Dang/Surkhet, Jan 5: Juidhan Chaudhari of Tulasipur - 20, had received rugs and blankets from donors two years ago. But now they are all torn to the extent that they hardly give warmth. The bamboo made house that shelters her family does not block the dew from sipping in and the cold breeze blows in through the creeks of the bamboos from the nearby Babai River. Summing his family's winter struggle he says: Winter is a killer!
“During the peak winter season, it is very hard for the family to remain warm. Due to the dew and cold wind, the room feels like a cold store. Our bed, quilt, blanket are soaked and fail to warm at all,” he lamented. “We can hardly sleep at night due to the cold.
During these two years of being homeless our life is completely destroyed,” he added. Chaudari's house was swept away by the Babai River floods two years ago.
His little children keep nagging him for warmer clothes. The cold is so much inside the house that the kids hardly warm up unless fire is lit. “To keep my family warm, I have to always make sure that we have firewood for the night,” Juidhan shared.
Two and half years ago Babai flood claimed dozens of lives and rendered hundreds of people homeless in Dang and Surkhet. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, assurance came from the government that the victims would be resettled. Juidhan was one of these victims, who trusted the government. “However during these two years we have realized that the government was not serious about delivering the promises it made in a hurry,” he said expressing feeling of betrayal.
Dhanabir Chaudhari, father of three children from the same village also became homeless because of the flood. When he sought shelter at a landlord's property, his family was welcomed. But the goodwill lasted only for a few weeks. The family was asked to vacate the landlord's property. This forced his family to return to their own property. “When we returned to our property all we could find there was silt left behind by the flood. Our house was gone,” Dhanbir reported. “I erected this small hut as a temporary shelter for the family. This was not supposed to be our shelter for the winter, summer, rainy days, but eventually it has been for two long years.”
There are rarely any income generation opportunities in the locality. Daily commodities are so costly that its hard to buy square meals for the family, says Dhanbir. “In lack of proper house to live in and regular work to earn a living, our life has been very difficult.
Over the years government has announced this and that for us, but none of those promises have been realized so far,” he said.
There are over 400 flood affected families in Dang. As part of the relief package government provided some cash to the victim families but the full package was never delivered. “They provided Rs 25,000 as the first installment of house grant. But the remainder never came through,” said Dhanabir adding that the amount was distributed unevenly. Government had provided Rs 50,000 to victims who were able to produce land registration card and only half of it was given to the landless.
Hasila Badi, a flood victim from Fulbari village of Dang stated the grant amount was too meager and was handed to the victims after a long delay. “How can you buy land and make house with such a small amount? And on top of that, we had lost everything we had to the floods and to survive in the aftermath of the floods most of us had taken loans to sustain. As soon as we got the grant, most of it was used to pay back the debt.”
The flood had victimized many families in Surkhet also. 93 of these families still live in a camp made for them. Each of the families is suffering the same fate as those faced by flood victims in Dang. They hardly have warm clothes and their huts hardly fend off the cold and dew.
“We have been trying hard to keep our hut warm by lighting fire. The cold has affected children and elderly people very hard,” Ganesh Shahi of Babiyachaur - 1 said adding that sustaining the winter cold was the hardest challenge for the camp's families. Apart from the cold, families in this camp are living with another fear- the fear of wild animals from the nearby forest.
Nirmala Khatri, a flood victim living in one of the huts inside the camp, shared that cold has been affecting the health of adults too. “Most of people's body is swelling due to cold,” she said adding that she has been suffering from the same cold sores.