In Bihar's flood-prone villages, a cycle of misery is perpetuated - report by Bharat Dogra In a month's time the monsoon will arrive. And I am reminded of my visit to East Champaran district of Bihar four months after last year's "exceptionally destructive" floods. As person after person narrated his/her misery to me, it was clear that the government's relief was inadequate and acute distress did not recede with the flood waters; it lingered for months in the form of gnawing hunger, disease and deprivation. In fact, it is a cycle of misery that repeats year after year.

LALITESHWAR PRASAD SINGH In two months the monsoon will arrive. And I am reminded of my visit to East Champaran district of Bihar four

Though the Union Budget was hailed as being farmer-friendly, a closer scrutiny reveals that it gives much less to villagers and the weaker sections of society than what appears at first glance. The media was quick to highlight the loan waiver for small farmers but it chose to ignore the fact that the budget for the crucial rural employment guarantee scheme had not been raised to any significant extent despite its expansion from 330 to 596 districts. (April 2008)

A ray of hope is dawning in a few hundred villages of Washim and Akola districts, thanks to a project called the Integrated Sustainable Agricultural Programme (INSAP) being implemented by Yuva-Rural (Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action) with the help of Swiss-Aid India.

At the time of destructive floods, the distress of affected people attracts attention but, unfortunately, as soon as the flood waters recede they are forgotten.

Pollution and displacement increasingly threaten the life and livelihood-indeed the very existence - of several rural communities. Panchayati Raj can play a very important role in checking this, but this potential has not been adequately realised yet. A lot of work needs to be done to realise this potential of panchayat raj in checking pollution and displacement.

In the course of a visit to about 25 villages located in four districts of Eastern Uttar Pradesh, the author came across several examples of village communities coming together to fight pollution and displacement. In some cases a leading role has been played by elected village pradhans.