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The Kosi and the Embankment Story

The Kosi afflux bundh breached in Kusaha in Nepal on 18 August 2008. This was the eighth incident of its kind and the first time did a breach occur upstream of the Kosi Barrage. The ones in 1968 and 1984 were no less disastrous but this year's breach has generated the most concern and its international dimension has added an edge. In an effective life of 45 years, the embankments have remained intact for 37 years. What happens to the people who have suffered the wrath of the river nearly five times more than those in the areas protected by the embankments?

BIHAR FLOODSEconomic & Political Weekly EPW november 15, 200847The Kosi and the Embankment StoryDinesh Kumar MishraThe Kosi afflux bundh breached in Kusaha in Nepal on 18 August 2008. This was the eighth incident of its kind and the first time did a breach occur upstream of the Kosi Barrage. The ones in 1968 and 1984 were no less disastrous but this year’s breach has generated the most concern and its international dimension has added an edge. In an effective life of 45 years, the embankments have remained intact for 37 years. What happens to the people who have suffered the wrath of the river nearly five times more than those in the areas protected by the embankments?The eastern afflux bundh of the Kosi was breached on the 18 August 2008 near Kusaha in Nepal and the emanating waters have so far (25 Septem-ber 2008) affected five districts, 114 blocks, 2,528 villages in the north Bihar. A population of 48.04 lakhs has been hit by flood that has destroyed 322,169 houses, engulfed a cropped area of 3.38 lakh hectares killing 235 people and 787 cattle. The kharif crop has been washed away and the loss of land that has gone under sand cast-ing or waterlogging is yet to be ascertained and the extent of this will be known only after the floods have receded considerably. This has been an unprecedented event as, for the first time, the embankment has breached upstream of the Kosi Barrage. The other seven breaches took place down-stream of the barrage in the years 1963, 1968, 1971, 1980, 1984, 1987 and 1991.Since the flood waters have caused this extensive damage in the concerned districts and was repeatedly suggested that the Kosi has “changed its course”, the question arises where else the water would have gone if the breach had not occurred at Kusaha and the Kosi not “changed its course”? To get an answer to this question we may have to go back in history of the Kosi Project that was taken up in the 1950s.Laying the Foundation Stone The foundation stone of the Kosi project was laid on 14 January 1955 by Shrikrishna Sinha near Bhutaha village close to Nirmali, in Saharsa district. The foundation stone for the eastern embankment was laid by president Rajendra Prasad on 22 March 1955 near Bairia village close to Supaul. The Kosi embankments were going to protect 214,000 hectares of land on the country-side of the embankments. On the other hand, however, for nearly 200,000 people, who were likely to be trapped within the embankments there was frustration, heartburning and apprehension. They were agitating under the leadership of Parmeshwar Kunwar, Bahadur Khan Sharma, Kaushlendra Narayan Singh, Jaidev Salhaita, Bauku Mahato and Jageshwar Jha among others.Once the construction work on the Kosi embankments and the barrage connecting Bhardah to Bhim Nagar started, tremendous enthusiasm was generated among the masses on the protected countryside of theembankments. At the same time, the villages that were likely to get trapped withinthem,on the riverside of the em-bankments, were disheartened and their number were well over 300 and there was no policy or assurance from the government to look into their problems. These villagers were obviously opposed to the embankments. The miseries of the Kosi floods that the entire area was fac-ing were now going to exclusively befall these hapless victims of the embankments. The embankments that were going to protect the villages located on the country-side were going to guarantee regular devastation by floods to the villages trapped within them for all times to come. Inaugurating Politics To dispel any fear of inundation within the embankments, addressing a gathering of the workers of Bharat Sevak Samaj on 2 December 1954, Lalit Narayan Mishra, a Congress Party leader who later became the minister for railways, had said that recent model tests at the Poona Laboratory had shown that only a four inches deep sheet of water would enter the villages that would fall within the two embank-ments at a discharge of 25,510 cumecs (900,000 cusecs) in the river. The flood of 1954 had a maximum discharge of 21,260 cumecs (750,000 cusecs) only and hence the problem of rehabilitation was not very serious. The central minister for plan-ning, Gulzarilal Nanda, was also present at thismeeting.1Confirmation of Mishra’s views was later reported by the laboratories of the Central Board of Irrigation and Power in October 1956, “It was found that there is practically no rise in the water levels at these villages due to the construction of the embankments”.2 These findings laterprovedto be a very cruel joke on the embankment victims. Also, who influenced whom, is a curious question. Dinesh Kumar Mishra (dkmishra108@gmail.com) has been working on water-related issues in Bihar for many years and is the convenor of the Barh Mukti Abhiyan, a civil society organisation working with the people living in flood-prone areas in the region.
