- Rendered homeless, dozens of families in Kelam Gund await rehabilitation
Kelam Gund (Kulgam): Dozens of people were rendered homeless in this village when the raging Vaishaw stream tore through it, washing away houses and farmland. The survivors, putting up in one-room tin sheds and a government building dread the approaching winter and accuse the government of doing virtually nothing to rehabilitate them.
“We were not well off but we were living happily. The flood snatched everything from us and the government left us at the mercy of Allah,” said Tajamul Bashir, a mechanic, who is living in a single room of the government building along with his family.
“A single room for a family of six to eight members is a joke. We are living here like cattle. We covered the window of this room with plywood sheets. Otherwise one would freeze here in winter,” he said.
A small kitchen and a latrine are attached with each room, but none of them is functional, forcing the families to prepare meals on traditional mud stoves in the open.
“See, this is our kitchen. In the night, these kitchens become dog shelters. During the day we prepare our food here. Is this the sarkar (government)?” said Zaina, 72, pointing to the space covered with tarpaulin on three sides, where she cooks for the family on choola.
More than preparing meals in the makeshift kitchen, Zaina is disturbed by grownup boys and girls forced to sleep in a single room.
“I have two sons, a daughter-in-law and two daughters of marriageable age and all of us sleep in this room. Is this fair?” she said.
“But our plight doesn’t move these shameless politicians.”
The makeshift toilets constructed by authorities a few yards away from the building have made the lives of these families more miserable.
“When they were erecting these latrines we told them to dig deep and wide trenches but they paid no heed. For the past several months these toilets are stinking badly,” said Jahangir Ahmad Ganai, who is living in the building along with his family of six.
Not far from the building, several families are living in single-roomed tin sheds. Though the toilets attached to their sheds are functional, almost all the trenches have developed leaks.
The families also contested government claims on compensation, saying compensation was provided only for the damaged structures no matter how many families lived there.
“We were five brothers living in a single big house separately. But the government gave us Rs 1.75 lakh in two instalments which means that we have to construct our houses in Rs 35,000 each. When we asked the authorities they blamed us for not getting our damages assessed properly,” said Manzoor Ahmad Bhat, who lives in a tin shed.
Bhat said that small compensation was not as worrying a matter as the fact that they have no land to construct their houses on.
“How long can we live in these single roomed sheds,” Bhat said.
The homelessness is also badly telling upon the psyche of the students belonging to these families.
“How can you expect a student to concentrate on studies when he has no place to sleep? I can show you the students who had scored distinction in 12th class but failed in the 1st year exams. Our minds are disturbed,” said Fazil, a class 10 student.
Though most of these families had voted in last assembly elections with the hope that the government will rehabilitate them, they repent their decision.
“During campaigning politicians would visit us twice a day begging for votes. But after the elections were over we have never seen them,” said an elderly man, Abdul Rehman Dar, who is putting up in a tin shed along with the family of seven.
“All of them promised us that land will be provided to us for construction of our houses soon after the elections are over. But you can see what they have done,” he said.
He said PDP leader and defeated candidate Sartaj Madni told them that he is not an MLA that he can help them. Congress leader and MLA Mohammad Amin Bhat has told them that “he can’t do anything because he is in Opposition”.
“We sold our eemaan (faith) by voting for them. I will repent my decision as long as I am alive,” Dar told Kashmir Reader.
Kulgam deputy commissioner Dr Abid Rashid said rehabilitation of these homeless families will be his priority.
“As you know I have recently assumed the charge as DC Kulgam. Since this is a humanitarian issue I will ensure that the lives and remaining property of these families are safeguarded which is possible only by rehabilitating them permanently. I will be visiting them in the next few days and will ensure that all the problems they face right now are addressed.”
On the allotment of the land to these families, the DC said the process for land acquisition has already been initiated.