren’t taken to handle the situation? The Chief Minister was even seen losing his cool and instead querying why the news channels weren’t paying attention to the floods in other parts of the nation and the U.S. But, this truly put the motto of ‘sushasan’ in questions. Will this even affect the Bihar Assembly Elections of 2020? 

Playback Singer Sharda Sinha, awarded with the Padmashree Award was seen stuck in her house, the first floor of which was totally immersed in the floods. None of the authorities gave a response until she Tweeted this out and a news channel came to her rescue. 

Source: Bihar Tak / Aaj Tak

The Bihar Government also saw an outburst from celebrities. Kranti Prakash Jha, a well-known actor known for his movies like M.S. Dhoni, Deswa, Mithila Makhan, and more, took to Social Media expressing his distress over waterlogging in his locality Rajendra Nagar. 

Patnabeats, a news/media company based in Patna, lead out protests in the state capital, questioning the Nitish Government with its campaign #BiharSarkarJawabDo. The movement was even supported by Kranti Prakash. 

Comparing the two scenarios, despite the shift of power from Government to Government, Bihar stills seems bogged in issues like yearly floods, an unforeseen outbreak of diseases, etc. In the scenario of 1975, on one hand, the state was undergoing a transition and hadn’t seen much development, for situations like these nobody can be blamed for the casualties. On the other hand, for the 2019 floods, which can be seen as a yearly drag, pre-preparation to handle such a scenario could have reduced the havoc. It truly pains to watch a state known for its long glory, to fall under the same circumstances every year. 

And, who is to be truly blamed? 

Abhinav Pathak

Editor and Fiction Writer based in Bangalore. Editor at The Ranchi Review.

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