Patna, the capital of Bihar would drown and cripple for weeks, not anyone imagined. Heavy rain for days and waterlogging across city and district had put the livelihood on hold. Houses, schools, hospitals, markets were flooded with water but post-disaster pondering on reasons that led to havoc inconvenience is worth knowing.
A delay by the state government in taking credit for turning Bihar’s capital into a living hell for weeks includes mention of at least two leaders. Shouldn’t be lawmakers be held responsible for creating a troublesome time? In wake of this question, the first name is of Sushil Kumar Modi that made rounds of Patna if waterlogging history was introspected well. A couple of decades back, Sushil Modi staged an indefinite hunger strike against waterlogging in Kankarbagh and South Patna location in the regime of Lalu Prasad Yadav.
After dethroning Lalu Prasad Yadav and assuming the power of Bihar as deputy chief minister, Sushil Modi himself failed in taking corrective measures against the waterlogging problem of the city and lastly had fallen victim to the deluge proving a fact that time span of one and a half-decade was insufficient to meet the need. Modi’s residence in the road no. 8 in Rajendra Nagar also drowned. He left the inundated house within no time with the help of SDRF team but his locality and neighbours were left in a lurch. This selfishness drew heavy criticism from those who used to praise him and voted him to power successively.
Amid protests, criticism, and introspection, the second name that needs spotlight is of Suresh Sharma. The urban development minister of the state and three-time BJP MLA representing Muzaffarpur assembly constituency. After tragedy led by heavy rain had hit the city life, he announced a probe couple of days back to check what led to severe flooding in Bihar’s capital Patna. Ironically, the panel had members who themselves were responsible for the mishap. This move by the minister turned out to be an embarrassment for the state government when deputy chief minister Sushil Modi came to know about it and ordered urban development officials to drop the decision as chief minister was going to head a review meet on waterlogging.
The three-member committee was headed by Urban Development and Housing Department (UDHD) Special secretary Sanjay Kumar, Amrendra Kumar Singh, Managing Director of BUDCO (Bihar Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation) and Amit Kumar Pandey, the administrator of the Patna civic body.
The urban development minister undertook a decision bypassing chief minister and deputy chief minister, nevertheless, he ridiculed his act of forming an inquiry panel to probe the inconvenience flood and waterlogging.
BUIDCO was largely responsible for the flooding in the city as out of the 39 sump houses which it runs, most of them were not functioning. Four heavy-duty suction pumps were brought in from Chhattisgarh with help of Coal India Limited (CIL). But their compatibility with existing sump houses across the city was again a big challenge. Many sump structures, which were small in comparison to pumps had to undergo structural changes to fit in the suction pumps. Such was the preparation of the state agency responsible for urban development.
In 2012, BUIDCO had proposed Rs 2,200 crore drainage network along with five sewerage treatment plant (STP) under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). But the scheme was discontinued before the state got it formally approved by the Centre. Again it was sanctioned under the Namami Gange project in 2017 but remained incomplete.
Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) another state entity accountable for urban maintenance bitterly failed in discharging duties on time. Its preparation was such that it did not have a physical map of many old drains conceded a PMC official. According to a report, Rs 49 crore was spent in the last 13 years by the government just to prepare the survey map of the drainage system in Patna. The companies said to be blacklisted in other States were given tenders to complete the job. PMC started work on the first major sewerage and drainage system, Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP) at Beur and Karmalichak after Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid its foundation stone in late 2017 but it did not witness completion.
Ironically, the head of culprit agencies was handpicked by the state’s urban development minister to inquire about wrongdoings after heavy rainfall. It is also alleged by BUIDCO officials that contract of building drainage system in Patna was given to Manhunt, the company blacklisted by neighbouring state Jharkhand but it handed over a flawed Detail Project Report (DPR) to BUIDCO and in addition to this, Patna Mayor, Sita Sahu was engaged in blaming the state government as whole.
In total, people from 1,400 villages of 90 blocks in 15 districts in Bihar were left stranded due to flooding. At least 97 people died and more than 20 lakh people were estimated to be affected and Patna had more sorrows. In Rajendra Nagar, Kankarbagh, Bazar Samiti, Patliputra Colony, Adamkuan, Anisabad and TV tower areas of Patna, normal life went out of gear. At least livelihood of 2 lakh people crippled due to floodwaters.
When it comes to blame and hold accountable the leaders, officials, it must be noted that 4 MLAs within city, 2 MPs of Patliputra and Patna Sahib, Mayor of Patna Municipal Corporation, State Urban development minister and State deputy chief minister all belong to Bhartiya Janata Party who is known for its infamous slogan of “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” but special mention of Sushil Modi is accredited to his past political victories attributed to the problem of waterlogging in Patna city.
Nearly 15 years of rule by the ruling alliance of JDU-BJP, repetition of the retarded saga of previous regime and incapability of providing minimum facilities such as inundation free space to urban population remains a myth. Misuse of funds, pickpocketing of taxpayers hard-earned money and fooling urban citizens by hands of ministers to councillors during elections has turned out to be a state-sponsored gimmick. Again new announcements and directives would surface within a day and suffering would transform into a new normal. Therefore, it would be appropriate to consider drowning of Patna as a corruptible and messed up governance.