My recent visit to our village, Maitripur in Arunachal Pradesh flashed back few horrible memories in me. How could I forget the devastating rainfall that continued for weeks 25 years back? The night gave nightmares to everyone in the village. Some were worried about their crops getting damaged; some didn’t have money to afford meals, prices of commodities soared unprecedented and those living on daily wages had to live without work and wage for days and classes for students disrupted. But my Dad and Grandfather were all worried about losing of their small plot of home-land to mighty River, Dehing. The Mango Tree, planted by my grandfather before he married my grandmother, resisted the mighty river like the lone warrior but finally uprooted lasting for a night. Father and Grand Dad took everything they could and managed to shift household belongings to another place, half a kilometer away from the furious river. Since then the River has been taking away acres of cultivable lands year after another. The poor villagers could do nothing much except to move away inch by inch as if playing a game, “catch me if you can” as chased by devilish River which tore away whole villages and set its course through middle of them.
Now, almost more than two decades later, everything looked changed. The old ones had gone for heavenly abode and even my grandfather was one of them. It seems every one of them carried a pain with them for heavenly abode. And it was very clear; it was the pain that they could not achieve victory over the River. Could it be more painful than leaving their young ones in the mouth of that furious Dehing? Yes, there are countless number of people who lost their lands, orchards, cattle and properties in floods and living landless, homeless life. Misery, poverty, unemployment non-access to quality education became the synonyms of the lives led by poor and victimized Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh.
Can anyone guess how many acres of land Arunachal or rather India has lost over the last few decades? As per the statistical report, on an average India loses 5,334 million tonnes of soil every year. Does it include the vast acres of lands lost to Dehing River during every monsoon season so far? With no presence of media reporting the actual data or figure of land loss, it gets impression neither from any NGO, Disaster Management Organization nor State or Central Government. Many social activists, Arunachal Students’ Union, blame Chakmas to have been encroaching forest lands in Arunachal. Have they even thought for a moment about the loss of cultivable lands that would be larger than the uncultivable forest lands termed as “encroached lands” occupied by Chakmas just for sake of their survival?
Had the state Government paid heed to the cries of poor flood victims and timely intervened, some of the underlying problems related to issues like forest encroachment, poverty, landlessness and unemployment within the state could have been already solved.
When central Government announced to sanction of Rs. 103.30 Crore for Arunachal Pradesh to manage the flood crisis this year, the Chakma flood victims of Changlang District rejoiced themselves with a ray of hope. But their hopes are yet to turn into reality.