Four days ago, people in eastern Assam’s Sivasagar district were wading through floodwaters on makeshift rafts. Two days later, the floodwaters killed two persons.
On Wednesday, the state government declared the district drought-hit.
It gets more bizarre.
Seven of the 14 districts declared drought-hit by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi witnessed recent flooding that displaced lakhs. Lakhimpur, one of the drought-hit districts, was inundated after the Brahmaputra breached its banks just 12 days ago. The deluge displaced 1 lakh people.
Jorhat, Nagaon, Morigon, Bongaigaon and Dhubri are also part of this strange club.
“A relief package for these districts is being worked out,” said agriculture production commissioner Bhaskar Mushahary.
Gogoi took the decision to declare 14 of the state’s 27 districts drought-hit after an emergency meeting on Tuesday. The remaining seven drought-hit districts are Cachar, Goalpara, Golaghat, Hailakandi, Kamrup, Karbi Anglong and Kokrajhar.
The last drought alarm was sounded in 2006, when Assam went near-rainless.
Officials said the 14 districts were being tagged drought-hit as they had received 20 per cent less rainfall, due to late arrival of the monsoon. Furthermore, the rainless phase had coincided with the sowing season, dealing a severe blow to farmers.
They explained the floods had been caused not by heavy rainfall but by brittle embankments and the release of excess water from hydropower reservoirs in the adjoining hill states.
Since the monsoon arrived officially on May 25, the Northeast — India’s wettest region — received an average 46 per cent less rainfall for a month. Assam recorded a deficit of 35 per cent.
In the two weeks from June 24, the clouds melted over parts of Assam, rendering some 4 lakh people homeless and killing at least three persons.
The downpour, though, was not sufficient to make up for the rainfall deficit. “We are expecting a late burst. If not, we are in for a real bad time,” a senior agriculture officer said.
Neighbouring Manipur too has declared a drought-like situation with large swathes in Imphal Valley thirsting for rain.