Floods in India's Bihar State

Laborers unload 50-kilogram sacks of rice and wheat at a village aid depot.

Chaitu Sahani says he and his family have been living on an embankment for weeks after their village was overrun by flood waters, yet food trucks continue to pass them by.

One of the many flood victims who says the government has failed to provide relief. Her home was damaged and belongings lost.

A cow marooned by flood waters in the Muzaffarpur district.

Whether by boat, or on foot, thousands must travel long distances to collect relief from state distribution points across northern Bihar.

Villagers returning by boat to their marooned homes with sacks of wheat distributed by the government.

BIHAR STATE, India -- The worst floods to hit India's northern Bihar state in distant memory have already affected more than 20 million people -- roughly equivalent to the population of New York state -- and killed hundreds. More rains are on the way.

A deadly cocktail of poverty, state corruption, inept disaster management and climate change is to blame for the disaster. Yet India has the capacity to deal with such large-scale crises, and must do so as a step toward finally integrating vast swaths of its "backward" rural areas that stagnate as urban centers boom. Failure to do so could prove fatal to the country's long-term growth and stability.