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Kosi, anyone?

india Updated: Jan 14, 2009 22:41 IST
KumKum Dasgupta

It is often said that public memory is short. And thanks to today’s information overkill, it has become very, very short. How else could we have taken our eyes off one of the worst calamities of 2008, the Kosi floods in Bihar? Come to think of it, the breach in the Kosi embankment at Kushaha, Nepal, happened only in August, less than six months ago. The marauding river waters rushed out through the breach and swamped five districts of north Bihar, affecting the lives of over 3 million people and displacing 1 million.

Now comes the news that a 45-year-old flood victim Mahendra Sharma has died of hunger (‘malnutrition’ is the official term) in Supaul district. Some reports also suggest that relief camps, like the one where Sharma stayed, have been closed. This has forced the people to go back to their homes only to find that farming is in a shamble thanks to sand-casting and water-logging.

Sharma’s death will, of course, ‘not go in vain’. It will be used to fuel the war of words already on between the leaders of Bihar. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has accused the UPA of ignoring the plea of the state to give Rs 15,000 crore for rehabilitation. The RJD has jumped to the Centre’s defence and has attacked Kumar.

In this din, important issues like embankments, a drinking water crisis and actual on-ground rehabilitation will get lost. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?