Patna: Its a non-violent protest like none other. Hundreds of people in the Sitamarhi district in Bihar, in Eastern India, including environment activist Shashi Shekhar on Tuesday, 28 October decided to go on a three-day Jal Satyagraha, (standing in river water) to restore a local river- to its original bed. The change in the course of the river after bridges were constructed across it in areas falling in Nepal, has hampered agriculture in the area forcing local people to migrate from their villages for their livelihood.
The Hindu reports that under the banner of Sangharsh Yatra the villagers entered the Lakhandei river on Tuesday morning and will remains in the water till Thursday morning.
The river, also known as Mahalakshmi Swarupa Luxman Ganga originates from the Himalayan range in neighbouring Nepal.
It is because of the changed course that agriculture, especially paddy farming, has been hampered in eight blocks of the two districts of Sitamarhi and Muzaffarpur, Shashi Shekhar said. Earlier, this part of Sitamarhi was known as a paddy bowl but 19 rice mills have been closed since. The river has moved two kilometres away from its original bed affecting farming in the area. Thousands of villagers were forced to migrate in search of livelihood, Mr. Shekhar said. The villagers have been staging peaceful protest marches, dharnas in the area for long but have only received assurances from authorities.
Down to Earth- a fortnightly brought out by Society for Environmental Communications reports that activist Shashi Shekhar had gone on an indefinite strike in December 2013 to highlight the change in the course of the Lakhandei river and the construction of embankments. He broke his fast after the state government assured him of action. He said, the state government has not done enough to revive the river. The government ended my fast last year by giving false assurance, he says.
According to Shekhar, the Lakhandei has shifted westward in the past decade. The river has now completely merged with Jamura river. This has led to the problem of flooding in the villages on the banks of the Jamura, he says. On the other hand, farmers who received water from the Lakhandei before it shifted course have now been left high and dry.
He demands that the old course of the Lakhandei river must be restored by digging a trench of 900 metres. It will also solve the problem of drought in Sitamarhi district and flood in Darbhanga district, Shashi Shekhar said.