ASIA/INDIA - Floods and drought in various parts of India - Summary of complex situation where desperate impoverished farmers see suicide as only way out: Caritas commitment

Wednesday, 14 July 2004

New Delhi (Fides Service) - Two distinct tragedies affect the life of people in various parts of India, floods and drought. In the northeast the land is flooded after heavy monsoon rains while in the northwest and south people suffer from prolonged drought. “People are desperate in both cases. Harvests are lost in floods, the worst in recent years and this will impoverish thousands of already poor families and already one million people have lost their homes. Whereas in areas where there has been no rain for months, Rajastan and Maharashtra, harvests are burned, animals die of thirst and the struggle for survival is ever more difficult” a missionary told Fides
The gravity of the situation led the central government to hold emergency meetings to see how to deal with the problems. The central government will work with local governments and humanitarian organisations such as Caritas are already giving emergency assistance to the people. The government has assigned 2 billion Rupees (about 43 million dollars) for relief aid. Relief workers proceed slowly due to scarcity of means.
As far as the flooded areas in the northeast are concerned in the states of Assam, Bihar and West Bengal the situation is desperate, as rivers have overflowed particularly the River Brahmaputra. At least one hundred people have died and the floods, which have covered whole tea plantations, affect about 10 million people.
Besides east India floods have affected Bangladesh (three million people affected), Nepal (50 dead) and Bhutan where a dam on Lake Tsatitsu collapsed causing river levels to rise.
On the other side of India, in the west one of the states most affected by drought is Rajastan, where temperature are 40 Celsius and expected monsoon rains are late in coming. In Maharashtra, many desperate farmers in Vidarbha, deeply indebted because of prolong drought and consequent poor harvests in 2004, have committed suicide. In the southern state of Andorra Pradesh Caritas and other Catholic humanitarian agencies are trying to provide aid and to console desperate farmers to prevent them from taking their lives. The local Christian community is deeply saddened to see how poverty can lead to suicide.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 14/7/2004 lines 32 words 358)