By Stalin S
Bahtra village in Karikh block of Bhagalpur district is located some 10 kms from the national highway. Most of the houses in this village are constructed with mud walls and roofed with tiles.
When the unexpected flood struck the village it was completely devastated. More than 90% of houses completely collapsed. The life time of earnings of people were trapped under the rubbles of their shelter. The shelter that once protected their dreams, now buried it. A flood after 35 years shattered their present life and future.
Sukram Sah (53), a goldsmith from Bahtra village still remembers that day. He scampered with his seven children and wife to a safer place when the flood struck their village, with a few clothes. He had to leave behind his tool kit which had been feeding his family so far.
“The water rushed into our village, just as when it is pumped with a motor. So massive was the force. It brought down most of the houses in its course. One thing saddens me most, is that I couldn’t take my tools which fed my family all through these years. Now I don’t know what to do and where to start” says Sukram Sah.
When disaster strikes anti-social elements also become active. Most of the people lost their belongings which they apparently had secured in safe places.
“I kept a box on top of a concrete house near my house which had some important documents (land deeds etc) and few new clothes. When I came back from the road side to my village, it was gone. I am still not able to find them,” says Sukram Sah.
Now the struggle they are going through is very hard to imagine. They are in dire need of some food, some plastic sheet for a roof, moreover clean good water to drink.
“This house was build by me but now I am not sure I will not be able to do that again. I am expecting some help from the government or others to support me to rebuild again. But I don’t have much hope. My family is still living in my neighbour’s house. How long can they stay there? If nothing works out I will get some plastic sheets and put up a small tent for my family and I will go to Punjab to find some job to support them. What else I can do? You may feel I am standing on this rubble, muttering like a mad man, but I don’t know what else I could do. There is no light at the end of this dark tunnel,” say Sukram Sah.
At present the water level has gone down and most of the people are back to their village. One middle school run by government in the village has re-opened the day we visited the village. Most of the children have returned to school. But the saddest thing is that half of them do not have their books.
“My four children had gone to school, yet none of them have their books. All their books are under the rubble I am standing on. I am not able to provide them new books. We don’t have any money to buy food, then how can you expect me to buy books for them?” says Sukram, his eyes dowsed with tears.
This is not only the situation Sukram Sah is going through. This is the struggle almost all the parents in the flood affected areas are facing.
Most of the people in the Bahtra village are not optimistic about their future. They need a new beginning but still do not know how to start and where to start.
They neither had the habit of saving nor earned enough a day to save for the future. Each and every visiting person enters the villages creating hopes in their minds. They are expecting that someone will help or provide something to rebuild their lives.
While we were about leave the village I could see the faint glimmer of hope in their eyes. They need a new beginning. Who will lend them a helping hand to rebuild live again is the vital issue?