RAJBIRAJ, July 19: After a high-level aerial inspection of the flood-affected areas led by former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal drew widespread criticism, a photo showing the provincial ministers' "night inspection" of the Koshi Barrage control room has gone viral. They reached the barrage on Wednesday night when the water level had already started receding.
The photo posted by Raj Kumar Yadav, the Social Development Minister of Province 2, shows Physical Infrastructure Minister Jitendra Sonal, and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal vice-chairmen Mirgendra Kumar Singh and Shekhar Kumar Sah, among others, inspecting the control room of the barrage. The picture shows them instructing the officials of the Koshi Barrage, which is operated by the Indian authorities.
As stated by the leaders participating in the barrage inspection, the officials working at the barrage were instructed not to repeat the mistakes and repair afflux dams of the barrage without further delay.
It's not clear what level of officials working at the Indian-controlled barrage did the Nepali leaders meet and what they instructed to the barrage officials. All high-level officials handling the barrage live at Kauski Bhawan in the district of Supaul, India. Only an executive engineer stays at the barrage when top officials are back to India once office hour is over. The engineer had already left for India when Nepali leaders reached the barrage for inspection and instruction.
“Only some junior engineers were in the control room when the provincial ministers reached there,” said a local, who was at the barrage when the 'inspection' took place, seeking anonymity, “If the top barrage officials were there, they wouldn't even allow them [the provincial ministers] to enter the control room. Posing for a photo in the control room would not have been possible.”
Indians are seriously concerned about the safety of the barrage after a terrorist group warned of attacking the barrage a few years ago. Shooting videos as well as taking photos are strictly prohibited inside the barrage.
“Let's stop talking about the security arrangement of the barrage...the way the minister took the initiatives to go to [control room] at 9 pm itself is a matter of swift action,” said Sukhram Yadav, a civil society leader adding, “So what's the intention behind going there after the water level had already receded?”
Social Development Minister Yadav is a local of Hanumannagar, Saptari. Shailendra Sah, mayor of Hanumannagar Kankalini Municipality, is the eldest son of social development minister. If the statement issued by Mayor Sah is to be believed, the municipality has been drawing the attention of government offices ranging from District
Administration Office to Office of the Prime Minister for the last five months about unilateral construction of infrastructures constructed along the border to stop water.
“Unfortunately, they never took initiatives to resolve the problem. If the ministers were really concerned, the existing problem wouldn't have arisen in the first place. Perhaps, it's nothing more than politics over the people's feelings,” said civil society leader Yadav.
Sunsari faces inundation each year due to Koshi, Mahuli, Triyuga, Khado and Jita rivers. And publicity stunt from politicians are not unusual. The locals say the publicity stunts of aerial inspection and barrage visit are totally meaningless for the locals.