BIHAR FLOODSnovember 15, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly48The embankments were politicalfrom the very beginning, maintained Tul Mohan Ram, an ex-MP from the Kosi basin.3To quell any dissent against the con-struction of the proposed Kosi embank-ments, an official north Bihar trip of Rajendra Prasad, then president of India, was arranged during 17-24 October 1954 where he requested the public to parti-cipate in theyagna of nation-building, i e, the construction of the Kosi embank-ments. One can only imagine the stress that the president must have gone through as he was an ardent critic of embank-ments, given his contrary views at the Patna Floods Conference of 1937. In fact, prior to the construction of the embankments Kanwar Sain, then chair-man of the Central Water and Power Com-mission (CWPC) and K L Rao, then director of CWPC were sent to China to study the embanking of the Hwang Ho. About the rehabilitation part of the project, they were of the view that the people there were sub-ject to minor inconveniences at an interval of 12-15 years and that can be provided for by remitting the cess and some relief work. The statement of Lalit Narayan Mishra on 2 December 1954 in Patna and the findings of the Poona Hydraulic Laboratory helped to temporarily convince the people that their lives within the embankments would not be threatened.Long-term Rehabilitation To start with, long-term rehabilitation was a non-issue in the Kosi project. Stray voic-es were heard after it began and these too were limited to encourage those likely to be trapped to sacrifice their lands for the larger interests of the society and for the building of a new nation. The adminis-trator of the Kosi project, T P Singh, re-ported in 1955 that, Fair compensation will be paid for the land likely to be trapped within the embankments at the soonest. People will not have to run for this. The embankments will not bifurcate any village nor would any house be destroyed be-cause of the alignment of the embankments. Should any house be demolished, immediate solution to the problem will be found out and staff scarcity will not come in the way.4 Mahi Narayan Jha, public relations of-ficer of the project added, although no decision has yet been taken re-garding the situation of those living within the embankments, the results of the experiments from the Poona Laboratory are encouraging and it is being understood that they will not be inconvenienced much.5 The issue of compensation, rehabilita-tion, and well-being of those living within the embankments remained unaddressed for a long-time even after the start of the construction work and nobody knew what was in store for the people who would be-come hapless victims of the project.On 2 March 1956, the Kosi Control Board met in Patna to discuss the issues of compensation and rehabilitation. It is reported that the members of the CWPC were opposed to paying any compen-sation to the embankment victims. But Ram Charittar Singh, then irrigation minister in Bihar, and T P Singh prevailed upon their views. The chief minister also, supported the views of the latter. The chairman of theCWPC was reported to be of the view that payment of com-pensation in one project would set a wrong precedence and people would start demanding rehabilitation in all such projects in the future.6By June 1956, with the start of the mon-soon, it was getting clear that their future was bleak and that there was no hope that they will ever get respite from the floods of the Kosi.7 People started demanding that wherever possible, the villages be protected by ring bunds, flood victims be resettled, proper arrangements be made for providing employment to embankment victims and certificates be issued to them for waiving land revenue and recovery of loans.T P Singh told media persons on 11 June 1956 that a vast tract of Saharsa district was safe from floods because an embank-ment had been built. The area that once resembled an ocean had been turned into lush green fields. He maintained that it was not possible to protect the people liv-ing within the embankments from floods and that arrangements were being made to shift them to safer places.8But in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha, Janaki Nandan Singh,MLA narrated a different story, I have travelled through that area in a boat and the pathetic condition of the people that I have seen in those places will make anybody cry. They do not have a dry piece of land even for answering nature’s call. There is no crop and they are face-to-face with death. Relief couldprobably have saved them from this dis-aster but it has been suspended for some days…You claim to be a welfare state and on the other hand thousands of people are facing starvation…It is a pity that you say that there is no money. Then what is the government for? (Singh 1956).Agitation for Rehabilitation People’s dissent simmered slowly as they began to understand the impact of the em-bankments. A movement was launched under the leadership of Bhushan Gupta, chairman of the Saharsa district board in the middle of 1956. He took up the cause of the people whose houses and lands were trapped within the embankments because it was certain by then that they would face the devastating currents of the river for all times to come after the river was embanked. He baulked at the various official assurances that nothing untoward would happen (Azad 1956: 4). The people mounted pressure on the government for relocation