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Seven days of woes in waterlogged Rajendra Nagar area of Patna

People of Rajendra Nagar wading through waterlogged road in Patna on October 3, 2019.

People of Rajendra Nagar wading through waterlogged road in Patna on October 3, 2019.   | Photo Credit: Ranjeet Kumar

The Hindu’s Special Correspondent, who lives with his old parents and other family members at the fourth floor of a lift-less old apartment in Road No. 12, gives a first-hand account

Rajendra Nagar in Bihar’s capital city Patna is considered one of the posh and old areas where renowned doctors, engineers, professors, civil servants and retired members of civil society live for generations. It is also a locality where Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi lives. From the night of September 28, Rajendra Nagar and its surrounding areas, with a population of over two lakh, have been neck-deep in water causing unimaginable miseries and woes to the residents, mostly old people. The State machinery, despite its all-out efforts, has completely failed to drain out water from the area even after seven days and now the threat of an epidemic is looming large.

Here goes the first-hand account of the waterlogged area by The Hindu’s Amarnath Tewary who, along with his old parents and other family members, lives at the fourth floor of a lift-less old apartment in Road No. 12 of Rajendra Nagar.

It was a cloudy day on Friday (September 27) with intermittent rain, but at night the downpour turned heavy and by next day morning there was knee-deep water in lanes and by-lanes of Rajendra Nagar area which, of late, was dug-up randomly by a private agency under Namami Gange project. When the day progressed, the water level too reached neck-deep at my apartment’s main gate.

Residents of Rajendra Nagar wading through waterlogged roads with the help of a makeshift boat, after collecting relief materials in Patna on Wednesday. Ranjeet Kumar

Residents of Rajendra Nagar wading through waterlogged roads with the help of a makeshift boat, after collecting relief materials in Patna on Wednesday. Ranjeet Kumar  

 

On Sunday (September 29) the rain water entered my parking area, submerging our vehicles. At night we, me and my elder brother, mustered courage and went down to see the condition of our vehicle while wading in neck-deep water and pushing away the raw garbage floating in the water, with a bamboo stick in one hand and a torch in the other. Only the roof of our car was visible and we couldn’t do anything except curse our fate and return to the top floor.

We thought the water would recede by Monday (September 30) morning as it was 24 hours since the rain had stopped.

But on a misty Monday morning, we saw from our balcony the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) boats plying on the road and people from their rooftops, balconies and stair-case holes clamouring for help and drinking water bottle. My family members looked at each other with a thousand questions. What to do next, was the question looming on our sagging faces.

NDRF personnel rescues an elderly person from Rajendra Nagar in Patna, on Thursday.

NDRF personnel rescues an elderly person from Rajendra Nagar in Patna, on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: Ranjeet Kumar

 

Our septuagenarian parents, suffering from arthritis and other old age diseases, suggested that we leave the place, leaving them behind. They said they would survive somehow but our lives are more important. Residents of our apartments were fleeing like rats on the NDRF boats and on JCB machines. We’re in state of flux as in our lifetime, 40 years in Patna, we had not seen such a situation. By evening out of total 64 flats in my apartment, 58 were vacated. Residents had left their homes with whatever they could gather.

I’ve covered many flood misery stories in Bihar, including the most devastating 2008 Kosi river flood in north Bihar, but had not seen a situation like this point-blank in the heart of the State capital. Friends and relatives urged us to leave the place immediately but it was difficult to take our parents down 72 stairs and wade neck-deep in water to reach an NDRF boat. We decided to stay back with our parents, come what may.

Unimaginable situation

It was not only difficult but an unimaginable situation that we’re facing in our life. Being a journalist, I tried to contact every official from top to bottom for some sort of help but, either their phone was switched-off or they were not reachable. By then, we were deprived of electricity, water, phone, internet, TV network. The BSNL, both mobile and landline, had collapsed as water had flooded the ground floor of the local Rajendra Nagar telephone exchange. The Airtel dongle too had no network. Only Jio network was working.

Somehow, I could contact an assistant commandment of the NDRF, Ajit Singh, and his colleague Rajesh Kumar for help. They were kind enough to send the needful and from the crumbling arch of the first floor we picked up mineral water bottles, which we required most. Two other families had stayed back and they too felt relieved with the supply of water bottles in time. We had some food stuff in our homes and we started carrying off with our new life.

The moment of crisis, though, had brought us — those who stayed back in the apartment — more closer; and we also learnt the judicious use of drinking water like never before in our carefree life.

The residents of Rajendra Nagar in Patna collecting food items delivered by social activists on October 1, 2019. Rescue and relief operations are in full swing in Bihar as people struggled to recover from the devastation brought on by torrential rain, which has claimed 30 lives and caused heavy damage to property.

The residents of Rajendra Nagar in Patna collecting food items delivered by social activists on October 1, 2019.   | Photo Credit: Ranjeet Kumar

 

Next day, a helicopter came hovering over our apartment and we rushed to the roof. It was dropping packets containing flattened rice, jaggery, candle sticks and a match box wrapped in a black polythene, but at some distance. My wife and others started waving their red ‘dupattas’ (stoles) to attract the attention of the pilots but, sadly they moved away. It was repeated the whole day.

Next day, two choppers were in service but my family failed to get even a single packet. Each time they returned inside the flat crestfallen. I kept trying to speak to my journalist friends to know what the government was doing but, most of the time failed to contact them because of the poor network connection.

For first two days, I filed my stories while charging my phone with a power bank, thereafter using an inverter of a family who had left, giving their flat keys to us in case of any emergency.

For the last two days, the NDRF boats have policemen to control the crowd seeking water bottles and food packets. Incidents of theft too have been reported. On Thursday night, when we were in our balcony, a woman from across the road raised an alarm saying that a thief had entered her house. It was pitch dark outside. We, like others too, shone our torch from the balcony and rooftop, others started shouting. Later, a police team, without uniform and arms, came on a tractor and they too started shouting. By then the thief had gone. The Kadam Kuan police team appealed to us all on loudspeaker to remain vigilant and they too went away.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar — whose coalition government is running the State for a decade, visibly irritated over questions from journalists over the hellish condition of Rajendra Nagar, said: “Why do people not make such clamour when Mumbai and America get waterlogged ?” Union Minister and BJP leader Giriraj Singh, though, has apologised for such pathetic condition of the marooned people in the State capital.

Patna has three BJP MLAs, Mayor and two MPs but none could be seen moving in my area of Rajendra Nagar. Only the NDRF personnel were the hope and boon for the people. The JD(U) and BJP, the ruling alliance, are equally responsible for the flood-like situation in the heart of the capital, as the drainage system is said to have collapsed and they claim to make Patna a Smart City.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 5:52:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/seven-days-of-woes-in-waterlogged-rajendra-nagar-area-of-patna/article29594668.ece

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