The people of Murliganj, Madhepura, were waiting for a miracle. On Friday, the miracle arrived in the form of the Army. Around 1,200 people were rescued from this stranded town in north Bihar after seven days of huddled existence.
Some people were not as lucky. A boat carrying 20 flood victims capsized near Mirganj.
Army boats continued their operation throughout the day. Leading them was Captain Aniruddh Burugal. It was his first stint at managing flood operations.
Along with people, the boats were filled with sacks of corn, bitten rice (chura), goats and other household items. The scramble for space has led to a mother being left behind, a husband looking out for his wife in the mad jumble. Madina, a farmer’s wife, had to leave behind her infant child. “I left him in his grandmother’s arms as she was feeding him. I wish I had forced them to come with me,” she says. Madina had rushed to take shelter on top of a terrace at Mirganj Chowk. Now Mirganj Chowk is under Kosi’s furious waters.
By Friday morning, water levels in Madhepura had increased by a foot. “It’s still seven feet underwater,” says Manoj Yadav, an RJD worker who had come from Saharsa, 22 kms away. By mid-afternoon, relief material on trucks had begun moving into Madhepura on a road jammed with people fleeing —by foot, on bikes, on bullock carts. “If this road [connecting Madhepura and Saharsa] goes, the link to Bihar has gone,” said a resident.
The District Magistrate and Sub Divisional Officer of the area were last seen inspecting this road.
The road to Saharsa has been chock-a-block with lorries. They are all carrying corn to safer places.
“Our corn is going to Siliguri,” says a trader. The narrow road, cracked at many places and fast filling with rain, is itself on its way to getting submerged with the Kosi lapping on both sides. But it’s still above the water mark.
Meanwhile, in Saharsa, the people are afraid, but can’t leave their homes. “Where will we go?” says Raj Kumar Singh, owner of the Rajasthani Marwari Bhandar. Most of the year, Saharsa is a ghost town. It receives power for two hours a day. The rest of the evenings are spent under candle-light or, for those
who can afford it, by light powered by generators.
“The ’87 flood was big,” says a local. “This time it’s bigger. But we haven’t seen the government at work or any official’s face.”
As the Kosi rages on nearby, the attendance at the local cinema, Meena Talkies, is especially thin even for the latest Bhojpuri blockbuster, Betua Bahubali. Instead, the people of Saharsa are glued to television sets at teashops when there is power. They are busy following their own fate.