A WEEK after Patna saw heavy rain between September 28 and 30, and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi had to be rescued from Rajendra Nagar after being stranded there for three days, the colony in the state’s capital remains under water and without electricity.
As fears of disease grow in an area that is the city’s hub of hospitals, and houses VIPs and bureaucrats, blame game is on between the Urban Development Ministry and Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC). With Union minister Giriraj Singh lending his weight to criticism of the government, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s defence that such people “have little knowledge about Patna geography and the fact that rains have been unprecedented”, is cutting little ice.
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Since making his way out from his family home in a boat on September 30, Modi has moved into his official bungalow, that he normally uses as an office. In his only remark on the incident, the Deputy CM said, “The Centre and state are fighting together to drain the water out.” An aide said Modi initially waited for the water to recede. “But when the level reached over 5 ft, he contacted the Patna District Magistrate.”
The Deputy CM was among an estimated 62,000 people rescued from Rajendra Nagar and the other most-affected colony, Kankerbagh. They included patients who were evacuated after water entered several hospitals.
With Patna already reporting about 200 dengue cases, the PMC has started spraying of DDT and fogging in the areas cleared of water. However, with Rajendra Nagar still under up to 2-ft water, power connection has not been restored, while the repair of landline phones is affected due to digging for the ongoing Namami Gange work. In Kankerbagh though, electricity and phone lines are up.
Surrounded by the Ganga, Punpun and Sone rivers, Patna saw 400 mm of rainfall between September 28 and 30, nearly double what it got last year in the same period. A planned colony, Rajendra Nagar is located in a low-lying area.
Patna Mayor Sita Sahu said the PMC had “done its job” before the monsoon, including clearing the nine ‘trunks’ where the city drain chambers converge. Just before this year’s rains, the PMC had acquired super sucker machines to clear the drains.
However, Bihar Urban Development Minister Suresh Sharma blamed inadequate de-clogging of the trunks as the reason for the waterlogging. “We have ordered an inquiry into the lapses… We have heard the PMC does not have even a drains map,” Sharma said.
Sahu countered that it is the Bihar Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation (BUIDCO) that should have the drain maps, and that in the absence of the same, the PMC has to depend on old staffers who know the drain routes and locations.
A PMC official speaking on the condition of anonymity asked why the BUIDCO had not operationalised all the 39 sump houses (for draining of water), which it maintains, the first day of the rain.
The failure to operationalise the sumps on time cost Rajendra Nagar the most. Its drainage does not have a natural flow due to its location. “Given the heavy rain, all its chambers and trunks were full the first day itself. With the Saidpur sump house not operational till September 30, there was no escape for the water. The rising levels of Ganga and Punpun rivers made the matters worse by slowing down discharge from the Rampur canal after the sump started functioning,” said a PMC official.
In Kankerbagh, the transformer for the sump house was dysfunctional at the time it started pouring. This forced the BUIDCO to fall back on a low-capacity diesel pump. Officials said, mechanics from Kolkata had to be called to repair the transformer. By the time this was done, it was October 1, and Kankerbagh was under 3- to 5-ft water. Big pumps have about 500 HP capacity as against 100 HP normal pumps.
While no BUIDCO official was ready to come on record, Sharma said, “The inquiry would look into lapses on the part of everybody, including the BUIDCO.”
Emphasising that “there had been no casualties”, because of efficient rescue operations, Disaster Management Department Principal Secretary Pratyaya Amrit said, “We have been able to drain out water from most areas.”
Officials said they didn’t anticipate the downpour given the Meteorological Department’s forecast of “mild to moderate” rains in that period, with Patna put under “yellow” and not “red” zone of a cyclonic circulation which was predicted to cause showers in 12 Bihar districts.
With old-timers calling it the worst waterlogging since the 1975 floods, the CM has again pointed to the “heaviest ever” rain in recent times. “Why do you people not question waterlogging in Mumbai and Delhi?… We are up to the challenge,” Nitish said.