Rehabilitating flood-victims-Govt fails to walk the talk

Farzana Mumtaz

 

A year after Kashmir was hit by one of the most devastating floods of its history, flood-victims are yet to get rehabilitated and have received only peanuts in relief amount.

 

Middle-aged Muhammad Abdullah Mandoo was rendered homeless by September 2014 floods.

Now he lives in one of the 20 one-room temporary hutments that the government set up at Parimpora on the outskirts of the city for people rendered homeless by last year’s devastating floods.

The house of Mandoo, a resident of Bemina locality, caved in when floods water seeped into it and the family members had a close shave with death.

Since then, Mandoo and his six-member family have been living in a tin shed at Parimpora, unable to come to the grips of a homeless life. Mandoo has been awaiting government’s relief and rehabilitation package hoping to build back his house from the relief amount.

“So far, the government only gave us Rs 2300 in the form of cheques that is peanuts considering the fact that I had to vomit thousands of rupees only for clearing the rubble of my house,” he said.

Mandoo’s is not a rare case but a story of everyone whose house either collapsed or damaged in the devastating floods.

Most of the flood affected people complain that they have either received no relief amount from the government for their rehabilitation or received peanuts.

Presently 19 families live in those 20 hutments while one hutment was vacated after one of those 20 flood-affected families relocated back after building a new house.

Four-year-old Tyba, whose mother had passed after giving her birth, also lives in those hutments along with her three brothers and father Altaf Ahmad Gojri, who is the only government employee among the 19 families in the neighbourhood and works as a janitor with the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC).

She stands outside her hutment and plays with other kids in the newly-formed neighbourhood not realizing that it is a temporary home for her.

Most of the people living in this neighbourhood are extremely poor and have acquired illegal power lines.

Gojri said he had pinned high hopes on the government but both the previous government as well as the incumbent one had left him disappointed.

“The government does not care for poor people like us,” he said. “Whether we have a house to live or not, it doesn’t matter to them.”

In September 2014, Kashmir was hit by one of the worst-ever floods of its history leaving 300 people dead and property worth billions of rupees damaged.

After the floods, the State government sent Rs 44,000 crore proposal to Government of India (GoI) for the rehabilitation of flood-affected people and traders.

Nine months after the floods, GoI finally announced a financial package but the assistance amount of Rs 1667 crore has left Kashmiris disappointed.

Political parties, civil society groups and trade bodies termed the GoI’s financial package as a “crude joke”.

Ruling Peoples Democratic Party’s own Member of Parliament, Tariq Hameed Karra asked his party to rethink about its alliance with the rightwing Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) for letting Kashmir and his party down although Finance Minister Haseeb Ahmad Drabu welcomed the package.

Trade bodies of Kashmir too tried to build pressure on PDP to end the coalition government with BJP as they felt the financial package was Jammu centric and had nothing for the flood-hit people and traders of Kashmir.

 

While Srinagar was worst-hit by last September floods, other places in south and north Kashmir were also impacted adversely.

Sonawari, which was reclaimed from the Wullar Lake and is one of the low-lying areas of north Kashmir, was badly affected by floods.

Ghulam Muhammad Dar of Shahtalpora, Sonawari is one of the flood victims whose 30 kanal paddy land was submerged in last year’s flood waters.

Father of four, Dar now struggles to feed the family.

He lost his cattle and sold off those that he was able to save as there was no grass available for them to graze.

Dar’s fate is shared by other fruit growers in the area.

In Gund Jehangir, one of the low-lying villages of Sonawari, most of the apple orchards had submerged in flood waters.

“If we would have lost our houses, we could have recovered with sales of fruit from our orchards but we lost our orchards that are a source of our livelihood,” a fruit grower, Bashir Ahmad Lone said.

Lone said fruit growers in the area had invested in fruit trees for 20 years and now that they were reaping its benefits, everything was destroyed.

“We are broke and have bank loans and Kissan Credit Card loans,” he said.

Lone and other fruit growers in the area said they had approached the government for help and asked them to waive off the Kissan Credit Card loans but Finance Minister Haseeb Ahmad Drabu had put a cap of Rs 1 lakh on it.

“What about fruit growers who had taken loans more than Rs 1 lakh,” he said. “The government has failed to come to our rescue in any way.”

Another fruit grower of the area, Muhammad Ayub Dar said no one from the government had visited their village since September.

“Eighty percent orchards of the entire village are damaged,” Dar said. “This government came to power with the promise that they will bring relief for the flood victims but they have failed miserably.”

