September 03, 2015

How children are suffering in the flood waters of Assam

Abhilash Borah

Global Youth Ambassador from India

Schoolchildren cross flood water in Guwahati in Assam state

   

Assam, one of the naturally blessed states in India, which takes pride in hosting the Brahmaputra river and Majuli - with the one-horned rhinoceros, exotic species of flora and fauna, rich biodiversity and a wonderful scenic habitat for all - has suffered a series of unfortunate developments.

It’s rightly said that “history repeats itself” and this is sadly observed every year (twice this year) in the form of catastrophic floods which trail the fertile land of Assam after making a mark through the overflowing Brahmaputra.

Assam has seen a series of floods, with the most devastating being in 1950. In recent years, the most cataclysmic flood was in 2005 when huge amounts of damage ocurred in the already economically stranded state.

Unfortunately, Assam has always been ignored by the central government and the mainstream Indian media. This ignorance has reached its peak in 2015, when the woes of the stricken people of Assam are being completely neglected.

We have been under siege from fresh floods and uninterrupted rainfalls for many days and help is not coming. Be it transportation or communication or roadways or education - all are affected drastically. Assam witnesses this natural disaster every year and yet there has been little administrative intervention in curing the infrastructure failings. 

Villagers use makeshift bridge to cross floods in Buraburi village

In this area, hundreds and thousands of children are caught in the web of human and sex trafficking and exploitation. The entire region is a hub for traffickers, who exploit the situation. The lives of innocent children and their education are in peril because of natural disasters and ineffective administrative interventions. In these draconian times, the poor are affected most adversely. 

More than one million people are affected and conditions are only going from bad to much worse, with the worst-hit territories being the district of Dhemaji with almost 270,000 people affected and the district of Dibrugarh. 

It’s not just the displaced poor who have been affected and forced to seek refuge in camps - the rich are also paying a heavy economic toll. Property worth crores has already been damaged and the business class is seeing power cuts and low monetary flow as well. Most of the districts in Assam are affected following the incessant rainfalls, leading the affected ones to move to safer zones and relief camps.

We know from previous floods that children and teenagers are the ones who are going to suffer from mass-scale exploitation. With the loss of economic assets and homely atmosphere, many are going missing in a situation of utter panic. And the situation is only going to get worse.

If due care and attention is not given, early childhood care and education will be completely destroyed, destabilising families. With family economic status in question, destabilisation can be linked to socio-economic difficulties. Increased mental health problems and psychosocial trauma are among the horrendous consequences.

Children paddle rafts through flood water at Nayagoan village

This raises a vital question. What is to be done to counter this problem scientifically? All the rivers must be strategically and scientifically connected so that the water volume doesn't saturate one place and overflowing is stopped.

Flooding has been a problem for Assam since time immemorial. It’s high time for the government to introspect in order to regularise this natural evil, which affects the lives of innumerable people every year.

As an Indian Global Youth Ambassador for A World At School, I take a stance for the people of Assam in this distressing moment - with co-author and human rights activist Shashikant Bukalsaria - to help rebuild our society.

We appeal to the global community to stand in solidarity with those who are drastically affected by the current backdrop of grief and sorrow and help make education a reality for all.

Assam will be forever grateful to you for the support and generosity. Your assistance can help build a momentum towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals.

We are a global children's charity committed to ending the global education crisis and unleashing the potential of the next generation.

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