Why are the shelters deserted in the middle of the floods? – badh ke bech aashray sthal soone kyon?

Ratanpur is a village on the banks of the Kosi River in the Supaul district. When you reach the river bank, passing by a ruined country road with a single lane, you can see a huge building. There is no government office in this tall yellow building, nor the residence of any old owner. It is actually a flood shelter built by the Bihar government ten years ago.

In this building, only one firewood is preserved. Ramsharan Mehta, an elder from the village of Dhena present here, says, “More than half a dozen villages in the vicinity are flooded every year by the Kosi River. But so far no flood victims have lived in this refuge. Because when there is a flooded, this refuge itself is submerged.

This condition is due to the fact that at the time of its construction officials did not see that the place where the building is being built is a deep place. It should have been built on a higher site, but it didn’t happen and today this flood shelter is useless.

There is a similar flood refuge in the village of Satanpatti, five or six km from here. But even there the victims of the floods do not live. Employees of the construction company dedicated to protecting the Kosi embankment have made it their refuge. Similarly, the government school operates in the flood shelter of Sisauni village in Supaul district and the Supaul river police station operates from the Badhara village shelter building.

The firewood is stored in a shelter built in the village of Kasiam in Madhubani district. In Chausa, Madhepura district, a flood shelter is also being built in a low-lying area, which is often submerged during floods. People also have to take the help of the boat to get there.

These stories are from the Bihar flood shelters, which are flooded every year. From time to time, several permanent flood shelters have been built in the flood-affected districts of Darbhanga, Madhubani, Saharsa, Supaul and Madhepura, but most of them do not provide shelter to flood victims in case of floods.

Most of these shelters have been made by the villagers to store firewood, many shelters are such that schools, police stations or centers in Anganwadi are governed. The local population believes that since before the floods, the government has not made the appropriate arrangements for accommodation, food, etc. of the people in these shelters.

They don’t even have cleaning and their condition is already dilapidated, so flood victims avoid coming here. People live in tents or plastic roofs along embankments and roads, but do not move to these shelters.

Many areas of Bihar are flooded every year. According to data from the Department of Disaster Management, 28 of the 38 districts in the state are considered to be affected by the floods and of these 15 are districts heavily affected by the floods. If we look at the data related to the floods from 1979 to 2012 available on the department’s portal, we find that during this period, an average of 18-19 districts were flooded each year and 75 thousand people are affected by floods.

This year also the situation of floods in Kosi, Mahananda and other rivers is critical. Flood waters have entered many villages in the Seemanchal area. The villages in the middle of the Kosi embankment are submerged. It is just the beginning of the season and the flood situation is not considered serious. However, when the India Today team arrived in Supaul and Madhubani districts, many villages here were submerged in water.

In these circumstances, efforts have always been made to build a permanent flood shelter in Bihar. The Bihar Government’s Disaster Management Department refuses to say anything about these schemes, but according to old media reports, this scheme was made in 2004. These flood shelters are found in many villages in Madhubani districts and Darbhanga. These shelters are two-story.

On the first floor there are provisions for the care of animals and their fodder and on the second floor there are provisions for the lives of victims. The roof is made so that relief material can also land there by helicopter. In the village of Kasiam, in the Madhepur block, Madhubani district, one of these half-baked and ruined flood shelters is seen. Laxmi Devi, a village woman complains that water from wheat and the Kamala River comes here almost every year, but the flat is not built in this shelter, so how do people live.

Similar is the state of the shelters built in other villages in Madhubani district. Only in the village of Umri is a refuge in good condition. The shelter is on the premises of a government school, so there is no invasion. The local chief had also renewed it in 2020-21. However, there is no drinking water or toilets here.

Abdul Bari Siddiqui, a former Bihar government minister and leader of the RJD, confirms that several flood shelters were built between 2000 and 2004. He says four such shelters have also been built in his Alinagar constituency. Following the severe flooding of the Kosi River in 2008, a large number of flood shelters were built in the Saharsa, Madhepura and Supaul districts of the state. These buildings are well built, wide and strong.

But most of these don’t work for flood victims either. The Department of Disaster Management has no information on how many shelters of this type were built in these three districts at that time and how many of these shelters remain to this day and are used by flood victims. When India Today spoke to Bihar Disaster Management Department Secretary Sanjay Agarwal he said flood shelters have been built with different schemes in many parts of the state.

