By Sister Kiran Kaniyamkandathil and Sister Leena Padam
People living in the Kala Diara hamlets on the banks of the river Ganges have no clean drinking water. The devastating floods contaminated the open/tube wells. People have to go faraway places to collect drinking water. They can fetch water from the wells of the people of their own kind. The caste system plays a role as to who can draw water from certain wells. Most of the Kala Diara people belong to the lowest caste group, Mahadalits.
The continuous rain has added to people’s woes. People are afraid to enter their wet mud houses. The houses which withstood the floods are crumbling down in the continuous downpour. The mud floors of the houses are filled with the watery muck brought in by the floods. Many have erected bamboo platforms to save their meagre belongings. People are spending sleepless nights for they have no place to lie down or sleep.
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth have been able to reach out to the flooded affected people with dry food items, candles, matchboxes and other needed supplies for their living. With the support from Kurji Holy Family Hospital, they distributed 500 packets of sanitary pads to the women and young girls in three of the six flood relief camps set up by the government. We also distributed milk powder and biscuits for the children and persons with special needs. With the help of our supporters especially the priests, women religious, Nazareth Academy, Gaya and Catholic Relief Services, Kolkata, we were able to distribute tarpaulins, clothes and fuel to many of the severely affected people.
Bihar government is giving out monetary aid to those who have a bank account. It has come to the Sisters knowledge that many of the people who are landless neither have a bank account nor do they have any identity cards such as unique identity cards, voter Id and ration cards. Without any one of these Ids, people cannot open a bank account. Leena Padam, SCN, who is in charge of the community health outreach program and coordinating the flood relief services, is meeting various government officials to get the required documents for the people to open an account in their names.
As soon as the flood waters began to recede the government asked the people to move out of the six flood relief camps. The chief minister of Bihar also told the Central government in Delhi and other state governments that Bihar can take care of its own people and does not need any aid from outside. He also asked the non-governmental organizations to stay out of the area.
Last week, the people took to the streets and blocked the national high way demanding that the state government give aid to the affected people without delay. People have not received a positive response from the government.
Sisters continue to reach out to the people especially those who lost their homes and those whose houses are still under the flood muck with relief materials coming in from various places.
We appreciate the generous contributions received for helping the needy.