Flood In Assam And Lack Of Coverage

Flood In Assam And Lack Of Coverage

Assam recently witnessed severe flood and landslides, impacting not only millions of people but the wildlife of the area. The disaster also brought to attention the lack of coverage the Northeastern state receives.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Flood
Assam is currently facing the disastrous combination of floods and landslides, which has affected more than 4 million people so far. 107 casualties have been reported, with 81 and 26 people killed by the flood and landslides respectively.

Besides the impact on humans, the flood has also affected the wildlife of the region severely. 85% of the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve has been submerged underwater, while 108 animal casualties have been reported so far. The list of deceased animals includes 9 Rhinos, 36 Hog deers, 7 Wild Boars, etc.

Assam Flood Recurrence
Floods occur every year in Assam, mainly due to the overflow of the Brahmaputra river. Experts have claimed that the recent increase in the severity of the floods is due to the large-scale deforestation in the region and the release of water by the dams situated upstream.

In 2019, 81 casualties were reported due to floods, which affected more than 2.7 million people (reported on 26 July 2019). High floods, which submerge 60% or more of the national park, have occurred yearly between 2016 and 2020 except 2018.

Lack Of Coverage
Indian media has shown neglect of Assam and the whole of the north-eastern part, with critics alleging that Assam is covered only when the United Liberation Front of Assam or any other separatist organization evokes violent incidents.

While several media outlets have been criticized for covering news of “celebrities” affected with Covid-19 and their daily routine, or the heavy rain flood of Delhi, state experts claim “low or zero” coverage of the current or previous floods. Similarly, the achievements of Assam, which have been plentiful, have been neglected in the mainstream coverage.

Lack Of Funding
In 2018, Scroll.in, a news website, filed a Right to Information application concerning the disaster management status of Assam. Through the query, the website found that “practically, the government of Assam has not received any assistance from the government of India during the period 2014-’18”. Consequently, the State managed with only the State Disaster Response Fund without any aid from the National Disaster Response Fund between 2014 and 2018.

Recent Events Of Assam – How Many Do You Know?

  • 2020: Severe flood and landslides hit Assam, with 107 casualties reported so far.
  • June 2020: Oil leaked in Assam’s Baghjan field. People in 5km radius were evacuated while several dolphins and animals died in the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
  • With a population of ~35 million, Assam has recorded only 24k Covid-19 cases with 62 casualties.
  • July 2019: Indian sprinter Hima Das won 5 gold medals at international events in Czech Republic and Poland. In 2018, she also became the first Indian to win a gold medal in 400 m in the World U-20 Athletics Championship.
  • Bulbul Can Sing, a movie in Assamese directed by Rima Das, won the “Best Indie Film” award at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM) in 2019.
  • Ashmita Chaliha won in the women’s singles category in the 2018 Dubai International Challenge.
  • Bogibeel Bridge, India’s longest rail-cum-road bridge measuring 4.9km long, was opened in 2018. The bridge is constructed over the Brahmaputra river in Assam.
  • In March 2019, rural Assam was declared “open-defecation free” as part of the ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’.
  • Rajlakshmi Borthakur, an Assamese businesswoman, is the creator of a digital glove “T-Jay” which is able to predict epilepsy. She was felicitated by Ivanka Trump at the 2017 Global Entrepreneurs Summit.
  • Kaziranga National Park hosts two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceroses. The forest was initially known as “Kaziranga Game Sanctuary” until it was renamed in 1950 by P. D. Stracey, the forest conservationist, in order to rid the name of hunting connotations.
  • Hima Das, nicknamed the Dhing Express, is an Indian sprinter from the state of Assam. She is the first Indian athlete to win a gold medal in a track event at the IAAF World U20 Championships.
  • The 1950 Assam–Tibet earthquake occurred on 15 August and had a moment magnitude of 8.6. The epicentre was located in the Mishmi Hills. It was the sixth-largest earthquake of the 20th century. It is also the largest known earthquake to have not been caused by oceanic subduction. Instead, this quake was caused by two continental plates colliding.

Oil In Assam Continues To Leak

Assam Oil Well Leak

Recent explosion at an Oil well in Assam has caused a leakage of oil and gas, which is yet to be stopped. While foreign experts have been requested to help, the situation has drawn criticism from environmentalists.

Crux of the Matter

Baghjan Oil Leak
A severe blowout occurred in Baghjan Oilfield in Assam on 27 May 2020. The oilfield, owned by Oil India Limited (OIL), has been leaking a combination of oil and gas since then. After failing to control the leak, experts from Singapore have been called to aid. OIL has served a Show Cause Notice to M/s John Energy Pvt Ltd, to which it had outsourced the oil well works. John Energy’s activities were taking place when the blowout occurred.

People in the radius of 5km from the oilfield reported respiratory and skin problems since the blowout, due to which 2,500 people had to be evacuated.

As the oilfield is located near the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, several Gangetic dolphins and aquatic animals were found dead due to the pollution created. Moreover, the government recently permitted OIL to dig and operate at 7 places inside the national park. Both the steps have drawn disapproval from environmental activists.

Birds are dead, chickens are dead, fish are dead. There has been loss of livestock. Condensate can be found at my eco camp which is 5.5 km away from the site. We don’t see any action on the ground.

Niranta Gohain, Environment Activist

Recent Industrial Mishaps – Timeline
Several industrial accidents have occurred in recent times mainly owing to the negligence of safety protocols.

