The heavy rains in Assam in June wreaked havoc on five million people across 2,900 villages in 27 districts resulting in loss of life, property and belongings. Rajarshi Sinha, the District Rotaract Representative (DRR) of RID 3240 who resides in Silchar, shared a video of his inundated home and street on WhatsApp, and I immediately reached out to him. The conversation revealed the harsh scenario of the state. Silchar was one of the worst affected towns and the breaching of the embankments of the Barak and Bekli rivers worsened the situation.
“It rained continuously for two days (June18–19); the rivers began to overflow and the dykes gave away, flooding the town. We moved up to the first floor as soon as the water levels started rising. There was no electricity or water for 10 days,” said Sinha, and promptly shared a list of emergency items such as mosquito repellants, water, milk powder, sanitary napkins and blankets that were urgently needed for relief distribution.
Roads and infrastructure were destroyed, leading to breakdown in communication between cities. Shilu Rani Das who lost her husband during the floods was shattered. “This tragedy will be etched in my memory forever. Every time there is a flood, I will remember how I struggled to save my husband’s life,” she cried. He was suffering from cancer and bedridden for the past one year. “Maybe he would have been alive if we could have taken him to a hospital. We took his body for cremation on a raft made with banana stems.”
Sinha related heartrending incidents of a woman begging for a boat as her child was very ill, and how people were desperately trying to get drinking water. “We had no choice other than to drink the flood water, and I cooked food with whatever I had, using the same dirty water,” he quoted a woman in one of the villages which the club had visited to distribute relief material. “And there was a man on a raft holding on to a ripe jackfruit so dearly saying that he, his children and his cow will survive on it until they got some food.” Over one lakh persons were sheltered in 500-plus relief camps in Silchar.
Rotaract clubs of the district hit the ground quickly as soon as the rains stopped, collecting drinking water bottles, food items and other relief material to reach out to the flood-hit people across the state. Rotaractors spread the word on social media across the country seeking help.
The DRR, along with club members Rtn/Rtr Bikash Mozumdar, Shubham Banik, Rupak Kumar Das, Pankaj Kanti Sinha and Dr Samujjwal, packed drinking water bottles, candles, biscuit packets and cooked food, and rode on make-shift bamboo rafts to reach out to over 250 people in the city’s low-lying areas such as Singari Basti and New Bhakatpur. Pankaj Sinha visited the railway station every night to feed stray cows and dogs.
RAC Hailakandi led by its president Kaushik Chakraborty distributed drinking water and groceries to 500 flood-hit families. “In many places we had to wade through chest-deep water to deliver food packets and water,” he said, adding that 14 students from Agartala were stranded in Silchar due to the floods. “We helped them with food and accommodation for a week and helped them board the train to their hometown.”
Rotaractors of RAC Silchar Royals visited the flood-hit areas, along with the National and the State Disaster Rescue Force (NDRF and SDRF) to assess the situation. They distributed 100 packets of sanitary napkins and personal hygiene material, 8,000 litres of drinking water, biscuits, milk cartons, mosquito repellents, candles and grocery items to people in the relief camps. “We would have helped at least 1,000 families across the city. It was pathetic to see people lose their belongings and get stranded amidst the floods,” said club president Animesh Paul, and thanked the generous public and other NGOs who also joined hands for the cause.