A village that fell through the cracks

Asim Shah
Sopore: Even on the first anniversary of one of the worst floods in Kashmir’s history, proper reconstruction efforts are nowhere in sight. The picturesque village of Haritar in Sopore is another example of that neglect.
Haritar is popular in the tehsil because of its unique name. Curiously, the village takes its name from Maharaja Hari Singh, the former Dogra ruler of Kashmir, and consists of four small hamlets, Haqtaang, Okhanpora, Wadakpora and Radhgam, each of which was affected by the floods.
The village comprises of 575 families with more than 5,000 people. The sarpanch of the village, Abdul Raheem Ganaie, when asked about the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts of the government, said, “If this flood had come during the Maharaja’s time, our ancestors tell us he might have at least saved us, but the present government has not bothered to visit us even once after floods.”
Asked if they received any relief, medical assistance or rations during the last year, Ganaie said, “Yes, some people, whose houses were partially affected by floods, received Rs 3,800 rupees and those whose homes were fully destroyed got Rs 1,75,000. But what will people do with such paltry amounts? We have lost everything – property, all our belongings — in the floods.
The government promised us free rice but we received it for just four months. After that, the rations were also stopped.”
According to residents, the area MLA, Syed Basharat Bukhari, visited them just once — that too for his election campaign. “After elections we have not heard a single word from him. These people come to us for votes but then conveniently forget us. Most of the people don’t get the chance to see him again,” a middle-aged villager said.
People, however, praised the local police who, they said, came to their rescue during the floods and even afterwards. “The police gave us blankets and distributed other relief. Also, the ex-MLA of this area, Shoaib Lone, visited us several times and supported us morally,” a local said.
Showkat Ahmad Dar, a young boy in the village, was forced to leave his studies because of the floods as he felt obliged to help his father in re-building their house. Showkat now works as a labourer. “The North Circle Forest Division, Sopore, distributed timber to our village on concessional rates. To tell you the truth, we cannot afford even the concessional rates,” Dar said.
The residents of Haritar have often requested the government to build a bund in the area so the village will not face a similar situation (of floods) in the future. “Our problem is that we are sandwiched between Jhelum River and Wular Lake, one of Asia’s biggest fresh-water lakes. We appeal the government to make a bund here and assist the villagers in rebuilding their livelihoods,” the sarpanch said.
But it seems the dejected villagers already know their demands will fall on deaf ears.