Year on, flood victims still homeless

A small dimly lit shop that Ghulam Hassan Buch would run to earn for his family prior to devastating deluge of September 2014 has been the ‘home’ for six member family for past eight months.
Year on, flood victims still homeless
File Photo

A small dimly lit shop that Ghulam Hassan Buch would run to earn for his family prior to devastating deluge of September 2014 has been the 'home' for six member family for past eight months.

On September 7 last year when Srinagar sank in the deluge the three-storey house of Buchs in Jawahar Nagar was washed away by strong water currents which rose from the flood spill channel running in backside of the locality in summer capital.

Since then, the family consisting of six members including two sons and two daughters has been managing their life in the shop converted into a living room and a makeshift kitchen.

"This shop is now our home, it is everything for us," said Riffat Jan wife of Buch amid sobs.

The 'room' with no window and shutters down is dimly lit and large part of it is occupied by whatever little household item the family could forage from their collapsed house after the water receded.

A refrigerator that the family had brought only days before the flood hit Srinagar, has been turned into a cupboard.

Just a half a dozen cups without saucers, a few steel plates, a dented rice cooker and a gas stove is all that consists of Buch's kitchen.

"Everything was washed away by flood… our clothes, household items, bedding, everything. We are left with just what you can see in this room," she said. .

Jawahar Nagar was one of the worst hit areas in Srinagar in the flood. The flood water remained stagnant in the area for more than 15 days, resulting in crumbling of scores of houses.   

"Our houses had collapsed on September 7 at 3 pm. But we came to know about the tragedy a week later since we had fled the area night before," said the family.

The house was jointly shared by Buch and his brother Bashir Ahmad Buch. "It was a three-storey big house. Our home consisted of five rooms and a spacious hall and a similar space was my brother's share," said Riffat.

Her son Umer Buch who is a salesman by profession said the government provided them only Rs 1.75 lakh as compensation for building the new house. Since the two families shared the house, the amount had to be equally distributed between them. "We had to pay Rs 90,000 to laborers to remove the debris. It cost us Rs 2 lakh to set up only plinth for new house and now with no money left we had to abandon the construction," said Riffat.

The tragedy isn't unique to Buchs. Families after families in Jawahar Nagar, in nearby Rajbagh, another worst hit area and other localities of Srinagar complained that the flood compensation has been nothing but peanuts.

In the nearby Ikhrajpora locality an angry Shabir Ahmad a local resident mocked at the meager compensation the government has provided to flood victims. Ahmad said around 80 houses were completely lost in the flood. He said following the promises by the government to adequately compensate flood victims, people started to rebuild their houses taking loans from banks and other sources.

"But the government has only paid Rs 1.75 lakhs, Rs 75000 by state and Rs 1 lakh by government of India. IT cost us around one lakh to dismantle each damaged house and remove the debris. The plinth construction today costs around Rs 2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh," Ahmad said.

He said people invested their life-long saving into construction of new houses and took loan from market hoping the government would compensate later. "Every family that lost the house started new construction but most of them had to abandon it midway for want of money. We have to manage our daily living, the studies of our children and at the same time construct new house. It isn't possible to manage all this," said Ahmad. "Nobody understands our plight."

Helpless, the flood victims are now accusing the state government of turning back on its promises of providing adequate compensation to them for rebuilding their houses. "We have been reduced to a joke now," said Muhammad Ashraf, who too lost his house in the flood.

J&K Government had sought Rs 44000 crores financial assistance from Government of India for compensating flood victims. One year after the flood today, there is still no word from center on the proposed package.

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