A year of flood fury and protests for Bihar

Kosi smashed through its eastern embankment destroying human habitations and killing hundreds of people

Over 10 lakh people were evacuated during the natural disaster in five districts of the State

State was rocked by a series of violent protests over MNS campaign against North Indians

Patna: The worst floods in the last five decades set the development clock backward in Bihar which had little to cheer about this year as the state convulsed in a violent backlash to Raj Thackeray-led MNS agitation against north Indians in Maharashtra amid political bickering.

The Kosi, often dubbed as Bihar’s ‘river of sorrow’ before being tamed in the 1950s by hundreds of kilometers of dams and barrages, broke free and smashed through its eastern embankment at Kusaha village in Nepal in August.

The frenzied river hurtled down the gradient to Bihar plains picking up a course it had abandoned a century ago hungrily swallowing whatever lay in its path and destroying human habitations and killing hundreds of people.

The disaster drew a quick response from both the State and Central Government with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declaring it a national calamity after an aerial survey on August 28 along with Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

As Dr. Singh announced Rs 1000-crore financial assistance and 1.25 lakh tonnes of food-grains, putting a rare show of Union Ministers Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan pledged full support to arch-rival Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to tackle the crisis.

However, the bonhomie proved short-lived and knives were out with Union Minister of State for Water Resources Jaiprakash Narain Yadav accusing the State Government of not acting swiftly on his ministry’s advise to carry out repairs on the embankment that breached.

One of the biggest evacuation during a natural disaster was carried out in the five districts of Bihar -- Madhepura, Supaul, Saharsa, Purnia and Araria districts -- which bore the brunt of the Kosi’s ire.

For the first time, all three wings of Indian armed forces -- Army, Navy and Air Force, along with the National Disaster Response Force worked tirelessly evacuating over 10 lakh people to safety.

Bihar was rocked by a series of violent protests over Raj Thackeray’s campaign against North Indians which reached a crescendo in October when youths from the State who had gone to give Railway recruitment exam in Mumbai were attacked by MNS activists and a youth Pawan Kumar died. The killing of a Bihari youth Rahul Raj by Mumbai police the same month after he allegedly tried to take passengers on board a State bus hostage also drew angry reaction from the State’s politicians.

Railway Minister Lalu Prasad announced that all the RJD MPs, MLAs and MLCs will resign by November 15 and dared leaders of other parties to follow the suit. He also accused Nitish Kumar of breaking the unity of political parties. However, the RJD chief’s suggestion was rebuffed by the Bihar Chief Minister who said Mr. Prasad wanted to bring Bihar under Central rule and thrust a fresh election on the impoverished State.

Meanwhile, in a setback for Lalu-Rabri duo, the Patna High Court admitted for hearing the Bihar government’s appeal against their acquittal in a disproportionate assets case, an offshoot of the multi-crore rupees fodder scam.

In some cheer for the State, its long cherished dream of an IIT materialised with 100 odd students stepping into history forming its first batch. Also the foundation stone was laid for the revival of Barauni fertiliser plant, closed since 1992, at an estimated cost of Rs 4,500 crore, while the Railways took over the closed Bhara wagon units at Muzaffarpur and Mokama. -- PTI

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