but not enough land was available for such massive reha-bilitation. It was never anticipated that people would be so organised in the years to come, that they would remind their leaders of their obligations to the embank-ment victims. If that was known earlier, the government would have been ready with a rehabilitation package. It realised that if the total value of all the assets had been accounted for it would have to pay something to the tune of Rs 10 to Rs 11.5 crore. This amount would have dispropor-tionately increased the cost of the project that was estimated to be Rs 37 crore.Italso realised that if the entire property worth Rs 10 to 11.50 crore had to be compensated for, then the estimated cost of theproject would balloon and the project itself would have to be shelved Mookerjea (1963).9 It was then decided that the houses would be relocated outside the embankmentsand the farmers would till their ancestral land to make their living. The cost of such rehabilitation was estimated to Rs 21,267,390. In his memorandum to the council of ministers, the administrator, T P Singh, suggested that since the displaced persons of the Kosi embankments were not yet compensated, their case should be sympathetically looked at.10
BIHAR FLOODSEconomic & Political Weekly EPW november 15, 200849After a lot of persuasion, Dip Narayan Singh, replying on behalf of the govern-ment in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha, on December 3, 1958 assured the house that the government would provide for: (1) An equivalent area of homestead land at a reasonable distance from the embank-ments on the outside so that the villagers might live as close as possible to their cul-tivable land within the embankments.(2) Additional land for community services like schools, roads, etc.(3) Water supply at the rehabilitation sites with the help of tanks, tube wells and wells.(4) Grants for building houses.(5) Boats to be used as means of transport to and from the agricultural lands lying inside the embankment.On 15 February 1960 when the Bihar Vidhan Sabha was debating the annual budget, the house was told that 70 out of 304 villages had been rehabilitated in the Kosi project and efforts were on to rehabi-litate the remaining population. Ramanand Tiwari, MLA, passed a scathing remark on the government’s rehabilitation perform-ance. He said, “If you have resettled 70 villages in two years time and keep the same pace to resettle people, you are going to take another nine years to complete the job. Do you expect me to pat you on your back for this achieve-ment?” Ramanand Tiwari had no inkling that the job was not going to be completed even in nine years.Promises from the politicians and officials notwithstanding, the actual work of rehabilitation on the ground was in a very poor shape.By 1970, some 6,650 families were relo-cated outside the embankments. This meant that about 35,000 families still lived in-side them. The government faced difficul-ties in land acquisition while the people had their own set of problems. The reha-bilitation sites were far away from their fields and commuting was a major problem because one had to cross various channels of the Kosi. Politicians had promised that boats would be provided but they werenotmade available. The major prob-lem with rehabilitation, it was argued, was that people were attached to the lands of their ancestors, and were unwilling to stay away.Parmeshwar Kunwar (MLA), however, blasted this argument in 1968. Referring to his own village Tarahi, located within the embankments, he said, The rehabilitation problem is not yet sorted out there. They have been left to the mercy of god. They are told to settle down four to five miles in the west in Darbhanga district where they do not want to go…. Today if the people go to the officials, they tell them to go to the minister and when they contact the minister, he says go and talk to the officials. There are 1,200 bighas of land that have been acquired for resettlement and the peo-ple are willing to go there but they are not permitted to get on to this patch of land. The people are in trouble and the government says that the people are too attached to their ancestral land.11 Later, the lands on which rehabilitation sites were provided slowly became water-logged and unfit for living.According to a Public Accounts Com-mittee Report to the Bihar Vidhan Sabha, between 1958 and 1962, some 12,084 fam-ilieswere allotted homestead land out-side the embankments and Rs 16.73lakh were granted to them as the first instal-ment. When there was no progress in the work, the project authorities decided to persuade people to shift to new locations and if they did not agree to move, the com-mittee recommended that recovery pro-ceedings be initiated against them.12Another committee of the Bihar Vidhan Sabha reviewed this problem from a dif-ferent angle. It said that the people, whose interests had been totally sacrificed in building the embankments on the Kosi, spent a nomadic life for four to five months a year. It is a pathetic situation. Every year thou-sands of people are appointed to the project and the contractors swindle lakhs of rupees. But the affected people neither get the jobs nor any preference in the award of con-tracts. They are ignored. Their number is negligible in work charge appointments let alone the permanent jobs in the project. This situation should not be taken lightly. It can assume serious proportions any time and may lead to a law and