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   River Bagmati: Bounties become a curse
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
30 Nov 2012
he resolute perseverance with which Dinesh Kumar Mishra has chronicled major rivers, flowing through the flood plains of Bihar, during past three decades makes one realise if this civil engineer could have been anything but a ‘river biographer’. Meticulous with details, ranging from mythology to hydrology, the narrative weaves people as victims of hydrological madness. Multiple voices and divergent perspectives only testify what Voltaire had long said: ‘The progress of river to the ocean is not as rapid as that of man to error.’ The story of Bagmati is no different!

While the river has preserved its status of a free-flowing drain in Nepal, caging it between embankments has forced the river to roar occasionally in Bihar. Largely unnoticed, the embankments have breached no less than 58 times over last 35 years. Notable aspect of this rather familiar story across major river basins in the sub-continent is that ‘neither have lessons been learnt nor are there any intentions.’ Not surprising, therefore, that the narrative reflects author’s pain and anguish in equal measures.

Mishra’s relentless documentation on rivers may not have gone unnoticed but it has not been able to capture popular imagination as yet. Bereft of detailed prescription, the diagnostic narrative has seemingly remained restricted to researchers and academics. Being critical of structural development along river course and the consequences thereof, his books have remained on the periphery of political discourse on flood plain management. Like his previous biographies, River Bagmati may not be a game changer yet but has essential elements to challenge history.

One may well argue that the world is not at the tipping point for a change in managing our rivers yet. Should that be so, these river biographies have surely been written ahead of their times. However, the time is not far for the ‘business-as-usual’ scenario of (mis)managing the rivers to transform. It is then that wise, witty, patient, persistent and persuasive anthology by Dinesh Kumar Mishra will merit serious consideration.

River Bagmati: Bounties Become A Curse
by Dinesh Kumar Mishra
PSI/SANDRP, Dehradun/Delhi
208 pages, Rs.595

 


 
 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
 
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

 
Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
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Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
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