  • 1 Nov 2017: NTPC power plant explosion, Unchahahr, UP
  • 19 Feb 2020: Explosion in firecracker factory, Sivakasi
  • 7 May 2020: Styrene gas leak in LG Polymers, Vizag
  • 7 May 2020: Gas leak in Shakti paper mill in Raigarh district, Chhattisgarh
  • 7 May 2020: Neyveli Lignite Corporation boiler blast, Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu

Complete Coverage: Styrene Leak Compounds COVID Misery In Vizag

  • The Devil’s Cigarette Lighter was a natural gas well fire at Gassi Touil in the Sahara Desert of Algeria. The well produced more than 170 m3 of natural gas per second, whose flame rose between 140 m and 240 m. The blowout and fire were estimated to have consumed enough gas to supply Paris for three months, burning 16,000,000 m3 per day. After burning for almost six months, the fire was extinguished by well fire expert Red Adair, who used explosives to deprive the flame of oxygen.
  • Though the precise etymology of Assam is not clear, the name Assam is associated with the Ahom kingdom, probably from a Burmese corruption of Shyam (Shan).
  • The Darvaza gas crater also known as the Door to Hell or Gates of Hell, is a natural gas field collapsed into a cavern located in Derweze, Turkmenistan. Geologists intentionally set it on fire to prevent the spread of methane gas, but it has been burning continuously since 1971.

Five grenade Explosions hit Assam on the Republic Day

Five powerful grenade explosions took place in Dibrugarh and Charaideo districts of Assam on the 26th of January as the country celebrated Republic Day.

Crux of the Matter
  • Out of the five explosions; three happened in Dibrugarh, while and two occurred in Tinsukia and Charaideo.
  • The first explosion took place in Dibrugarh at a shop near NH-37 at Graham Bazaar while the second took place near a Gurudwara on AT road. The third blast happened in the Duliajan police station in Dibrugarh.
  • The incident occurred in Doom Dooma town of Tinsukia district and Teok Ghat under the Sonari town of Charaideo district.
  • Locals said that bike-borne suspected militants had lobbed a grenade and fled from the area.
  • DGP Bhaskar Jyoti Mahant said, “We suspect ULFA, preliminary investigation is indicating that. The investigation is underway.”
  • Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal condemned the blasts by saying, “This is a cowardly attempt to create terror on a sacred day which exhibits the frustration of the terror groups after their total rejection by the people. Govt will take the sternest action to bring the culprits to book.”

The United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) is a designated terrorist organization operating in Assam. It seeks to establish an independent state of Assam with armed struggle in the Assam conflict. The Government of India banned the organization in 1990 citing it as a terrorist organization. According to ULFA sources, it was founded on 7 April 1979 at Rang Ghar and began operations in 1990. Military operations against the ULFA by the Indian Army began in 1990 and continue into the present. On 3 September 2011, a tripartite agreement for “Suspension of Operations” against ULFA was signed between the Indian government, the Assam government and the ULFA. More Info

Curfew Lifted & Broadband Services Restored in Assam

In a law and order review meeting chaired by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on December 16, the authorities decided to lift the curfew in Guwahati on December 17th from 6 am.

Crux of the Matter
  • The curfew was imposed in Guwahati on December 11 after a turn of violent protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
  • The curfew in Dibrugarh has been relaxed for 14 hours from 6 am to 8 pm on December 17.
  • Operations of broadband internet services have been also resumed in the entire state.
  • Mobile internet services continue to be suspended which has caused a lot of inconvenience to the general public.
  • Assam’s Director General of police Bhaskarjyoti Mahanta said, “Four people have been killed in police action, unfortunately. The situation had become such that the police had to fire in order to save more people and property.”

The Citizenship Amendment Act protests of 2019 in India are a series of ongoing protests in India against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 12 December 2019. The reasons given for the protests by participating students organisations, humans rights activists, Muslim organisations and secular groups include alleged religious discrimination and police brutality on university campuses during demonstrations. The people of Assam and other northeastern states are opposing the Act for fear that settlement of non-Muslim illegal immigrants in their regions would change the demographic balance. The protests started in Assam on 4 December 2019, after the bill was introduced in parliament. Later, protests erupted in all of Northeast India, and subsequently all major cities of India. On 15 December, police forcefully entered the campus of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University, where protests were being held. More Info

Barak Valley In Assam Welcomes Citizenship (Amendment), Bill

Citizenship Amendment Bill

Shortly after the parliament passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on December 11, Assam’s Barak Valley which is a predominantly Hindu-Bengali region has whole-heartedly welcomed the passage of the controversial bill by saying that the ‘legislation will rectify the wrongs to the state’s Hindu-Bengali community.’

Crux of the Matter
  • Bengali- dominated districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hilakandi where the Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh reside are completely peaceful and support the bill. This is in contrast to the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam, where violent protests have disrupted the day to day life.
  • Barak Valley citizens gathered at the Shahid Minar and lit candles in support of the Bill. They believe that the bill was a national promise that persecuted population gets citizenship.
  • Post-1971 Partition, a sizeable Bengali-Hindu population migrated to the Barak Valley to escape religious persecution in Bangladesh.
  • Senior BJP leader Kabindra Purkayashtha said, “I am confident that now the problem of citizenship for Bengali Hindus will be sorted out.”
  • At the same time, indefinite curfew was imposed in Guwahati and mobile internet services were suspended in 10 districts of Assam.

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is a bill amending the Citizenship Act of 1955 to give a path to Indian citizenship to illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before 31 December 2014. It also seeks to relax the requirement of residence in India for citizenship by naturalisation from 11 years to 5 years for these migrants. The Union Cabinet cleared the Bill on 4 December 2019. It was passed by the Lok Sabha on 10 December 2019 and, subsequently, in the Rajya Sabha on 11 December 2019. More Info