Bihar · Floods

1948 Floods in Bihar-2 Inaugural flood after Independence – Official Version of Floods and its Aftermath

Compiled[1] by Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra (

Government of Bihar, Revenue Department, Report on the Flood and Relief Operations in Bihar for 1948-49. Superintendent, Government Printing, Bihar, Patna, 1951.

Muzaffarpur [2]“During the August floods water from the River Narayani flooded the village Fatehabad. About 100 houses are reported to have collapsed as a result of the breach in the bundh due to change in course of the River Gandak. There were heavy showers and considerable damage was caused to the paddy crops and certain parts of the Sadar and major parts of Katra, Minapur and Sakra thanas experienced floods… During floods in the Ganges, Hajipur sub-division was badly affected and steps had to be taken to arrange relief.” P-15

p-16 The situation in Begusarai Sub-division was disquieting . The main stream of the Ganges cut across the villages Bagdeo, Totapur, and Salha. Many houses fell. People had to be sheltered in improvised machans and house tops. Rescue of cattle could not be affected owing to sudden rush of flood water… The bundh between Matihani on the west and Balia on the east gave way on the 12th September near village Sadanadpur and a breach in 50 yards in width was created. Gogri bundh breached at several places near Aguani, Lagar and Tamtha villages in Khagaria Sub-division. Khagaria town was under water. Several villages (150 to 200) in Parbatta, Gogri, Khagaria and Balia Thanas were affected. 300 Houses collapsed in Khagaria proper and the number might have been more. No loss of life was reported except in Balia Thana where 10 persons were trapped in a house and were presumably drowned…

There were two breaches near Monghyr Ghat. The railway line from Monghyr Ghat to Sahebpur Kamal was threatened with a breach and had to be patrolled under the supervision of a magistrate. The railway line at Lakhminia Rly Stn was under water and road connecting Lakhminia Bazar and Tirhut Road was inundated.

p-118 The condition of Khagaria town was worst and it was under deep water. Houses collapsed and the court building and school was under water. The records had to be removed to safer places. There was knee deep water at the Post Office.

p-18 The floods in Saran were terrible. Entire area between Sonepur and Chhapra had become one sheet of water and men and cattle were taking shelter on Railway embankments. All the major and most of the minor bundhs of the Sadar Sub-division have been breached badly, flooding all the Thanas except three, namely, Baniapur, Marhaura and Mashrakh.  The standing crop of all the affected thanas were completely washed away. The number of affected villages was more than 1,000. This flood was unprecedented and caused extensive devastation. Naini bundh was badly breached. A part of Chhapra town, north of the railway line and also its extreme eastern portion was affected. The other parts of the town were also threatened.

p-23 Replying to the debate on the 30th September 1948, the Hon. Revenue Minister assured the House that the Government would deal with the situation. He announced in the House that the decision of the Government for creation of a temporary Flood Relief Section in the Revenue Department with a Special Officer of Flood Relief and Rehabilitation as the head of it, to deal with the problems of floods according to the demands of the Hon. Members of the House… (p-24) A similar department may also be created in the name of ‘Flood Department’. This is my own opinion. But the trouble is that floods do not come always. They come at an interval of 10 to 20 years. There are certain districts, of course, which are visited by floods every year. There must be some permanent arrangement to send relief to those districts.”

p-25 “If the Ganges in the district of Saran is controlled, it might result in flooding of certain adjacent districts in the United Province (present Uttar Pradesh). Keeping all these things in view, I want to state very clearly that Government agree to appoint a Commission, whose duty will be to find out if at all flood- preventive bundhs should be constructed in Muzaffarpur or in any other district and, if so, where the location should be. If the Ganges in Saran is to be controlled then its exact location should be found out by the Commission.”

Floods in Muzaffarpur Sitamarhi Sub-division of the district did not suffer any damage due to the floods but in the Sadar Sub-division the Bagmati, the Gandak and the Burhi Gandak started rising in the middle of August and consequently some portions of Katra, Minapur, Sadar and Sakra were flooded. Earlier the flood water of the River Narayani had entered the villages of Fatehabad and Paru Police Stations and it had caused considerable damage to houses. Most of the inhabitants, especially poor, were rendered homeless, their houses having collapsed. Water receded soon and thereafter the Sub-divisions faced drought. Only 350 villages were affected in the Sub-division and as the water receded quickly, the damage was negligible.

Hajipur Sub-division (p- 67) The Ganga started rising in July but the abnormal rise did not take place until the 4th September and it went on rising till the 15th September. Water began receding since the 16th September and came to normal level by the 3rd October. The Ganga, when in spate, inundated a vast area of chaur land in Hajipur and Mahnar Police Stations and the accumulated water in chaurs caused considerable damage to standing crops. This was an unusual feature of flood of the period under review. Rabi sowing was considerably delayed for it. Some 325 villages were affected and 16,882 houses were damaged of which 1690 had collapsed. Three lakhs of people in the Sub-division and 50,000 landless people were affected. Crops in 200 acres were completely damaged. Fifty four persons and six cattle died in a boat accident which occurred near Sukumarpur village in Raghopur Police Station. Besides this, one Health Inspector of District Board lost his life by drowning while going from Chamarahara Station to Mahnar Bazar on duty. It was estimated that about 100 cattle and 25 persons lost their lives by drowning in minor accidents.

