D-Sector for Development Community

   Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Agriculture - Duties and Rights - Education - Environment - Food - Global - Governance - Health - Indian Economy - Indian Society - Physical Development - Social Welfare - Water and Sanitation
Print | Back
Planners and engineers have contempt for commoners: Dinesh Mishra
By d-sector Team



The absence of information flow between the development planners and the common people who have live experience of grass root realities is the biggest hurdle in the flood management efforts, says Dr Dinesh Mishra in a dialogue with d-sector.

An acclaimed authority on cause-effect relationships of floods, Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra, convenor of Barh Mukti Abhiyan, has virtually spent better part of his life wading through the sprawling river basins of flood-ravaged north Bihar to get a first-hand account of not only the nature of floods and associated human misery but also the politics behind it. In his factually accurate biographies of all the major rivers, Dr Mishra has delineated the contours of the manmade crises that have remained privy to engineers but at an incredible cost to the unsuspecting masses. His contention is that rivers should be allowed to flow freely and by constructing embankments, planners have only aggravated the risk and severity of floods. The political economics of floods, he laments, may never allow the annual ritual of floods' havoc to be seen beyond the relief syndrome.

A walking encyclopedia on Bihar floods, Dr Mishra is always on the move 'to learn more about the rivers and floods' and to write his observations. An excellent communicator with a flair for poetry and Urdu shayari, he quotes extensively from the ancient scriptures and has innumerable anecdotes to share. Though this IIT Kharagpur alumnus, who sacrificed family life and career to better understand behaviour of rivers, was busy giving finishing touches to yet another biography on river Bagmati, he readily responded to the queries put forth by d-sector in his own inimitable style.

Q. In your three decades of work in understanding and chronicling the human induced floods in the north Bihar rivers including Kosi, what has been the essential message that you think the planners and politicians have missed out and still continue to do so?

A. The planners and engineers have contempt against the people living within the flood plains for centuries and treat them as 'laymen'. If floods or the rivers' behavior had been problematic the way the engineers believe they are, all the people living within the flood plains would have migrated to Rajasthan or Rayalseema. There is no dialogue between the self professed experts and the so called 'laymen' who live and grow along the river and can predict the river behavior with reasonable accuracy without any gadget. Unfortunately, the 'laymen' do not possess the computing skills of the engineers and the engineers lack experience of living with rivers. The 'laymen' in turn, doubt the moves of the engineers as mischievous and the mistrust between the two is a reality. Unless the trust is built up, and that is only possible through regular dialogues between the two, no tangible result would be possible.

Q. Will there be a time when the suffering masses within and outside the jacketed rivers rise up to make them understand it?

A. The possibility of masses taking up the issue with engineers and planners reminds me of the story about a monkey and two cats. The monkey will ensure that the cats continue to fight with each other, while pretending to solve their dispute over share he could eat the full loaf. The planners have successfully split the people among those living on the countryside of the embankments and those living on the riverside. Their interests appear contradictory and the establishment has the last laugh as the two groups would never be allowed to resolve their differences. Unless these victims of travesty of technology and politics realize that they are being taken for a ride, their condition would not improve. As of today, they have been systematically cheated by the politicians, engineers and the contractors' nexus and are a resigned lot. They will retaliate the day they realize they have nothing to loose.

Q. One would have expected the engineers to understand you better as you are one of them and speak their language but that doesn't seem to be the case so far. Can the subject of civil or water engineering be more empathetic to the concerns you have raised or will it remain an unrealised wish?

A. Engineers speak the language of the rulers. The British establishment decried embankments, their engineers supported their views. The establishment of independent India projected embankments as saviour of the people living in flood plains; its engineers soon discovered virtues in the embankments. The engineers are employed by rulers and not by egg plants like us.

However, if I had no hope, I wouldn't have devoted my life for the people living in the flood plains. Some day the engineering establishment would realize that I was right. Many of them do it even now but after the office hours.

Q. Has your single status got anything to do with your romance for the rivers?

A. A single person's sentiments, passions and curiosity remain intact and do not fade with time. This must be getting reflected within the society in some form or the other. For a romantic person only the object changes, rest everything remains the same.

Engineers speak the language of the rulers. The British establishment decried embankments, their engineers supported their views. The establishment of independent India projected embankments as saviour of the people living in flood plains, its engineers soon discovered virtues in the embankments. The engineers are employed by rulers and not by egg plants like us.