order problem...The rehabilitation scheme in progress is totally inadequate. The farmers and the labourers are given only homestead land. They are not given any land for their livelihood. No indus-try is being opened in the area. All that the people receive is about 4 decimals of land and some grant to build thatched houses for themselves. Most of this money is spent on collecting the grant.13 According to this report, till 1972-73, a sum of Rs 17,528,392 of the total allocation of Rs 21,267,390 had been spent on reha-bilitation. At that point 32,540 families had been given the grants of which only 10,580 were given the second instalment. Nobody had qualified for the third and final grant since none of the houses were complete.Displaced Profiles According to the available information, there are 380 villages with a population of 9.88 lakh trapped between the two em-bankments of the Kosi. They are spread over four districts (Supaul, Saharsa, Darbhanga and Madhubani) and 13 blocks (Basantpur, Kishanpur, Saraigarh-Bhaptiahi, Nirmali, Supaul, Navhatta, Mahishi, Simri Bakhtiyarpur, Salkhua, Kiratpur, Laukahi, Marauna, and Madhepur). The literacy figures in the entrapped area are quite shocking. The literacy level of Saharsa district was only 39.28 per cent (male 52.04 and female 25.31) according to the 2001 Census). In the same census, the lite-racy figure for Bihar state is 47.53 per cent (male 60.32 and female 33.57) while at the national level the corresponding figures are 65.38 per cent (male 75.85 and female 54.16). Bihar was the only state in the country with a literacy level of less than50 per cent in 2001. Within Bihar, fourdistricts in the Kosi basin Supaul, Saharsa, Madhu-bani and Darbhanga; occupy the 7th, 9th, 13th and 16th position from thebottom. It is a fact that education has collapsed in the state but it becomes very easy to find excuses for such unfortunate occur-rings within the embankments. The area that we are referring to here, located with-in the Kosi embankments, has a female literacy percentage of only 14.39. At the national level, this was the female literacy rate way back in 1951 and the same must have existed in Bihar in 1982. Female literacy levels in Marauna block of Supaul district and Simri-Bakhtiyarpur block of Saharsa district are less than 10 per cent. Male literacy levels are no different either. The male literacy percentage of 38.79 (2001) within the Kosi embankments existed at the national level in 1960 and in Bihar this figure may have existed around 1982. The overall literacy percentage of 30.11 (2001) within the Kosi embankments existed at the national level in 1963 and at
BIHAR FLOODSnovember 15, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly50the state level in 1984. This clearly signi-fies that those living within the Kosi em-bankments are 40 years behind rest of In-dia and 20 years behind the rest of Bihar as far education is concerned. Bihar itself occupies the lowest position within the country in education (Mishra 2008: 140-41).The literacy level is a guide to the living standards of the people and if that is in such shambles one can very easily imag-ine the state of other civic amenities here. If that is the average situation, the prob-lems of the dalits and the other downtrod-den communities of the area can only be much worse. There are no colleges, no banks, no cinema halls, no roads, no elec-tricity, no hospitals and nothing that can be linked to modern living for these peo-ple living within the embankments. Sufferers’ Stories Ram Sagar, former mukhiya of Belwara panchayat in Simri-Bakhtiyarpur block says, We were provided housing sites in Belwara Punarwas. Ninety per cent of the people are now backing in the original village because of waterlogging at the rehabilitation site. The government has since annually allocat-ed this land to those who will do some farm-ing. It does not belong to us anymore. The original village is exposed to the onslaughts of the floods and erosion. Our village has eroded 14 times in the past 42 years and each time we have built a new house. There is no option for us because our agricultural land is located inside the embankments. We move on to the eastern embankment during the rains and go back after the floods subside. Some families, who do not have any other place to go are settled permanently on the embankment itself. Thus most people are compelled to get closer to their ancestral villages and fields but farther from basic civic amenities because they remain trapped within the two embankments. The block, sub-division and district collector’s offices, are all located outside the embankments. Educa-tion, health services, legal aid, adminis-trative facilities, banks, employment op-portunities and so on, exist only outside the embankments. It is clear that the government had been asleep for 30 years after constructing the embankments, when it constituted the Kosi Pirit Vikas Pradhikar (Kosi Sufferers Development Authority) in 1987. The em-bankment victims waited for eight-nine years to watch the non-performance of the Pradhikar and then came out in protest. The PradhikarWhile most people returned to their vil-lages, the ghost of rehabilitation, contin-ued to haunt the area. T P Singh, while speaking at a meeting organised by the Kosi Samiti at Patna, on 15 December 1954 said that the government was well aware of its obligations towards those who would live between the proposed embankments and thereby face flood hazards of the Kosi and