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A year later, loss and longing still haunt Leh

Wednesday July 06, 2011 12:54:16 PM, Arpana, IANS

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Leh: Tsering Angma, a widow, is constructing her own house along with other women labourers in Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir. It's nearly a year since she lost everything in flash floods, but she is still picking up the pieces.

"So far I have received Rs.230,000 from the government. The money came late, that is why I started building my house so late," said Angma, 39, who has two children and works as a coolie for her bread and butter," she added.

She said she couldn't have built the house in Solar Colony - where victims of the flash floods were relocated - without government support.

On Aug 6 last year, all hell broke loose in Leh Valley when a cloudburst occurred, killing 190 people in the floods that followed. These washed away many villages in Leh, among them Angma's Tashi Gyastal hamlet.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs.100,000 each to the next-of-kin of each of the deceased from the PM's National Relief Fund and Rs.50,000 each to the seriously injured. The state government also announced Rs.200,000 relief for each of the families of those killed.

"Within a month we got a temporary house in Solar Colony and for three months we got support from the government for food and other things. After that we had to start working," Angma told a visiting IANS correspondent.

About 150 families have been rehabilitated in Solar Colony, including ex-serviceman Tundup Tsewang who says he invested his entire saving in building a house in Tashi Gyastal.

"I didn't lose any family member. But I have no money, I depend on government aid to build my house. For day-to-day expenses, I have to depend on my pension," said 43-year-old Tsewang who had to start from scratch. He hasn't received the entire compensation yet.

The nightmare was hard to bear for Dorjay Namgail, 31, who was in Delhi when floods hit the village killing his father. His mother, wife and one-year-old child escaped death as they were stuck inth debris that the water couldn't take away.

"I lost my father. My mother hasn't fully recovered yet. Thankfully, my wife and child are back to normal," said Namgail, who works in the army. He says their morale is down as "we have lost everything, including the house where I invested about Rs.1.2 million."

Though aid is coming, it is not sufficient to complete the entire construction work, say residents.

Mud bricks cost Rs.7 per piece and labour charges are Rs.300 per day. For 1,000 bricks, one has to shell out Rs.8,000 and Rs.2,000 for transportation. Just laying the foundation and making a 12x10 room costs Rs.200,000.

The villagers are clueless about how much and from where the fund is actually coming. When asked, most say: "The government is giving aid."

Village headman Tundup Tsweang said he spoke to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah about the aid.

"I even spoke to (Congress leader) Rahul Gandhi about the funds. I told him that 14 people haven't got aid yet. He gave me his e-mail id and his office used to call us every week to find out whether people have got the money. Now only five people are left," he said.

But life may never be the same for these people.

Tashi Dolma, 58, who lost her husband a long time ago, used to have comfortable life thanks to her big house, which she would rent out, earning about Rs.3,500 every month. But now she and her daughter have no source of livelihood.

Konchok Namgyal, from Sankar village in Leh district, said the flood swept away their crops and cattle, leaving fields covered with stones and boulders. "We didn't get much help from the government except that they sent bulldozers to clear the fields and fodder for cattle," said the 70-year-old.

This IANS correspondent met two National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) officers, who were there to inspect whether the villagers are using the right technique to build the house, but they refused to comment.

The villagers are still using traditional methods of building homes.

The "dark clouds make us uncomfortable, but no matter what precautions you take, you are helpless in front of such natural calamity. Throughout the year we did a lot of puja because only god can save us from it," said Phunchok, who works as a driver.

(Arpana can be contacted at









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