Rs. 53,719-4-3 was spent on gratuitous relief on account of free distribution of Chura, Sattu, gram, food grains, salt, match-boxes etc. Natural calamity loans were advanced to farmers, sixty tons of CGI Sheets were sold at controlled price besides spending on cash doles, building grants, landless labours and fodder etc.

One of the most severe problems that placed the local authorities in a very embarrassing position was the question of rehabilitation of such persons who were rendered homeless on account of flood. Such persons showed unwillingness to settle on Barari lands and wanted to settle on Karari lands only, which, was very difficult to find out. The majority of the displaced persons managed to get themselves settled by private arrangements.

Saran Till the middle of August the level of all the three rivers remained almost normal but after the 20th August the rivers began to rise abnormally and approached their danger level. Many villages of Sabalpur Diara were inundated due to the rise of the Ganga on the 23rd August in the Sonepur Police Station. The rivers receded thereafter but two rivers started rising again with great rapidity on the 8th September. The Ganga inundated villages in the vicinity of Sitalpur and Dighwara Rly Stn as it breached a minor embankment. On the 9th September, an important embankment named Barua also gave way and the river rushed towards the villages close by. These breaches could not be plugged despite best efforts because of tremendous rush of water. The situation went out of hands on the 13th September when an important embankment on the Mehura Nala was washed away and whole of Sonepur village was submerged. People took shelter on the railway platform and the Harihar Nath temple and other elevated places. The climax was reached on the 14th September when the Kaurimal and Gareya bundhs gave way and caused a big breach. On the following morning Naini bundh breached and washed away to a great extent. Thus, the whole of Saran Sub-division, from Manjhi Police Station to Sonepur (60 miles in length and 10 miles in breadth) was badly inundated and all the diara villages were almost submerged under water.

Special Magistrates were deputed at Manjhi, Revilganj, Ekma, Garkha, Chhapra Mofassil, Dighwara, Sitalpur, Parsa, Nyagaon and Sonepur. One steamer of IGN Company, Digha and two stranded motor tugs which happened to be at Revilgunj were commandeered and used for the purpose of evacuating people.

The number of private boats so used may be approximately estimated to be 300 in Sadar Sub-division. Food grains in town as well as in the interior belonging to the private stockists were seized and rushed to the affected people for relief work.

Entire Bhadai and paddy crop was either damaged or was completely washed away over almost 50,000 acres. 25,000 houses collapsed and a number of Government buildings were damaged. Railway communication between Sonepur and Pahaleja Ghat and Chhapra Katchery and Khaira was suspended for four days. Some District Board roads also went under water.

p-71       “This years experience has shown that unless a very strong and a high embankment is constructed  along the banks of the rivers Ganga and the Gogra[3] from one end to the other, this district cannot be effectively saved from periodic floods.”

Champaran In the Sadar Sub-division of the district the flood appeared in the last week of July 1948 and in the Bettiah Sub-division it came in August 1948. The intensity of floods was negligible. Only Dhanaha and Nautan Thanas of the Bettiah Sub-division were affected. The right Bank of the Gandak in the Nautan and the left bank of the Gandak in Dhanaha Police Station were flooded. People in these areas mostly live in temporary huts and as they are used to such floods, they had already made arrangements of their own to remove cattle etc before the floods actually came. There was no loss of human / cattle life.

Darbahnga The Ganga recorded highest rise in the month of September as in the other parts of the State and inundated Mohiuddinnagar areas and part of Tajpur and Dalsingsarai Thanas. The Post Office and the H. E. School and other pucca houses were submerged under water, whereas the kachcha houses collapsed in Mohiuddinnagar areas. On the 14th September water crossed the PWD bundh at Sibaisinghpur and Chandpur as a result villages lying to the north of the bundh and south of the railway line were inundated. Railway communication between Bachhwara and Shahpur Patori was dislocated. Houses collapsed in large numbers and people had to take shelter on platforms and railway lines. About 27,780 acres of land with standing crops mainly the maize crop were devastated by the Ganga flood. 7,999 houses were either damaged or collapsed. Two deaths were reported from collapse of houses and three deaths were reported as a result of drowning. Massive relief operations were carried by the Government.”


[1] This is second part of a series of articles Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra has written for SANDRP based on his month long research at the National Library, Kolkata recently. For first part, see:

Part 3:

[2] All the text in this article is quotations from the government report.

[3] This is the British spelling of the Ghaghra – I have retained it because it was there in the report like this.

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