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Inviting disaster

DUI PAATAN KE BEECH MEIN (BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP RIVER) A documentary by Arvind Sinha Duration: 116 minutes

Published: Friday 31 March 2000

-- (Credit: AKHILESH)"TIME the politicians of our country heard our side of the story. The last 52 years have been of silence and agony," says D K Mishra, an expert on floods prior to the screening of the documentary Dui Paatan Ke Beech Mein at the India International Centre in New Delhi recently.

The documentary directed by Arvind Sinha brings to the fore the presumptuous attitude of our engineers and policy-makers who attempt to harness the natural phenomena of the rivers instead of letting them be. Shot extensively in north Bihar, it narrates the story of villagers caught between the devil (the embankments) and the deep blue waters, in this case, of a river. As progress has always been equated in this country by dubious parameters like dams and embankments, even leaders like "Pandit Nehru and Gulzari Lal Nanda genuinely believed in the efficacy of these structures and hence assured people in all good faith."

In 1954, the total length of embankments was 160 kilometres (km) and the flood prone area was 2.5 million hectares (mha). However, by 1994 the length had increased to 3,465 km and the flood prone area was 6.9 mha.

Ironically, instead of providing relief, over the years the embankments compounded the miseries of the people. Built to check the flood waters, the embankments were neither high enough nor strong enough to withstand the force of the river. So when the river was in flood the waters flowed over the embankments and submerged large tracts of cultivated land and human settlements. The film portrays how floods bring about social ills like migration and prostitution. Victims are forced to leave their homes in search of employment because nothing grows in these water-logged fields. The paradox is that while Bihar is a fertile state, millions go hungry because of the wrong decisions taken by a handful of technocrats.

Sinha hopes "that the film will arouse consciousness and galvanise people into searching for new and sustainable solutions."

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