Assam Floods Destroy Lives, Homes And Indian Citizenship Hopes

The Assam floods have killed over 100 people. BOOM visited and spoke to people in the flood-affected areas.

Morigaon/ Assam: Thirty-six-year-old Rima Bora was both 'upset' and 'scared' at the same time. A resident of Mayong area of Morigaon district, some 50 km from the capital city of Guwahati, Rima has been used to the flood waters making their life hell over the years. But this time, it's worse than that.

The floods in Assam have wreaked havoc on people's lives destroying homes and killing over 100 people. And it has left Rima doubting whether she will be able to prove that she is Indian. The flood waters have not only damaged her house but have also washed away all her valuable documents of identification.

Rima has been struggling to prove her nationality after her name was dropped from the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on August 31, 2019 that left out over 19 lakh applicants in the state.

"It was in the middle of the night when the flood waters entered our village and rose so rapidly that we did not have the time to save our belongings," said Rima.

Flooding has been a perennial problem in Morigaon, located on the south bank of the River Brahmaputra which is highly flood-prone and gets eroded almost every year. But Rima said, "this time it was like never before".

She said all her land documents and other identification documents have been washed away. "What will happen now?" she asked.

Rima was among the thousands of indigenous people who were left out of the NRC list; so she has been fighting to prove her nationality before a foreigners' tribunal - a quasi-judicial body especially set up to solve matters of dubious citizenship. Even the state government taking such cases in view had prayed for a re-verification of the NRC list before the Supreme Court.

A total of 2, 84,875 inmates were staying in 759 relief camps in Assam. Amongst the inmates, there were some 76, 932 children, 918 pregnant or lactating mothers and 48 specially-abled persons.

Rima and her family, including her three children were taking shelter at a makeshift relief camp along the National Highway at Nellie in Morigaon district. Over 280 villages in Morigaon district alone remained flood-affected till Saturday.

As per Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), around 54.57 Lakh people were reeling under flood in 32 districts of the state.

"Never Seen This Kind Of Floods"

In Assam's Barak Valley, for Sudipto Paul, a resident of Cachar's Silchar town, this year's flood was the "worst he faced in his lifetime". Paul, 52, said that he has never seen water gushing into the Silchar town like this time.

Flood water started gushing into the Silchar, the biggest town and commercial hub in Assam's Barak Valley which also serves as a major transit point for neighbouring states of Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura, on June 21 and within 24 hours the whole town was under water. In many localities, it even reached the first floor of buildings.

"It was like madness. Within minutes the water rose up to such a high level that most of the people could not even leave their residence and were stuck," Paul said.

Like Paul, for people forced to remain stuck in their residences for the last couple of days has meant a scarcity of drinking water, food and medicines. Although the Army, the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and even the Indian Air Force were immediately roped in by the state government, with no electricity supply, many could not even send SOS messages or make distress calls.

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With road connectivity between Barak valley and the rest of the state remaining disrupted due to landslides in Meghalaya damaging NH6 which connects Assam's Barak and Brahmaputra valleys, the state government on June 23 started airdropping fuel, essentials, and even 1 lakh bottles of drinking water in Silchar town daily. The state government has also set up four water purifier plants to provide drinking water supply to the affected people.

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in a press conference said that the IAF has carried out its biggest relief operation in the northeast by airlifting 1.08 lakh litre of petrol and diesel to Silchar in Barak valley. "More columns of the Army have been pressed into relief and rehabilitation operations. The IAF choppers are airdropping water bottles and essentials on residents' terraces daily," he said. However, the chief minister said that due to towers and electric wires in urban areas, the IAF has not been able to fly in those areas.

The CM has also sent 10 additional bureaucrats to Cachar to help the local administration.

A total of eight teams of NDRF with 207 personnel have been deployed to Barak valley districts for rescue operations and other necessary help to the district administration. A team of the Indian Army with 120 personnel and 9 boats has also been deployed in Silchar.

A total of eight teams of NDRF with 207 personnel have been deployed to Barak valley districts for rescue operations. Photo: Pranjal Baruah

"12 MT of items including mineral water, pouf rice, biscuits, ORS and Jaggery from Guwahati to Silchar and 24 MT of items from Jorhat to Silchar were air transported on Thursday. Further, total 3.5 MT essential items including Halogen tablets and 12 water pouch rolls were also air transported from Guwahati to Cachar," an ASDMA official told BOOM.

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The Assam State Disaster Management Authority has released three helpline numbers – 0361-2237219, 9401044617 and 1079 – for flood affected persons in the Cachar district who need assistance.

"Last Livelihood Option Is Gone"

After losing his job during the pandemic, Bimal Deka returned from Bengaluru back to his home in Assam last year. Deka, a resident of Morigaon district, had to find an alternate livelihood. The floods have washed away his farm, destroying his option of a livelihood.

"I came back last year and decided to start farming again. The flood has washed away my farm. I don't know what I am going to do," Deka said.

Usually, flood waters either wash away lands nearing river bodies or bury them with sand and other sediments that they carry, making the land uncultivable.

So far, the flood waters in Assam have damaged at least a total of 100869.76 hectares of cropland leaving 8,45,434 farming families in 9,178 villages at high distress. This year's flood has destroyed 85,514 hectares of paddy, 7.5 hectares of oil seed cultivation, 1673 hectares of sugarcane, 30,357 hectares of Kharif vegetables, and at least 3,006 hectares of fruit and plantation crops.

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Assam is flooded almost every year but this year, more than 4.8 million lives have been affected in 34 of its 35 districts. The flood bulletin on Friday morning said that at least 107 people were killed in the first wave of floods in Assam till June 24.

Updated On: 2022-06-30T08:03:43+05:30
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