Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Apathy Chronicles - II

Last year I had listed a few instances of the chronic apathy that cripple governance in India.

T.N. Ninan's latest book, "The Turn of the Tortoise" (2015, Penguin), describes cases of far larger magnitude. The most striking of these is the case of River Kosi on the India-Nepal Border.

Not unlike the Yellow River in China, the Kosi has always been known as the 'Sorrow of Bihar'. Over the past few centuring, it has changed course by up to 250km, sweeping away everything in its path. In the 1950s India and Nepal decided to mitigate this old problem by agreed on the construction of a 350m barrage on the Nepalese side of the border. The barrage was to be managed jointly by Indians and Nepalis.

In early 2000s, an Indian diplomat visited the barrage. He was shocked to find that two dredgers were lying in disrepair. A housing enclave for Indian officials was deserted and the barrage's control room had a solitary junior engineer from Nepal. No action was taken on the diplomat's report.

In 2008, the inevitable happened. Kosi burst its banks, changed its course, destroyed homes, fields and left nearly 3 million homeless!

Have we learnt any lessons from this? Do we now have a better system of incentives in place to ensure that government officials take their jobs seriously?



* 2008 Bihar Floods - Wiki - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Bihar_flood
* Negligence caused 2008 Floods (2014) - http://zeenews.india.com/news/bihar/negligence-caused-2008-kosi-floods-in-bihar-report_951911.html

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