Q. Why would you not romance 'Boodhi Gandak' or for that matter 'Brahmaputra'?

A. I find it objectionable when the adjectives of 'boorhi' (old) or 'mara' (dead) or 'chharan' (abandoned) are used in context of rivers. These words kill the charm that the rivers are known to possess. Try using these words for your family members and see where you land up. These words may lead you to respect, condole or sympathize with someone but never to love. Brahmaputra is known as Baba (Grandfather) and suffers from the same complex. Talking about Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Narayani, Malini, Kosi, Nanda, Sunanda, Padma, Soni, Dhauri, Kali, Kapila, Bhargavi, Cauvery or Chandrabhaga etc takes you to a different world altogether.

Q. Would you say that the society that doesn't value its rivers doesn't respect its women too?

A. I think we are the only nation that has assigned gender to rivers. For others, it is just a matter of grammatical convenience. Traditionally, we have said a lot in honour of women but in practice our actions have always been questionable. Of late, we have started taking our rivers for a ride. Earlier we used to praise them that bathing in a particular river (snana), drinking its water (pana), paying respect by visiting it (darshana) or even remembering some of them (dhyana) was enough for salvation. All that is gone and our rivers have turned into cesspools. I would not suggest drawing a parallel between women and rivers in the context and leave it to others to contemplate.

Q. Which of the characters in river folktales resemble you the most?

A. Humayun, the Mughal emperor, after his defeat to Sher Shah in battle near Chausa, was running away from his enemies when his horse fell into river Ganga and he was nearly drowned when a Bhishti (a person assigned to carry water in leather bags) rescued him. When the emperor was successfully dragged out of river by the poor water carrier, Humayun promised his saviour that for one day he will offer the throne to him for his courageous act and faithfulness. Humayun fulfilled his promise and the Bhishti, during his one day reign, started a currency made out of leather. If you ever come across an autobiography titled "The Leather Coin", it would be written by me.

Q. Does it bother you that the world remembers you only when the rivers are in spate?

A. Not at all. Barsaat ka mausam to leharane ka mausam hai (The rainy season is to enjoy). It is better to be remembered by all and sundry when it is raining and the rivers are in the best of their glory. That gives you energy for the rest of the year. I am sought when the engineers who construct embankments and dams fail. But then, hamara choona lagane walon se kya muqabila? (I am not among those engineers who dupe the system while pretending to build infrastructure.)

Q. How do you describe your ultimate goal?

A. This is the most difficult question to answer. Millions of people tried to find the correct answer and were not satisfied with their efforts, if not failed. Poet Iqbal had written what is appropriate to most of us. He said:

"Zindagi insaan ki maanind murghe khush nawaan, Shaakh par baitha koi din chahchahaya, ud gaya."  (Life of a person is like a bird sitting over the trunk of a tree chirping sweetly for some days and then it flies away.)
The caravan carries on.

Write to d-sector  |  Editor's Note
 


Feedback /Comments on this article
 
Dr Dinesh Mishra's interview

Reading this interview was like listening to Dr Mishra live! Very enlightening on the issues of floods in North Bihar and wish all Indians understand the undercurrents of these river currents!

Posted By: Surekha Sule
Dated: Tuesday, July 20, 2010

 
 Other Articles by d-sector Team in
Socio-Economic Development  > Social Welfare > Social Work and Activism

Action Aid India initiates KAP
Monday, November 14, 2011


Access and empowerment key to development - Sethi
Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Sri Lanka to regulate INGOs and NGOs
Monday, May 24, 2010


UNESCO prize for Abdul Sattar Edhi of Pakistan
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

  1  2     
 
 Other Articles in Socio-Economic Development
 
 
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
Commentators
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
Sudhirendar Sharma
Member Login
- New Member
- Forgot Password

WoW Gold,Buy WoW Gold,Website Design,Web Design,Health Tips,Health Guides,NFL News,NFL Jerseys,Fashion Design,Home Design,Replica Handbags,Replica Bags,Jewelry Stores,Wedding Jewelry,WOW Gold,Cheap WoW Gold,Wedding Dresses,Evening Dresses,MMORPG Guides,MMORPG Tips,Fashion Jewelry,Fashion Crystal,Sexy Lingerie,Best Sexy Lingerie,Fashion Clothing,Fashion Shoes,Travel News,Travel Guides,Education News,Education Tips