ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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West Bengal - Floods: Avoidable Tragedy

Time and again, floods have wreaked havoc in the regions of Malda and Midnapore in West Bengal. The tragedy, entirely a man-made one, could have been averted by a responsive and alert government, sensitive to ecological considerations. Instead, even as little or no effort is made to dredge the river bottom or prevent erosion, distribution of relief after the floods, follows extremely partisan lines.

In his celebrated book, Everybody Loves a Good Drought, P Sainath showed how droughts served various vested interests. The floods in Malda and Midnapore, which prompted a new bout of slogan-shouting against the centre for providing inadequate funds, and which in turn led to a recent ‘bandh’ call, have been no different. Each year, both these districts of Bengal are pounded by the fury of the floods, even as the political set-up tries its best to ensure that come August, watery graves are all that the people can expect. This calculated callousness has led to Malda alone witnessing such havoc in 1987, 1988, 1991 and in every year since 1995, that scores are now refugees in their own land (Flood Report, DM’s Office, Malda, 1999).

Was this vehemence against the administrators warranted? Most certainly; as it was their myopia and lethargy that caused these disasters. Their attempts to prevent flooding have been totally ineffectual. When they should have been building embankments to block the flow of water, they did nothing. The sheer scale of the catastrophe has revealed how corruption in the fields of disaster prevention and management has become institutionalised in the state. For example, the funds allocated yearly for the raising and strengthening of embankments have simply vanished into nothingness.

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