Assam floods or ‘disaster festival’ for some super heavyweights?

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Why not journos prepare scripts on Assam floods in future years?

By: Tahind Rahanee

Revolutionary poet PB Shelly wrote: “If winter is on/Can spring be far behind?” Spring is the season of rejuvenation of nature while winter signifies lifelessness. It is in spring that nature regains life, marked by sprouting of green leaves and chirping of birds. The same pattern is more or less followed year after year. The spring this year was not much different from the spring that we witnessed last year or 10 years ago subject to climatic changes like global warming. Accordingly, we may certainly expect a spring of same nature next year or the years after that.

So far as floods in Assam are concerned, they are an annual event which bring in their wake devastation, disaster and death, both of human beings, livestock as well as wildlife laced with the economy, particularly the rural economy, in a shambles. As spring follows the same pattern, so also floods in Assam have their own pattern which is, as a rule, is marked by nature letting loose its fury leaving crores with no option other than bearing with all devastation and misery. While in normal course life-giving spring follows lifeless winter, in Assam spring is followed by another ‘winter’ which is marked by life-taking flood, disaster and devastation.

What has been witnessed during the two waves of flood this year, was also seen last year seemingly on a slightly lesser scale and likewise ten years ago the intensity and the disaster caused by floods was still lesser. As decades rolled by, the damage caused by this annual event, may be termed as annual ‘disaster festival’ for some bigwigs, has been on the rise on a galloping mode.

Over the decades lakhs or crores of rupees have seemingly gone down the drain in the name of ‘flood control’ and ‘erosion control’. One only wonders where all that money has disappeared. One may not overlook that floods in Assam are a big budget and lucrative issue at the level the Dispur God-fathers who call the shots. The outcome being burgeoning floods with accelerating momentum and disaster in geometric progression year after year. To put it in straight terms, the floods would be more in terms of quantum and devastation this year than that of last year and the same next year would be more devastating than this year. In one word, there is no mechanism in the state, courtesy Dispur that can control flood. No matter how boisterous and bombastic a statement the Dispur God-fathers make, at the end of the day it is the sun that controls flood and erosion in Assam.

Accordingly, with ‘flood control’ and ‘erosion control’ in Assam having been reduced to a crude, cruel, inhuman, political and bureaucratic joke played on the teeming crores, such terms may be branded as savage misnomers.

The question arises as to what has the state government done over the last seven decades to control flood in Assam. When in 1950 the ruling party in China liberated the dragon country, the Huang He or the Yellow river was called ‘China’s sorrow’ because of the annual flood devastation caused by the river. However, within about a decade, flood in the Yellow river was fully brought under control and the same river came to be referred to as ‘China’s joy’. Why can’t we transform the Brahmaputra into a ‘joy’ of not only Assam but of the whole of India?

Obviously, that brings one to the issue as to why we have failed. During the first three decades or so of our independence, no serious effort was seemingly made in respect of flood control. From about the eighties, the multi-headed hydra called corruption began making entry into the administration in a hugely noticeable way. With the passage of time the hydra began growing menacingly accompanied by mushroom growth of many more venomous heads. Today, the notion of “money matter works better” has become a way of life with kleptocracy (rule by theft) having become the order of the day.

Despite all high-voltage rhetoric by the powers that be in Dispur and Delhi, the bitter reality is that constructive work and corruption cannot go hand in hand for the simple reason that corruption eats into the vitals of a project and siphons off the fund like a massive suction pump at work. Hence the project starts rotting from within marked by sub-standard work. Finally, in no time after the project is completed, it collapses. .

The flood control division seems to follow the same pattern. Countless number of embankments get breached in the course of a single flood wave in Assam, bringing in its wake untold disaster, devastation and misery among the folks. May one ask if the government is incapable to even build an embankment to withstand flood? In contrast, some of the embankments made by the British some 70 to 100 years ago are partly or nearly fully in place in Assam, needing just repair of damaged portions of embankments. Sadly enough, even in that respect we seem to have failed.

Today, headlines like ‘Flood situation deteriorates’, ‘Flood death toll rises’, ‘Over a thousand villages affected by flood’ etc hit the headlines. The media flashed same or similar headlines last year also and in the years earlier. The same headlines will appear next year also and in almost certainly in all future years. The only difference would be in the number of districts, villages, people hit by flood, the death toll, property loss, total land area lost due to erosion etc. Hence, for future, a smart journalist can certainly prepare several drafts on flood with blank space in between to be filled up according to inputs received over phone from his/her sources in flood areas to prepare the final news script.

Over the years, floods in Assam sans any control despite being laced with heavy and lucrative fund status, is the greatest curse for the people, mainly of the rural belts of the state. But who cares? This is the period for the Dispur Sultans in their air-conditioned chambers to burn mid-night oil and transform themselves into master accountants to work out eye-catching budgets on flood and erosion control and also work out plans to execute the same. While one may not see much of execution on the ground, file execution is always perfect. For sure, there may not be any room left to wonder as to why no river in Assam can be transformed into a river of joy. Likewise, from the journalistic point of view, news on floods in Assam may be treated under a category termed as ‘no news’ section as there is nothing new in such news.

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