City’s flood-hit families observe fast with ‘hope and despair’

IRFAN RASHID

SRINAGAR:

A new fresh air has engulfed the Valley with arrival of spiritual month of Ramdhan but there is a larger section of people where air failed to permeate through.
The calling from the minaret at the dawn and dusk has no effect on displaced Malik family in Mehjoor Nagar. Fayaz Ahmad Malik, 45, with oblong face and short hair is living on rent in a small 10 feet by 15 feet room. Getting inside the room sometimes is a heavy exercise as all bag and baggage is scattered in the room. Stove, broken cistern, dirty shoes or any other thing may become a hindrance to enter the single occupancy and all in one bed cum drawing cum kitchen room.
Fayaz sets out to work on very first day of Ramadan. A work that he calls ‘more important than anything’. After he lost his newly built double story house, he says I lost my whole lifetime earnings.” In Kashmir, people earn for decades only with a single aim of building a grand house with dream of spacious room for every member.
Haleema, 43, is on fast but still cooks food for her husband who is busy working on re-building his lost house.  Fayaz works along with eleven labours and three masons; he also supervises their work. “These labours think we have received lakhs of rupees from government and tries to be lethargic in their work,” whispers Fayaz.
Malik family has two kids also. Suhail, 12, and Haroon, 10, studies in Islamic Public school, Kanipora. Haleema grudges about lackluster attitude of the government who have left them and many other thousands of families in ‘God’s name’ (khuday seindis nawas peth treayikh aes).
The government has so far given Rs 1.75 lacs to Malik family and so to many other flood victim families. “It took us Rs 1 lac to dismantle the old collapsed house,” complains Fayaz. He has failed all these months to complete building a new house and only lately has taken a debt from close associates to continue house construction.
With the Centre announcing second installment of relief for the flood victims of Kashmir, the families whose houses had been washed away in the September deluge last year continue to struggle to rebuild their homes even in this scorching heat of Ramdhan.
The Union Government after a delay of more than six months “disappointed” the people of Valley by announcing just Rs 1,600 crore relief. A “mere” Rs 551 crore has been announced for housing, which shattered the hopes of the flood-hit. The previous state government had proposed Rs 44,000 crore from central government.
“A single bag of cement costs Rs 390. I have already spent all my savings on building the structure. I have spent nearly Rs 5 lakh till now,” said Fayaz with right hand supporting his chin and thumb scratching his beard.
“What can we do with this little amount? We cannot wait for too long. The government has deceived people by announcing such a small amount on the name of relief. We lost everything in floods,” he said.
According to experts, a single story moderate house takes nearly Rs 10 lakh for construction. The announcement of less than Rs 2 lakh relief amount for the flood victims till now has increased the difficulties of flood victims who are forced to live in rented accommodations from the last over six months.
 “It is not possible to even build the structure of the house with Rs 2 lakh,” said Jamsheed Ahmad, a Valley-based architect. In a move to make construction of houses easy for the victims, the government had announced subsidized building material for the flood-hit. However, the affected people termed it a “false promise”.
 “The officials are now telling us that the former government had created trouble for them by announcing subsidized material. They are making procedures too long for us. We are tired. We have been continuously approaching the concerned offices but to no avail,” said Gulzar Bhat, another flood victim, whose house was completely damaged in the unprecedented floods in Batamaloo.
Gulzar has never broke a single fating day in is life but this year, he says, “I want to complete house for my family before Eid.” This is not the end of worry for the flood-hit families. After floods, non-local laborers left the Valley, subsequently labour charges have become expensive. The cost of construction material has also increased.  “From bricks to sand, everything has become expensive. Even labor charges have gone up. We are in a difficult situation. Every one of us wants to celebrate Eid in our homes, but we are helpless. The government has failed us,” said 16-year-old Mehvish Gulzar.
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