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Besieged by the deluge

Aniruddha Laskar narrates here the story of the beleaguered students who have no other option but to accustom themselves with the ravaging flood waters of Guwahati.


After going through the rigours of preparing for his exams, Amit Baruah went to bed quite content that he would score well the next day. His wishes were short-lived. He woke up startled in the middle of the night, only to see his utensils floating in his hostel room which was situated on the ground floor. Banging his head, he sighed with agony, for flash floods has struck once again his hostel premises, in a city he has chosen to pursue his dreams.
Amit, a resident of Shillong of the state of Meghalaya, in order to be a media practitioner joined a Bachelor’s Degree Course in Mass Communication in a private institute in Guwahati. Once through the admission process, his quest began for a hostel premises closer to it. He got one, just a stone’s throw away from his institution. He was fortunate enough though, for his roommate, Manoj Sarma, also joined the same course who hailed from Sonitpur district of Assam. Manoj who is a good cook himself when asked what he does to fill his or Amit’s tummy during such times, said, “We raise a table on our bed and then I start cooking for all of us. It is a cumbersome experience, but we are left with no choice”.
The saga remains the same for thousands of boarders in and around Nabin Nagar, Tarun Nagar, Anil Nagar, Rajgarh Road and its various bye lanes and also the perennial waterlogged area of Zoo Tiniali Road. More than 500 hostels are run in the vicinity of these areas. Students from all over Northeast converge in these hostels and more often than not, each of them has undergone the turmoil of going through this problem in the last couple of years. Mr Diganta Kalita (name changed) an owner of a girls hostel in Anil Nagar had to wade through dirty water right up to his chest along with a cart carrying a water tank in search of fresh water. His boarders were stranded for more than 48 hours and with no electricity for the same period, life became a living hell for each one of them.“Braving this filthy water I have come out of my house to get some fresh water for these girls. Don’t know how I will take back this water tank back to my place as the water level is rising with every passing minute”, Mr Kalita lamented.
The matter doesn’t rest here. Popularly known as the gateway of the Northeast, Guwahati city has become a living den for many who live here alone, especially students. Surrounded by small and big hillocks, the city has become a treasure trove for illegal settlers in these hills. Unholy nexus with the land mafia and illegal construction of houses and buildings has also unbalanced the very fabric of the city’s ecosystem. The nature’s reply has been simple yet devastating. Landslides have washed away the lives of many who dared to encroach upon these hills. The number is rising and so also the problem of flash floods in one calendar year. Swapna, a student from Dibrugarh district of Assam was furious and replied, “Natural calamities we can understand and also take it in our stride to cope with it, but these flash floods are our own creation and steps have to be taken fast to overcome it. Government must take some drastic steps and not pass the ball in each other’s court”.
The Government for now is blaming the illegal settlers for such a mess. Kamrup (Metropolitan) Deputy Commissioner M. Angamuthu said that the city received 135 mm rainfall over the past 24 hours on 22nd and 23rd September compared to 65mm rainfall received during June, which resulted in death of 11 persons due to flash flood and landslides. The Chief Minister of the state Tarun Gogoi took an aerial survey and asked authorities to take measures for all exigencies. Mr Gogoi too has to come down now from the skies and find answers for this menace of flash floods and landslides in the city. Till that time, the students and especially those who have come from other parts of the state as well as from neighbouring states can keep their fingers crossed and appease the rain god to stay away from this city. If nothing happens still, all music lovers like Amit Baruah can strum their guitar and make merry of their unintentional fate, or utter the standard punchline in Assamese “moi ki kou”.

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