also those who are facing floods. It would neither dilute the demands made for compensation nor shirk its responsi-bilities towards the people.14 Something similar was said by Bindeshwari Dubey, then chief minister of Bihar, at Ghoghar-diha, on 8 November 1986.15This lack of concern of successive governments over a span of 32 years is mind-numbing.Actually it was almost certain that the government could give a house in lieu of a house, but it was never possible to acquire land on that massive scale for cultivation. It was never given in writing that the gov-ernment would provide land for land nor was it ever said in writing that it would provide a job to one person in a family in the Kosi project, although every elderly person in the area asserts with confidence that some leader or a senior officer of the project had given such assurances. Their list includes Jawaharlal Nehru, Gulzarilal Nanda, Lalit Narayan Mishra and T P Singh. Collector George Jacob of Darbhanga is often quoted in this regard that he had given these assurances in writing but the letters are missing.The government of Bihar had, in fact, constituted a committee in 1962 to plan and execute programmes on agriculture, health, revenue collection, extension and coopera-tives. The land development commissioner, development commissioner and the chief administrator of the river valley projects were the members of this committee. It proved to be ineffective. In 1967 another committee was constituted under the chairmanship of the Kosi area development commissioner to prepare plans on agricul-ture, industry, cooperatives and economic rehabilitation of the embankment victims. This committee too repeated the non- performance of the earlier committee. The government was not prepared to handle the rehabilitation issue in the Kosi project and there was considerable indifference from the Kosi project autho-rities on this issue. In 1966, Baidya Nath Mehta (MLA) narrated the callousness on rehabilitation in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha, Has the government ever bothered to look into the grievances of the people trapped be-tween the Kosi embankments, the people on whose dead bodies you erected the struc-tures?...There are nearly 1.75 lakh people liv-ing within the Kosi embankments. For them it is a question of life and death and that question is placed before us now. Our minis-ter makes no reference about their plight. Whenever the issue of those living within the embankments comes for discussions, he shuts his eyes. When the embankment was being built, I had raised the point of their well-being but the leaders within the state and those in the centre had assured that there would be no adverse impact on them.16After a lot of persuasion the state govern-ment appointed a committee in 1981 to look into the possibilities of economic re-habilitation of the victims of the embank-ments under the chairmanship of Chandra Kishore Pathak, then chairman of the Saharsa district board. This committee submitted its report in February 1982. It remained under active consideration of the government till January 1987 when it finally seemed to accept the report’s recommendations. Bindeshwari Dubey might have considered accepting the report when he said that the government would do something for the victims. The Chandra Kishore Pathak Commit-tee elaborately discussed the possibilities of developing agriculture, animal hus-bandry, industry, public health, education, awareness building and land development within the Kosi embankments. It also recommended 15 per cent reservation in class 3 and class 4 services of the state government in the districts of Saharsa, Supaul, Madhepura, Araria, Purnea, Kati-har, Darbhanga and Madhubani that were directly benefited by the construction of the Kosi embankments. The government of Bihar accepted these recommendations at a meeting held on 30 January 1987. This long overdue gesture of the government came after a lapse of about 30 years of completion of the Kosi embankments and passage of one generation while the popu-lation trapped between the embankments
BIHAR FLOODSEconomic & Political Weekly EPW november 15, 200851had risen from 192,000 to about 450,000. Though late, the gesture was certainly a welcome one.Following these recommendations, the government constituted a Kosi Pirit Vikas Pradhikar on 14 April 1987 and appointed a 19-member committee, under the chair-manship of Lahtan Chaudhary, to look af-ter the affairs of the Pradhikar.But this Pradhikar is a defunct body and it is of no use to the embankment victims. Twenty years have passed since the Bihar government accepted the proposal for an institution that would ameliorate the problems of the Kosi sufferers. There may be a chairman of the Pradhikar enjoying privileges of a cabinet minister and other members who might meet occasionally at public expense, but the embankment vic-tims remain where they were some 50 years ago. It has no building or an office of its own, no vehicles, no permanent staff and no budget that it could call its own. For all practical purposes, it can call itself an advisory body that suggests what other departments can do to help the people living within the Kosi embankments. Whether that advice is taken at all by any-body is altogether a different matter. It has a base in the Vikas Bhawan at Saharsa with nobody to represent and it is really very hard to find where the Pradhikar is located. Most of the government officers in Saharsa, where the