GOALPARA: The state’s vision of bringing ‘development’ to the people came in direct clash with the locals of Goalpara district of western Assam when a railway line inundated the village twice, 10 years apart.
The Bongaigaon to Guwahati railway line through Goalpara, Krishnai and Dudhnoi railway stations laid in 2004 some 25 feet above the lowland villages prevented the water flowing down from Garo hills of Meghalaya into the Brahmaputra river first during the monsoon of 2004 and then again in 2014, thus making Goalpara district a reservoir by inundating all villages in between the hills and the track running parallel to it.
“Some 200 people were officially killed due to the devastation in 2004. Bodies were lined up at National Highway 31 from Bongaigaon to Guwahati. However, people learnt from the deluge and cut the railway track near Dudhnoi station during the 2014 floods to allow the water flow into the Brahmaputra river,” said Mohammad Ashraf of Bolbolla village, who lost his son and wife in the 2004 deluge.
Though Goalpara district has not been largely affected by the 2017 floods that claimed some 83 lives mainly in upper and central Assam, the affected people can’t forget the miseries brought to them by the massive floods of 2004 and 2014.
Recalling the 2004 deluge, Hiteshwar Nath, a resident of Barvita village near Krishnai railway station, said: “We went to a nearby bridge to see the water level over the main road. While it was at the ankle level when we reached, it came up to the level of hip within ten minutes and near the neck within twenty minutes. People had no time to prepare for their safety. The water got stuck in the high barrage of the railway track. Youth of the village saved a lot of people by ferrying them to safer places in boats. Government came only to provide some rice, pulses and oil. They did not come to our rescue during the emergency.”
Ramesh Nath (name changed) was one of the many enthusiastic youth who mobilised people to cut down the railway track at Khoirapara village near Dudhnoi railway station to let the flood waters flow into the Brahmaputra.
“We mobilised youth on boats urging them to get their spades and axes to cut down the railway track at Khoirapara. We had to take the extreme step to protect the people from dying for no fault of theirs,” he said.
“The Dudhnoi town police point which connects Goalpara district with Guwahati and Bongaigaon in one side and Dainadubi of Garo Hills in Meghalaya on the other was more than ten feet under the water. Even though cutting down railway track was crime against the state, we did not really have any other option,” he added.
However, a senior official of the Northeast Frontier Railway expressed the state’s policies: “Most parts of Assam gets inundated every year due to floods in the Brahmaputra. If railway tracks are not constructed at a height, they would also get inundated thus cutting off Assam from the rest of the country.”
“The track in question has not only reduced travel time from Bongaigaon to Guwahati by some two hours but also brought connectivity to the villages of Brahmaputra’s southern bank in Goalpara and Kamrup rural districts,” he added.