GOLOKGANJ, Oct 27 - The Dhubri district was once considered to be the granary of the State. And till the end of the last decade, the rice produced in the district was used to feed the people of other parts of the State.
But irresponsible acts by a certain section of the people invited the wrath of nature and now vast areas of the district have been virtually turned into a desert and the district has to depend totally on the rice procured from other parts of the State.
Large-scale deforestation in the hills of the neighbouring State of Meghalaya has resulted in siltation by the rivers during the floods and the sand depositionhas destroyed a large number of paddy fields.
At this time of the year, the paddy fields should have been green with harvest, but the fields now look more like deserts with miles after miles of sand-filled land. The people, who are robbed of their source of livelihood, are in dire straits as the Government has not been able to provide them with an alternative source of income.
Some of them have gone to Meghalaya to work as daily wage labourers. Some others travel several miles to reach Dhubri town every day in search of work. But on most occasions, they return empty handed. Some people have taken to fishing in the rivers.
In 2014 and 2015, the Dhubri district was hit by as many as seven waves of floods, which completely destroyed a large number of paddy fields as well as the surface communication network in the district. According to sources, about 85,000 hectares of land in the district, including 22,000 hectares of crop land, was affected by the floods.
The total population directly affected by the floods was more than 3.5 lakh, but the entire population of the district was affected in some way or the other as the floods transformed the district into a cluster of islands.
As per records, several persons died during the floods and nearly 12,000 houses in more than 650 villages were totally or partially damaged. The death of more than 17,000 cattle also dealt a severe blow to the farmers of the district.
The road communication in the district was totally destroyed and South Salmara, Fakirganj, Tumni, Sukhchar in South Salmara constituency and Motirchar, Howrarpar, Binnachar, Kalahat, Ghewmari, Nalia in Dhubri constituency and Bilasipara, Beltoli, Nayeralga in Bilasipara West constituency were completely damaged.
The people of the Binnachar village, situated near the Dhubri town, said that they had to shift from one place to another at least five times during the floods as the river Bramaputra changed its course at least four times.
Asmat Ali and Najmul Hussain of the village described their sorry state of affairs and alleged that though their paddy fields were destroyed by sand deposition, the Government has not taken any step to provide them with an alternative source of livelihood.
They said that some of the members of their village travel to Dhubri town in search of work of daily wage labourers every morning and sometimes they have to return empty handed as there is no guarantee of work.
The people of the village said that the price of rice is increasing with every passing day and the people living below poverty line are not getting rice at subsidised rate regularly. Similar is the fate of a good number of other villages in the district.
In Howrarpar area, one Sohidul Islam said that till a few years back, he used to earn at least Rs 50,000 by selling rice produced in his fields. But now, he has no source of income as the fields were destroyed by siltation. "I still do not know how I shall feed my family this year. So far, the Government has not extended its helping hand to us and provided us with an alternative source of income,� he said.
Dhubri MLA Jahanuddin said that majority of the farmers have failed to cultivate rice crops this year, because the fields were destroyed by siltation. Though some farmers have cultivated other crops, quality of the produce is not very satisfactory, he said, adding that immediate steps would be taken for soil conservation.
He added that efforts are on to provide the people with an alternative source of income by engaging them in rural development works. The people of the flood-hit district can now only hope that the Government would take serious note of their miserable condition and take immediate steps to control the fury of the river Bramaputra, or else the sufferings of the people would only increase in the coming rainy season.