Patna: Villagers in India’s Bihar state have been standing in knee-deep water for the past fortnight, in a protest to demand a permanent solution to the recurring problem of floods in their area.
The protest, which has led to infections among some of the villagers, is going on in Gopalganj.
The area is the home district of three former chief ministers — Lalu Prasad, his wife Rabri Devi and Abdul Ghafoor.
The trio ruled Bihar for about 17 years.
Witnesses said the poor villagers, many of them women, have been standing in the swirling waters of the Gandak river for days, surviving on meagre food rations.
Initially, only four people joined the agitation but their number has crossed more than a thousand.
They are demanding the construction of an embankment and pilot channel to tame the river and save them from recurring floods.
The protesters resorted to the “water burial agitation” after local politicians and administrators failed to help them despite repeated requests.
The villagers have been standing in the water despite warnings about possible health complications.
Many of them have reported contracting infections, owing to their feet being kept constantly in the knee-deep water.
Many of them have also complained of swelling in their legs, yet they have refused to give up.
“The agitation will continue until our demands are fulfilled. Floods have been regularly destroying our homes forcing us to flee for shelter every year during rainy season but no one has taken notice of our troubles. Now it’s a do or die battle for us,” convener of the agitation Anil Kumar told journalists on Monday.
Floods have been the annual phenomenon for the state, causing massive destruction to both human lives and property.
Most of the north Bihar districts have been facing floods with the rivers originating from Nepal bring large-scale destruction.
However, the state government has now blamed Farakka barrage over river Ganga in West Bengal as the main reason behind the floods in Bihar and has sought for decommissioning of this barrage to maintain “incessant flow” of the river.
The state government put this demand last month encouraged by similar opinions expressed by scores of experts who attended an international seminar on “Incessant Ganga” organised by the state water resources department in Patna.
“Farakka is an inauspicious for Bihar, it is a curse which needs to be removed. Unless and until we remove, we can’t move forwards,” one of the experts and Magsaysay award winner Rajendra Singh was quoted as saying at this seminar.