As they are not needed all year round, the villagers often use them for other works as well. According to Sanjay Agarwal, “It is true that the department does not have a complete list of these flood shelters. But now we will prepare your list so that they can be used properly during floods.

We have already read the story of the Ratanpur flood shelter. These days there has been a good amount of flooding in the areas of Supaul district, on the western bank of the Kosi River. As you go from Majhari Chowk along the national road to Badhara, the formidable shape of the Kosi River is visible along the road. There you see a lot of people sitting by the river near the village of Sisouni. One of them, Mohammad Javed, explains that nine villages in this panchayat have just been flooded.
In this village is also a flood shelter similar to Ratanpur. But you don’t even see a flood victim, you do see some children studying. Two teachers who taught the children there explain that the school has been operating in this shelter since 2016. This school was founded in 2006, before it operated in a rental building. They say this school continues to operate here even in the event of flooding. Although some flood victims are definitely left in the empty spot. Similarly, the Anganwadi center operates in the flood shelter of the Sanskrit village of Nirmali in Supaul.

Alamnagar and the Chausa block of Madhepura district face flooding of the Kosi River every year. But the flood shelter located near Alamnagar remains deserted, the Chausa flood shelter is also built in a lower place like Ratanpur. It is submerged in water every year. To get there, flood victims must receive the help of boats. At the same time, until recently there was no way to reach dozens of shelters in the Madhepura and Saharsa districts.

The most interesting story is that of the flood shelter of the village of Badhara, next to the village of Sisoni. The Supaul River police station has been operating in this shelter since 2017. In this police station there are 7 agents, 8 house guards and 11 vigilantes. Most live in this shelter. The residence of police chief Ramanuj Singh is also located in this complex, three women police officers also live in this premises. Therefore, there is no place for flood victims in this shelter. The station manager says, “We’ve been given this place to work, what can we do?”

There is no specific information from the state’s disaster management department about these two types of flood shelters. When asked, it is only said that in 2018 the construction of a hundred flood shelters in Bihar began, of which 54 are already ready, the rest is being worked on. No information on previous flood shelters.

Last year, from these, news emerged about the flood shelter built in Semra Labedaha Panchayat of the West Champaran Piprasi block which is ready but has not been inaugurated. When the floods broke out last year, the locals could not take refuge there because the door lock was hanging.

However, to counter the floods that come every year, the Bihar government has prepared a standard operating procedure. Accordingly, the Department of Disaster Management sends a 26-point letter to the administration of all districts affected by the floods in April of each year to make pre-flood preparations in its area before 15 June.

In this letter, an important task is to identify the areas affected by the floods and the high places around them. When arrangements can be made for the accommodation of flood victims in the event of floods. But whether or not the department includes the flood shelters built earlier in this list, this information is not available. By the way, even if you did, depending on the situation on the ground, most of these flood victims would hardly be able to offer shelter.

-Pushyamitra

According to data from the Disaster Management Department, 28 of Bihar’s 38 districts are considered to be affected by floods.

“The department does not have a complete list of flood shelters. But now we will prepare your list so that they can be used properly during floods.
—Sanjay Agrawal, Secretary, Disaster Management Department, Bihar

3 types of flood shelters in Bihar

Two-storey flood shelter. These are especially visible in Madhubani district. The villagers call them helipuards, because they have the possibility of unloading relief material from the helicopters on their roof. These were made between 2000-2004. Where they are made and how many are made, there is no exact information about them.

Flood shelters built in three districts of Kosi, Saharsa, Madhepura and Supaul. These flood shelters have been built with money from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund after the horrific Kosi disaster of 2008. There is also a shelter provision for the animals. Even the number of these shelters made by the Bihar Department of Rural Works is not properly known by any government department. But there is information that about 250 million was spent on all these shelters.

After 2018, hundreds of flood shelters are being built in ten districts of Bihar. These shelters are being built by the building construction department. Of these, 54 reception sites are reported to be ready. These flood shelters are being built in ten districts of the state: Darbhanga, Madhubani, West Champaran, East Champaran, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Araria, Purnia, Kishanganj and Katihar.

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