Pradhikar is locat-ed, do not know that such a body exists. Rehabilitation and Pradhikar have be-come a political issue now. In every elec-tion, politicians promise that if they are voted into power, they will revive the Pra-dhikar but it is a case of still birth and hence the question of its revival is moot.Entrapped within EmbankmentsThe Kosi embankments not only trap Indian villages but 12 Nepali villages south of the Kosi barrage and 22 villages north of the Kosi barrage that fall within them. Says Dev Narayan Yadav of Rampura village in Saptari district in Nepal, The land over which the Kosi was flowing those days and the land that was acquired for rehabilitation was compensated for. For example,Lilja village had a total of 1,430 bighas of land and the Kosi project acquired 317 bighas of that land. The balance land re-mained with the owners. When the barrage andthe embankments were completed and water was released from the barrage then erosion set in, upstream as well as down-stream of the barrage. The river started shift-ing its course within the embankment and nearly 1,113 bighas in Lilja were eroded. No compensation was paid to us for such losses. This erosion has now extended to 61 villages in Nepal.17 Actually, the rehabilitation scenario in the Kosi project in Nepal is in no way dif-ferent than that of the Indian scene. The only difference is that if there is any re-sentment over there regarding rehabilita-tion, it can be indicated to India through Kathmandu only. Direct dialogue or direct expression of dissent is not possible. This is also true for the villages on the Indian side. The resentment of the villagers turns into anger, sometimes. There was an interesting debate in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha about the plight of those trapped within the embankments. Vinayak Prasad Yadav (MLA) pointed out that the condition of Bela, Singar Moti and Dhobiahi villages had become precarious because the Kosi was on the verge of eroding them. He wanted to know the government’s plans to protect these villages. Rameshwar Prasad Singh replied on behalf of the gov-ernment of Bihar saying, These villages are located within the Kosi embankments and Bela Dhar is a stream of the Kosi. When water comes in that stream, the villages are threatened with erosion but it is not the job of the government to protect such villages. The villagers have been paid compensation and they should vacate the place. The land within the embankment is meant for agriculture and not for dwelling purposes. The government does not spend money for protecting the villages.18 This was a policy statement of the gov-ernment to which it still conforms to. This means that the government exonerates it-self of any obligation to the people living within the embankments of any river. If the embankments are secure, then life within them becomes insecure because of the rising flood levels. But the water re-sources department(WRD) views it as a sacred duty to keep the embankments in-tact. How far is this mission achieved is anybody’s guess.Not on Anybody’s AgendaThese issues concerning the people living within the embankments are not on the agenda of any political party. The responsibility of a good number of NGOs working in those areas ends with provid-ing some relief to the flood victims. The issue of floods and waterlogging is a mat-ter of concern to them but looking for a permanent solution to the problems of the people is something that they are not in-terested in. Their role is limited to raising funds for relief operations, holding semi-nars and conferences on environmental degradation, livelihoods and right’s ap-proach. They close their eyes to the sys-tematic cheating of the people, breach of trust, betrayal by the administrative, po-litical and technical machinery of the state and chant the disaster mantra starting with preparedness, mitigation and ending with long-term rehabilitation. They also recite catchy phrases like equitable relief, empowermentand“living with floods”, etc, inthe same fashion as students in the vil-lage primary schools recite their tables be-fore their teachers. The teacher derives satisfaction that the students remember the tables and the students’moraleremains high that the teacher is happy. Running away from the real issues is their inherent compulsion for survival.The Struggle ContinuesIn the new generation, an advocate Dev Kumar Singh of Kosi Mukti Sangharsh Samiti (KMSS), Supaul district has taken the wand from the elders and sustained the voice of the embankment victims over the past 15 years. He has raised the issue before the chief secretary of the state to the president of the country. When noth-ing worked, he wrote to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on 30 May 1998 with a request to intervene. NHRC, through its letter No 2294/4/97-98 dated 12 August 1998 asked the chief secretary of Bihar about the status of these demands. When there was no reply from the government of Bihar (GoB), theNHRC once again wrote to it on 22 March 1999 to explain its position over the issue. The GoB replied on 11 October 2001 to clarify its stand. It said, The people who lived between the embank-ments have been rehabilitated as per the provisions of the Rehabilitation Scheme 1957. Following the rains and after the flood season, agriculture, fisheries and other economic activities became very lucrative and then the rehabilitated persons, at their

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