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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 38

Letter to the PM on Flood Catastrophe in North Bihar

by concerned citizens

Wednesday 10 September 2008

Respected Pradhan Mantriji,

We, the undersigned citizens of India, write this letter to you with deep anguish over the catastrophic floods in North Bihar, and the resulting human tragedy, and dehumanising consequences. It is a matter of deep sorrow that despite our growing economic wealth, traditional culture of hospitality and huge army, “rising India” stands virtually a mute spectator while the lives of about three million people hang in balance. Despite all the rescue operations mounted and relief measures provided during the last two weeks, we have not been able to rescue even one-tenth of the stranded people. There are hundreds of villages where lakhs of stranded people are surviving on rooftops and treetops for the last two weeks without any food or drinking water. The spectre of water-borne diseases and epidemics looms over the flood–hit districts.

We appreciate your promptness in declaring the current Kosi floods as a national calamity and accepting the request of the Chief Minister of Bihar for an ad hoc grant of Rs 1000 crores; the numbers of rescue boats, motor-boats and helicopters are still very inadequate and cannot cope with a tragedy of this scale.

We demand that the rescue and relief operations be launched on a war footing. We could do better than sending Army personnel by road and drinking water by train after two weeks of the floods . For this, the entire relief and rescue operations must be handed over to the Army under a single operational command at an appropriate level.

At least one division of the Army and one squad of the Air Force must be immediately deployed in the worst-hit districts of Supaul, Saharsa, Araria, Madhepura , Katihar and Purnia. The Purnia Air Force base is in perfect condition and relief materials can safely reach there by cargo planes.

To prevent outbreak of epidemics, adequate medical and para-medical personnel must be immediately requisitioned from all over Bihar and also from the neighbouring States. International Aid agencies like the WHO, UNICEF and Red Cross should be actively involved in the relief operations and Sulabh International should be requested to construct at least one lakh temporary toilets around relief camps.

Since this is not a normal flood and a large number of people have lost everything and have nothing to fall back upon, we need long-term relief camps and allied infrastructure. We believe that the Indian economy is strong and resilient enough to look after the flood victims of Bihar with the compassion they deserve.

We are writing this letter in good faith and hope that both the Central Government and Bihar Government would take it in the right spirit.

Sincerely,

Signatories

Kuldip Nayar, Journalist and Human Rights Activist; Prof Rajni Kothari, Political Scientist and Founder of CSDS; Prof N S Ramaswamy, Padma Bhushan, National Professor of Management, Founder Director, IIM-Bangalore and NIITE, Mumbai; Dr Nitin Desai, Former Under Secretary General, United Nations, currently Distinguished Fellow, TERI; Justice Rajindar Sachar, Ex-Chief Justice, Delhi High Court; Prabhash Joshi, Journalist; Prof Ashis Nandy, Social Scientist, CSDS, National Fellow, ICSSR; Dr Ashok Khosla, Environmentalist, Chairperson, Development Alternatives; Swami Agnivesh, Social Activist; Radha Behan Bhatt, Chairperson, Gandhi Peace Foundation; Aruna Roy, MKSS, Magsaysay Awardee, RTI Activist; Arvind Kejariwal, Magsaysay Awardee, RTI Activist; Rajendra Singh, Magsaysay Awardee, Water Activist; Sukhdev Paswan, MP, Lok Sabha, Araria, Bihar; Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra, Barh Mukti Andolan, Bihar; Prof P S Ramakrishnan, Professor Emeritus (Ecology), JNU; Prof A. Vaidyanathan, Chairperson, MIDS, Chennai, Ex Member, Planning Commission; Prashant Bhushan, Lawyer, Supreme Court; Dr N Bhaskar Rao, Director, Centre for Media Studies; Dunu Roy, Hazard Centre, Activist; Harsh Mander, Human Rights Activist; Anupam Mishra, Water Philosopher, Gandhi Peace Foundation; Prem Shankar Jha, Journalist; Harsh Sethi, Consulting Editor, Seminar; Dr Prodipto Roy, Council for Social Development (CSD); Prof Manoranjan Mohanty, Council for Social Development; Prof Arun Kumar, Professor of Economics, JNU; Prof Anand Kumar, JNU, Convenor, Lokshakti Abhiyan; Dr Mohan Guruswamy, Former Adviser to the Finance Minister; Dr R. K. Srivastava, Senior Fellow, CSDS; Vijay Pratap, Convenor and Founder Member, Lokayan; Dr Devinder Sharma, Food Policy Analyst; Prof Smitu Kothari, Professor, Princeton University and Director,Intercultural Resources; Miloon Kothari, Former Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, UN Human Rights Council; Dr Apoorva Nand, Professor of Hindi Literature, DU; Nikhil Dey, MKSS, RTI Activist; Amit Sengupta, Editor incharge, HardNews; Surinder Kumar, Secretary, Gandhi Peace Foundation; Dr Soosai Arokiasamy, Vidyajyoti, Delhi; Prof. John Chathanatt, Vidyajyoti; Dr Ashutosh Kumar, Professor of Indian Politics , Panjab University; Dr M.N. Thakur, Professor, Political Science-JNU; Pankaj Kumar, Social Activist; Dr Arvind Mishra, Professor of Education, JNU; Dr Amit Prakash, Professor of Law and Governance, JNU; Dr Ajay Kumar, Professor of Adult Education; Prof Pralay Kanoongo, Professor of Political Science, JNU; Dr Ajay Gudawarty, Professor of Political Science, JNU; Alok Shrivastava, Research Director,Centre for Media Studies.

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