This year's floods in Bihar have been unprecedented. Press reports are calling it the worst floods in the last thirty years. Districts after districts in North Bihar are under deep flood water which are not yet showing signs of receding. Crops, villages, roads and railways have got washed away.
The governments: at the state and at the centre - appear barely affected by the human misery and tragedy. The people are unconcerned. The press, and I mean the national Indian Press, is not bothered. I saw not a column in HT, TOI or ET of Mumbai today. Funny I have to depend on BBC World Service to get an authentic account of the floods!
The simple fact is that close to one crore people (ten million people) have had to leave their homes and taken shelter in the open on comparatively higher structures - raised roads, railway line or roofs of houses.
Some of our friends got in touch with relief agencies and found that safe drinking water, clothes and temporary shelter are the most urgent need of the hour. Safe drinking water seems to be the most important and also perhaps the easier to tackle.
The best way to provide safe drinking water is through use of chlorine tablets. A good quality chlorine tablet can render 20 litres of water safe for drinking - enough for one family for a day. One lakh tablets of Chlorine from a good Indian manufacturer can be bought for thirty thousand rupees. Or one million tablets for three hundred thousand rupees. In other words, the cost of safe potable water for one family for one month is Rs 10 or 25 US cents.
Some of us are thinking of adopting a cluster of villages, what is called a block or prakhand in local parlance and try to ensure safe drinking to all the residents of that block for one month. At this stage, it is a just a thought. Let us see how this germinates.