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Making most of deluge in Assam

Members of a committe in Assam pray for annual floods so that they can lease out the surface area of their flooded crop fields to fish mahaldars, reports Rahul Karmakar.
By Rahul Karmakar | Hindustan Times, Guwahati
UPDATED ON AUG 02, 2007 05:44 AM IST

There’s a brighter side to everything. Even something as devastating as Assam’s annual floods. Take the case of the Mayong Anchalik Unnayan Samiti, a development committee comprising 15 villages of Mayong area in central Assam’s Morigaon district.

Unlike villagers in other flood-prone areas, members of the Samiti pray for annual floods so that they can lease out the surface area of their flooded crop fields to fish mahaldars or contractors during the monsoon months, usually June-September.

These fields invariably yield a rich harvest for the mahaldars, who pay the Samiti on the basis of the crop area operated upon. By the end of the “flood season”, the Samiti makes Rs 3-4 lakh every year unless the rain gods play truant like the past two years.

Mayong, incidentally, is considered a remote area despite its proximity to the capital. It had a reputation of being Assam’s black magic hub, but Samiti insists there’s nothing magical about having learnt to live with flood and making some money out of the otherwise destructive phenomenon.

“We can’t do any magic to make the swollen rivers behave like a benevolent genie,” said schoolteacher Lokendra Hazarika.

“It is just a case of making the most out of a situation we cannot avoid.” So what does the Samiti do with the water lucre? Spend the bulk of it on the educational institutions. According to local leader Utpal Nath, the Samiti often takes care of the state-run Mayong Higher Secondary School.

The flood money is put to other uses too — like repair of houses, roads and public utilities often damaged by the swollen rivers.

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