Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
Video Producer: Aastha Gulati
Forty-five-year old Afia Begum helplessly crosses the Jamuna River through a narrow bamboo bridge amid the havoc caused by the flood in Assam’s Hojai district. Before she reaches her house, which is already submerged in water, she has to walk through a difficult wet road full of slippery mud. The housewife risks slipping and falling in order to reach whatever is left of the place she calls home.
The fragile house made of tin sheets and bamboos has already dealt with several floods this year. In Assam, this is a yearly problem. According to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), more than 75 people have lost their lives as of 20 July. With the Brahmaputra flowing above danger level in several places, this number may rise.
Afia Begum is in agony as she arranges pieces of wood used as cooking fuel. No one understands the pain she goes through.
“This is the fifth time in a year we are witnessing this flood havoc. Every other month, our home is submerged under water. We are suffering since the last three months. We have no proper food to eat, no shelter to sleep.”
Afia Begum’s family has had to temporarily relocate. In a sorrowful tone, she continues,
“We have to live in other people’s homes as our home is flooded. The flood has degraded our life to its worst state. No one is there to talk about this. We are left with nothing.”
Upon asking about the damage caused by the flood, Afia says,
“We got 40 kg of rice for the family, all of it was washed away. I had four chickens and 29 chicks which have died too. I am left with nothing now.”
Her more pressing concern is her son and grandson’s future. Every year, children have to miss classes for months due to the flood. She worries that the children may remain ‘illiterate’ if the situation doesn’t improve, even when there is no pandemic.
Her 80-year-old husband is living in a relative's home. Afia says that she does not want him to come back as the situation could be perilous for him.
No Food or Shelter
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, several migrant workers returned to their villages. Afia's 27-year-old son, Jainal Abdin is one among them. Jainal is busy looking at the devastation while using a makeshift banana raft.
He returned home with little savings in hand after losing his job in Mumbai amid the coronavirus outbreak. With no income source, he has to helplessly sit at home. In the family of seven members, Jainal is the sole earner.
“I came from Mumbai following the lockdown. But here I have no income source and the flood is another barrier in my way. We are struggling to survive. If we get to eat meal one time, we worry for the second meal.”
Upon asking about the flood relief, he says there is none.
“We vote for parties to come to power, but despite suffering throughout the year, we don’t even get flood relief. We have got nothing so far from the government. Moreover, we have to arrange food somehow and cook with whatever is available.”
For migrant workers like Jainal Abdin, flood havoc is an added misery to already existing economic instability.
Inside the house, all they have is a small bed which they use for both sleeping and cooking. Jainal Abdin's wife, 20-year-old Rejmin Begum is busy cooking the small amount of food left for the family. Rejmin chants a few religious words to quiet her son who is crying profusely. Their other son was calmly sitting beside her in a room that has several leakages. With no electricity, the room is poorly lit.
“Taking care of my children is really hard in these times. We have no proper food to eat, not getting enough wood to use for cooking. We are very distressed.”
Among flood victims, the general sentiment is anger for the government. From the loss of property to the loss of life, the issue remains persistent with no concrete relief measures in place.
(The author is a student of journalism at Sharda University. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)