SURKHET, Oct 18: When the entire country seems to be immersed in festive mood as the Nepali are celebrating the Bijaya Dashami, the most precious day of the Dashain festival tomorrow, the atmosphere at the temporary settlement occupied by those displaced by floods is quite bleak. The festival could not bring joy and happiness among those who have been spending tougher days in tarpaulins since the past four years after being rendered homeless by deadly floods.
Ram Bahadur Nepali of Girighat Camp said a large of number of flood victims who have been expecting for rehabilitation said sorrows and pains that left the disaster for them remained unhealed to date and the festival could not bring them the feelings of joy.
"Earth under make-shift shelter is so congested for the displaced," he shared the living condition of the survivors. "We even failed to find a space for planting jamara."
This is not the story of Ram Bahadur alone, but is shared by many of Barahatal rural municipality, Panchapuri, Birendra Nagar and Bheri Ganga municipalities who became homeless and landless following the deadly flooding that hit the settlement on August 13 and 14, 2014. The areas have turned to desert lands.
Floods had killed 115 people, displacing at least 970 families. Since then, the survivors are living a life of daily wage earners who work at stone queries. They are living under shaded tarpaulins. One of them is Nandakali BK of Dopka, Hariharpur. The flood not only displaced her, but made her landless. "There is no reason for celebrating the festival when no food to eat and no proper shelter to live," she said.
The survivors are taking shelter in the Girighat forest near the Birendranagar Valley. The assurances they received from political leaders of their rehabilitation have become the folk stories. "There is no reason for celebrating the festival when no food to eat and no proper shelter to live," said Nandakali.
All those living in the temporary shelters at Girihghat are from Hariharpur village of Barahatal rural municipality. People from settlements as Sisneri, Dopka and Thapadera have taken refuge at the Girighat jungle near Birendranagar valley after they were displaced in the aftermath of the massive flood.
The displaced flood victims are furious as they have been languishing in the temporary shelters without rehabilitation even after four years since their displacement. They have accused the politicians and local leaders of only projecting the issue of their rehabilitation only as fodder for political rhetoric.
“It is really saddening that our rehabilitation has not happened even after so many years. We are condemned to celebrate this year’s Dashain also in these shanties. Rehabilitation has become a pipedream,” rued Ram Bahadur.
Another flood victim, Lalit Bahadur Shahi, complained that their issue has not been addressed even when the rural municipality has implemented two budget terms. “The local people’s representatives do not show any concern to our issue terming it as the issue that has to be addressed by the federal government. Neither the local government nor the provincial or the federal governments have understood our problem,” he lamented.
Ram Bahadur Sunar, 54, a flood-displaced who is living with his family at Girighat camp, said that he vividly remembers the speeches made by politicians of every party during the election campaigns claiming to resolve the problem. “The politicians were never tired of giving assurances of addressing the problem just before the general election and the local elections. But they give a damn to the issue these days,” he said.
The flood-affected have their camp within the premises of the Women Training Centre Office in Birendranagar. The provincial government secretariat is nearby but the issue of rehabilitation of the flood-displaced peoples has not drawn its attention.
It seems the provincial government is in confusion where to rehabilitate the flood-displaced families and it has not taken any decision in this regard although the province lawmakers have been raising the issue of rehabilitation of the flood affected families numerous times in the provincial parliament. The Karnali province government has not allocated any budget under this heading.
The government led by the late Sushil Koirala announced relief for the flood affected people from five districts including Surkhet at a par with the earthquake victims. The government led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ which was formed after the Koirala-led government formed a work procedure for distribution of relief and rehabilitation of the flood affected families.
The flood displaced people became elated with both these decisions. But ultimately most of the flood displaced could not avail of the relief and the subsidies announced by the government. The reason behind this was that the government set aside miniscule budget for purchasing land for the rehabilitation of the flood-displaced population.
“I received Rs 50 thousand as the first installment of the grant provided by the government for purchasing land plot for constructing a house. But that was not enough for purchasing land in Birendranagar. I could not avail of the remaining installments of the grant as I did not have the land-ownership certificates to produce as the surety,” said Bal Bahadur Nepali, another flood-displaced person.
The Urban Development and Building Construction Division Office, Surkhet stated that most of the displaced people have not been able to construct houses due to the paucity of budget. According to the Division Office, Rs 70 million out of a billion rupees that had been received last fiscal year for distributing to the flood-displaced people as the first installment for purchasing land for house construction has been returned as it was inadequate. RSS