GOLAKGANJ, Jan 28 � The Dhubri district was once considered the granary of Assam 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 deserts 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 resulted in siltation in the rivers during flood and the sand deposition destroyed a large number of paddy fields and robbed the people of their sources of livelihood. The paddy fields now look more like deserts with miles and miles of sand-filled land. The people, who have been robbed of their sources of livelihood, are in trouble as the Government has not been able to provide them with alternative sources 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. Some people have taken to fishing. In 2011 and 2012, the Dhubri district was hit by nine 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 the district, including 22,000 hectares of crops, were affected by 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. According to records, several people died during the floods and nearly 12,000 houses in more than 650 villages were totally or partially damaged. More than 17,000 cattle also perished.
Road communication in the district was totally disrupted and South Salmara, Fakirganj, Tumni, Sukhchar in South Salmara constituency and Motirchar, Howrarpar, Binnachor, Kalahat in Dhubri constituency were washed away. The people of Motirchar village, situated near Dhubri town, said that they had to shift from place to place at least five times during the floods as the Brahmaputra river changed its course. Akbar Ali and Najrul Hussain of the village 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 villagers travel to Dhubri town in search of work every morning.
The people of the village said that the price of rice is increasing, and that the people living below the poverty line are not getting rice at subsidised prices regularly. Similar is the fate of a number of other villages in the district. In the Howrarpar and Binnachor areas, Sohidul Islam, who used to earn at least Rs 50,000 by selling rice produced in his fields, now has no source of income as the fields have been destroyed by siltation. �I still do not know how I will feed my family as the Government has not extended its help and provide us with an alternative source of income,� he rued.
The breaches in the embankments of the rivers are yet to be plugged and the people are of the view that more devastation would follow if the breaches are not plugged before the monsoon season. Jahanuddin, Dhubri MLA, said that the majority of the farmers of the district have failed to cultivate rice crops this year because the fields were destroyed by siltation and though some farmers have cultivated other crops, the quality of the produce is not very satisfactory. He said that immediate steps must be taken for soil conservation. He further revealed 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 urged the Government to take serious note of their miserable condition and take immediate steps to control the fury of the Brahmaputra river.