While writing on the misery of the flood victims I thought of the Russian writer Chekhov’s short story titled “Misery” depicting the suffering of an eighty year old cab driver that was caused by the premature death of his only son. He told the agony of his mind to the police officer, the young drunkards who rode his cab and at last to his fellow driver but none of them listened to him. So, finding no other way he talked to his horse in the stable because man must tell his suffering even to animal and the story suddenly ends with the concluding words: “To whom shall I tell my grief”.
However, with this example in mind I would like to switch over to the main topic of discussion. We are very unfortunate that flood has become a recurrent phenomenon for us as Bangladesh is a low-lying country, for which the onrush of hilly water coming from the upstream swells-up our major rivers to cause flood. This is aggravated by the heavy shower during the rainy season. At present, the flood situation is steadily improving with the recession of the water level in most of the rivers that we come to know from the regular briefing by the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC) and Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB). But the damage has already been done by flood and as such the suffering of the flood victims knows no bound. During the worsening period of the flood more than two million people were marooned. Then they had to suffer from scarcity of food and water. It is an irony of fate that they were in the midst of plenty of water, but they could not drink:“Water, water everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink”
The condition of innumerable families in the affected areas of nearly ninety-two Upazilas under eighteen districts was miserable. It is disheartening to note that vast areas of their paddy and vegetable fields were ruined in the flood affected areas. Moreover, riverbank erosion intensified along with the receding of flood water. It has devoured many houses and croplands rendering people paupers. Their tremendous loss of valuable crops fills my heart with great sorrow and reminds me of the song I heard long ago: “Ami ei dekhilam sonar fashal/ Ami ei dekhi nai re” which means I have just seen golden crops and just seen them vanished. A leading English Daily in its 21 July issue reported that according to the estimate of DGHS 4,024 people have been affected by diarrhoea, skin disorder, eye inflammation and bronchitis during three weeks of flood in the low-lying regions of Bangladesh. In this period, 67 deaths occurred due to drowning, diarrhoea, snake bite, and lightning. Despite this the Health Department adopted precautionary measures to prevent further outbreak of disease in the aftermath of flood.
The flood-hit people who took shelter in high land began to return home but painfully they have to live under open sky as their houses had been washed away by the terrible flood water. Not for a moment can they behold their sweet smiling village. There is gloom and frustration everywhere. The horrors of the flood have caused great havoc and shattered their hopes and aspirations. At this critical juncture, their basic requirement is financial assistance for rebuilding of their houses and starting cultivation in their land afterwards. Our government took very effective measures as a part of humanitarian assistance to alleviate their sufferings. Relief materials such as huge tons of rice, dry food, baby food, animal food, and medicine and cash money are being distributed regularly among them.
It is true that, the relief goods and materials they have received may enable them to support themselves for some days. The supply of food for the provision arranged for them is not quite adequate in proportion to the needs of the large number of affected victims. In consequence, they have to live in strained circumstances and abject misery. There is no denying the fact that the government has made its earnest endeavour. But there is a limit beyond which it cannot do. It is known to all that our country is grappling with global pandemic Covid-19, which is taking away a heavy toll of lives everyday like other countries of the world. The current flood poses a serious challenge for Bangladesh vis-à-vis the pandemic.
The flood victims who were once well off, by turn of fate, have now been thrown into the abyss of misery owing to the devastating flood and devastation of their economic and social lives. This reversal of fortune finds poignant expression in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries”. Their boundless suffering touches the deepest chord of every human sentiment. They must have endurance and resilience that one day life would get normal and happy days will prevail. As it is said in the Holy Qur’an: “Happiness will come after sorrow” (Surah At-Talaq 65:7). At the same time we hope and expect that our benign government, the head of which is internationally held in high esteem as the Mother of Humanity would redouble its vigorous and holistic efforts to alleviate the untold misery of the victims. It is only the government that can remove their distress as our country has earned worldwide reputation in respect of disaster management. Under the dynamic leadership of Sheikh Hasina, the great Prime Minister of Bangladesh who, knowing full well in advance that this year’s flood may last long, took prior preparation to successfully face the adverse situation.
The writer is former VC of Britannia University. Email: [email protected]