Anantnag: More than 13 years after they were left homeless by a snow storm, many families in Waltengoo Naar area in Kulgam are still waiting for the government to keep its promise of constructing new houses for them.
A snow storm on February 19, 2005, followed by avalanches, left more than 250 people, including women and children, dead. More than a thousand residents of the area lost their homes in the destruction that the storm wrought. Avalanches destroyed about 200 dwellings, burying many people inside their homes.
Back then, this humanitarian tragedy had raised questions over the disaster preparedness of the state government and its inability to anticipate such disasters. Thirteen years later, the residents are raising questions on the intent of the government.
The residents say the government promised re-construction of 128 houses within a period of one year to rehabilitate the displaced people.
“In the past thirteen years, however, the government has been able to construct only 34 houses at one place and 24 at another. The rest of us have been left with no option but to live like nomads,” the displaced people said.
They said that many of them migrated to parts of Jammu region and some, who could not afford it, were living in rented accommodations.
“More than 70 houses are yet to be constructed. It means that more than 600 people still await a place they can call their home,” Ishaq Khan, a displaced Waltengoo resident, told Kashmir Reader.
The affected people said that in the past thirteen years they knocked on every door, from the Deputy Commissioner’s to the Divisional Commissioner’s, and of local politicians as well as ministers.
“Nobody seems to be listening to us. We have been left to rot with nowhere to go,” they said, adding, “Some of us have returned to Waltengoo and are living in shabby makeshift arrangements.”
The government, on the other hand, insists that only 44 of the houses remain to be constructed and the land has been acquired for their construction.
“The Rural Development Department has been directed to take up the work. There were some people who had demanded rehabilitation at a new place. We have acquired some 5 kanals of land where they will be rehabilitated,” Kulgam Deputy Commissioner (DC), Talat Parvez Rohella, told Kashmir Reader.