Decade after catastrophe, Waltengu victims await rehabilitation

Decade after catastrophe, Waltengu victims await rehabilitation

By Haroon Reshi

SRINAGAR: More than a decade after a heavy snowstorm wiped out an entire Gujjar locality in Waltengu Nar, on the lofty peaks of the Pir Panjal range in south Kashmir, most of the affected families are yet to get the promised help from the state government.
Dozens of people, including several women and children, were killed in the natural calamity on January 19, 2005.
The government had promised rehabilitation and construction of new houses for the families whose dwellings had collapsed and got buried under the heavy snow avalanches.
But in the past more than 10 years, only 76 residential quarters have been constructed out of the proposed 128.
“As many as 42 families are running from pillar to post for the promised houses. Many of these families have now themselves constructed the mud houses. Every time we meet the concerned officials, they promise us that the rest of the house will be built soon, but practically nothing is being done,” Bashir Ahmad Khan, president of Waltengu Victim Families Association, told Kashmir Reader.
Khan lost his 19 relatives, including his wife and six children, in the disaster.
The authorities acknowledge that all the proposed houses have not been built so far.
“We are short of funds. We have yet to build 47 houses for the affected families. Tenders have been already approved for the construction of 27 houses out of 47. But we are stuck due to non-availability of the funds,” Abdul Rashid Mir, ADC Rural Development department, said.
The sources, however, said that even after the funds are released for the pending constructions, the re-assessment of the work would be an issue.
“We will not be able to work at the cost determined years ago. A decade ago, the cost of building a house was assessed as Rs 4.95 lakh. Now, there should be a re-assessment of the cost,” a contractor associated with the project told Kashmir Reader.

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