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Monsoon Rage

July 16, 2017

How do you read the pulse of a well functioning  government? Answer is simple: how quickly it reacts to crisis. In that note the government scored badly as a functioning govt.

The heavy downpour in the upstream Indian plains caused our rivers to swell. Onslaught of flood left millions in destitution.

As the water level tended to rise beyond danger threshold, govt did not initiate any relief operations. Media round the clock reported the worsening of flood situation, reminding us its irreplaceable role in crisis situation.

Yet all their wake-up reporting fell into deaf years. A country that is the epitome of disaster management and set example for others miserably failed to come into the aid of people in distress.

The Haor disaster is still fresh in our minds. All the quarters rebuked the govt squarely for its sloppy management. Despite the news of their starvation, relief operations did not get underway. Politicians as usual resorted to stereotypes.
In addition, flash flood in Haor areas made a heavy dent in country’s Boro production, triggering a shortage in food stocks.Govt took initiative to import rice from abroad. Yet the delay in its action strayed the price of coarse rice northward. And still the price is hovering around Tk 42-45. Soaring food prices will further make the lives of flood-hit people wretched.

This time flood warning and forecasting was good. India relayed data on water level at key points of its major rivers. However it is not clear what was the lead time for forecast .Earlier it was more than 24-30 hours. As relations thawed between the countries, Bangladesh might signed agreements in this regard and the early warning time could be longer than before. Moreover, Bangladesh signed agreements with number of countries to share meteorological data and many countries have the ability to provide precise real time information. Even if a country failed  to comply, there are others.

The point is govt had all the necessary information to buckle down to face this seasonal phenomenon.  Yet it watched the misery unfolded doing nothing.

The press was deluged with reports on flood’s damage.

Till Saturday, raging Teesta has swallowed villages, crop fields on both side of its banks and around 300 homes went under water in Gaibandha.

In Kurigram, water level crossed danger level and inundated 8 new villages.

In Sirajganj flood water washed away part of flood protection embankment.

In Sariakandi , Bogra, swollen Jamuna submerged homes and schools, leaving 7000 people homeless.

In Jamalpur, flood left 150,000 people water-logged. Water-borne diseases broke out there.

In Moulavibazaar, onrush of water further deteriorated the flood situation. This adds to the sufferings of 300, 000 water-logged people.

In flood-hit areas, hundreds of schools have been shut down.Thousands of water logged people are stripped of basic necessities.

In the wake of flood, our politicians failed the litmus test of serving the people. Earlier there had been rat race to reach out the vulnerable with pile of relief goods.

At least they could call off the lavish dinner party or postpone their foreign trip in solidarity with the flood-hit people. They even lost that sense of responsibility.

When we were in schools, we saw reams of political activists went door to door seeking money, fistful of rice and worn-out clothes for the flood victims. We saw cafeterias at the universities and colleges  turned into a big kitchen table where volunteers were making hand-made chapatis, oral saline, packing puffed rice and water purifying tablets.

Rare now is that kind of volunteerism. Central to the flood response activities is dissemination of pictures and footages of relief distribution by politicians. Even that perfunctory display is absent in this year’s crisis.

We have recently purchased some utility helicopters. Even those are not deployed to transport relief and  rescue the vulnerable people trapped in water-logged areas.

Helpless villagers now cast their eyes on  submerged fields. They embrace an uncertain future. Unlike the previous disasters, this one rendered them more vulnerable. They count on govt.

Govt  does not deem the crisis severe. For this reason, its rustic machinery was not seen in action. Only Army was deployed to repair the damaged embankments.

No preparations are underway to tackle the epidemic of water-borne diseases in the post flood period. No call for NGO assistance is heard. Govt is not beefing up efforts, nor is it allowing NGOs to operate in flood-hit districts.

Lost orchard will be back. Lush green will be regenerated. Villages will be built. Crop fields will be in full bloom. Damaged embankments will be reconstructed. Roads will be patched up. But the lost trust on the politicians will not be recuperated.

These are the people who descended on the streets to restore democracy. These are the people who stormed Bastille to free their leaders. These are the people who broke into rebellion when their leaders called for a freedom struggle. These are the people  who laid siege to cities when enemy imprisoned their leaders. These are the people who risked their lives to bring out procession when democracy and their leaders trapped under authoritarian boots.

In their trying time, as the calamity unfolds with all its severity, they find none of their leaders by their side. They looked up and sought mercy of the supreme. Trust, loyalty, love, respect are not written in black and white clauses of a contract. They are tested and cemented as relationship grows. Any act that drives a wedge between people and politicians is tantamount to breach of trust.  Peoples’ lost confidence in politicians  augurs ill for  the future of fragile democracy.

The atmosphere of lack of trust feeds the preachers of depoliticization. Next time do not expect any storming of Bastille, siege to the city, popular uprising against tyrannical regimes when the politicians are in trouble. People are appalled at the inaction of our politicians in the wake of this monsoon trouble. Can our politicians read that?

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