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Shanti Devi from Raghopur bore her fifth child, a boy, at a flood relief camp on the Hajipur-Chhapra Road. She wants to name him Manjit to rhyme with Ranjit, her elder son, but she is also tempted to call him Gangesh, after the flooding of the river.
“Who knows, Mother Ganga might bring better luck for him,” said Shanti, whose husband Raju Bhagat sells bananas in Hajipur.
A stretch of one-and-a-half kilometres along the road is lined on one side with plastic tents for humans and animals. The displaced people sleep next to their most prized possession, cows and buffaloes, which they evacuated to safety first.
“Our only worry for the last 15 days has been if we would get get food thrice a day,” said Bhagiddan Bhagat, Shanti’s father-in-law. “Seven members of my family are living in this camp. Though the water of Ganga is receding, it may take another 10 to 15 days to go back and raise our home.”
Over 2,500 people from Raghopur and Hajipur assembly constituencies have been in relief camps for the last 15 days. Raghopur is a high-profile constituency: it is represented by deputy CM Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, and VVIPs frequently travel along the road, the main link between Patna and north Bihar. Among the 12 Bihar districts affected by the floods because of surplus water discharge into the Ganga and the Sone from MP, UP and Jharkhand, the Vaishali district administration has been particularly conscious about ensuring smooth distribution of flood relief.
For all its care, the distribution of breakfast has proved a challenging task. The government has entrusted an NGO, Ekta Shakti Sangathan, with the task of distributing the breakfast — soaked gram and jaggery, alternating with chuda (beaten rice) and jaggery.
Women sitting in queue stretched out one end of their sarees and NGO volunteers started distributing chuda and jaggery. After just five minutes, all stood up and started complaining they had not got enough or got nothing it at all. As the volunteers went back and forth, some people could be seen taking two or three helpings and stocking it into their polybags. Hands remained stretched for another half-hour, with the man distributing the jaggery looking clueless. Finally, NGO volunteers convinced the people to stay in queue and it worked.
“We do not face this problem with lunch and dinner. Then, they sit and eat,” said special magistrate Arvind Kumar. Both meals comprise rice, pulses and vegetables.
Settlers at the camp constantly fret about rebuilding their homes. Devilal Mahto, living in a tent with two cows, pointed towards his half-submerged thatched house. “It will be like starting life all over again. And after the floods, there will be the fear of snakes.”
Rajmuni Devi, Gudiya Devi, Kanti Devi, Umesh Das and Sahdeo Das came from Chakmadma Chisti village. “We don’t know if the government will give us money to raise homes. We are happy to get government food, though, and hope we keep getting it. Our only concern is get food two times a day for now,” said Rajmuni Devi.
Umesh Das’s son Badal, 5, was eating beaten rice soaked with water and salt. There was little jaggery but he ate with relish.