 

There is too much anger against the government for its failure to rehabilitate the flood-victims but flood hit people are all praise for voluntary organizations.

Muhammad Muzaffar, a resident of Jawahar Nagar, whose house collapsed in the floods, expressed gratitude to missionary Sikh groups who rescued him and many others of his locality.

“After my house collapsed, Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani provided me and others flood-hit people in this locality with Rs 10,000 each,” said Muzaffar, a retired banker who now run a shop and sells Kashmiri shawls.

Father of two girls, Muzaffar now lives on rent as he has failed to even clear the rubble of his collapsed house with the Rs 75,000 provided to him by the government as relief.

“I spent Rs 90,000 alone on clearing the rubble,” he said. “This government seems to be insensitive toward the problems of the common masses.”

The life of another inhabitant of Muzaffar’s locality Jasbir Kour was impacted severely by last year’s floods.

Restless like a bumble-bee, Kour says she get sleepless whenever it rains.

Jasbir who lives with her son Manmohan Singh and daughter-in-law Hardeep Kour is a widow of J S Rally.

Rally had built a house in the posh Jawahar Nagar locality 35 years ago, spending his life-long earnings not realizing it was a flood-prone area.

“Last year, water stayed in our house for a month,” she said. “All our household belongings collected over three-and-a-half decades were washed away.”

Jasbir’s son Manmohan and daughter-in-law Hardeep ran a boutique at home, which too was hit by floods.

“All our sewing machines and embroidery material was damaged,” Hardeep said. “Besides us, four people earned their source of livelihood from the boutique as I had hired two tailors and two mechanics.”

The family said they received paltry Rs 3800 from the government as relief.

“It is a mockery on part of the government as we had to spend Rs 80,000 on cleaning the house,” Hardeep said.

Her husband Manmohan is diabetic and was stuck in the attic for four days without medicine.

“The water stayed in our house for 28 days and the government failed to reach us,” Manmohan said. “An NGO from Ladakh saved my 21-year-old daughter and when I, and my wife were rescued, bodies were floating in our compound.”

He said no one from the government had come to monitor whether their house was safe to live in or not.

 

 

After the GoI announced Rs 1667 crore as financial assistance for the flood-hit Jammu Kashmir against the proposed Rs 44,000 crore, opposition NC called upon the government to convene a special session of the legislature for passing a unanimous resolution to seek proper rehabilitation package for the flood victims.

NC General Secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar termed the Rs 1667 crore rehabilitation package announced by New Delhi to the State as “mediocre”, “disgusting” and “insulting”.

“The State government should convene a special session of the legislature for having a proper debate on the rehabilitation package for the flood victims and pass a unanimous resolution for seeking more funds,” Sagar said.

Sagar appealed GoI to reconsider its decision of announcing a meager package for flood-hit people of Kashmir stating that it was sending a wrong message of how BJP and its allies like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) were handling the Muslim-majority state.

 

 

The GoI’s financial assistance seems is being taken as a crude joke by the flood-hit people particularly those who were rendered homeless by the devastating floods.

Tariq Ahmad, another resident of Jawahar Nagar locality, owns a camping agency and is the sole bread winner of a nine-member family.

His house collapsed on September 7 and since then the family is homeless.

“Our house was quite old and we knew it would cave in due to flood waters,” Tariq said. “So we stayed in our neighbour’s house wherefrom we saw it collapse in front of our eyes.”

He said his family stayed in the neighbour’s house for 15 days and then spent the three harsh months of winter in a tin shed and finally shifted to a rented accommodation.

“My shop was also affected by floods and my business hit,” Tariq said. “As the government has failed to provide proper relief to flood-hit people like me, I have to take loan to buy new stocks.”

Like Tariq, a resident of Indira Nagar area Showkat Hussain, too is bitter with the government, both the previous government led by Omar Abdullah and the incumbent government led by Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.

“I live in the cantonment area and Army did not come to my rescue,” Showkat said. “We were surrounded by water for 27 days.”

He was critical of the former chief minister saying that he had visited his residence at Gupkar 18 times and begged him to rescue people in the area.

“One of the security guards of Omar Abdullah broke the limb of my friend for being at his gate over and again,” Showkat said.

The condition of flood victims like Showkat, Mandoo, Gojri, Dar, Lone, Jasbir, Tariq, Muzaffar and others even after 10 months of the floods give an impression that while the government may have talked at length about their rehabilitation, it has failed to walk the talk.

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