Skip to main content

Chilly winter awaits thousands of homeless households following Himalayan disasters

By Bharat Dogra*

Starting from Delhi on a hot afternoon, I could feel the first chill of cold weather on reaching the lower hills of Himachal Pradesh in the evening. Winter has arrived early here, I felt. By the time I was resting in my home, I could not manage without a sweater and a quilt.
In such conditions one’s thoughts invariably go to the disaster affected homeless people in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Jammu, Kashmir and other parts of the Himalayan region. The worst damage has been in Himachal Pradesh, where 2,944 houses have been entirely destroyed and 12,304 houses have been partially damaged. 7,250 cowsheds have also been destroyed or seriously damaged. 
 Himachal Pradesh has experienced as many as 72 flash floods during this year’s rainy season. Even in the last days of October big landslides were still being reported, as the one on NH 5 connecting Kinnaur, near Nathpa dam, when rocks and boulders covered a nearly 200 m stretch. 
Disasters in other parts of the Himalayan region have also resulted in many households becoming homeless, most of them for the first time in their life. In other cases, as in Joshimath (Uttarakhand), homelessness has also been caused by cracks appearing in houses as a result of recklessly executed construction projects. Then there are also the people displaced by civil strife, as in Manipur.
With the long and harsh winter ahead, one shudders to think about the difficulties including serious health risks thousands of households are going to face this year unless very substantial help can reach them very quickly now. As is well-known, the Himalayan winter can be much more harsh here, like the the flash floods are. 
It can be much more expensive to reconstruct houses here. The government help or compensatory payment is likely to be only a small fraction of what the affected people will need to get back a safe shelter again. In fact many people are still living in tents and cowsheds.
In addition over 600 school buildings have been damaged in Himachal Pradesh and students of many schools are now attending classes in make-shift places which lack essential facilities and where students have to sit on cold floors. These conditions, uncomfortable today, will become much more difficult and risky as the winter advances.
Worst damage has been in Himachal, where 2,944 houses have been entirely destroyed and 12,304 houses have been partially damaged
Clearly much more funds are needed for the relief and rehabilitation effort. The Himachal Pradesh government, a state already much indebted and in financial difficulties, has announced a package as best as it could manage but it is not adequate. 
The Centre should clearly be more generous to the disaster affected Himalayan regions in their hour of great need. There should be no delay in announcing more funds. The state governments should also ensure that funds reach the needy as early as possible. 
In Himachal Pradesh there can be a 2 to 5% deduction on all salary payments and at least a 2% deduction on all contractual payments from November to January and this money should be sent to a dedicated fund from which it should be quickly transferred for disaster relief and rehabilitation. 
The dam and construction companies in whose case the responsibility for causing disaster situations can be clearly established should be asked to pay adequate compensatory payments and these should also be deposited in this fund. 
This is in addition to the normal funds for relief and rehabilitation. The union education ministry should be asked to release a separate payment for disaster affected schools and students. This is stated in the context of Himachal Pradesh as well as other parts of the Himalayan region badly affected by disasters.
---
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include "Planet in Peril", "Protecting Earth for Children" and "India’s Quest for Sustainable Farming and Healthy Food"

Comments

TRENDING

Vaccine nationalism? Covaxin isn't safe either, perhaps it's worse: Experts

By Rajiv Shah  I was a little awestruck: The news had already spread that Astrazeneca – whose Indian variant Covishield was delivered to nearly 80% of Indian vaccine recipients during the Covid-19 era – has been withdrawn by the manufacturers following the admission by its UK pharma giant that its Covid-19 vector-based vaccine in “rare” instances cause TTS, or “thrombocytopenia thrombosis syndrome”, which lead to the blood to clump and form clots. The vaccine reportedly led to at least 81 deaths in the UK.

'Scientifically flawed': 22 examples of the failure of vaccine passports

By Vratesh Srivastava*   Vaccine passports were introduced in late 2021 in a number of places across the world, with the primary objective of curtailing community spread and inducing "vaccine hesitant" people to get vaccinated, ostensibly to ensure herd immunity. The case for vaccine passports was scientifically flawed and ethically questionable.

'Misleading' ads: Are our celebrities and public figures acting responsibly?

By Deepika* It is imperative for celebrities and public figures to act responsibly while endorsing a consumer product, the Supreme Court said as it recently clamped down on misleading advertisements.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

US 'frustrated' with India’s discomfort: Maritime exercise in South China Sea

By Vijay Prashad*  In early April 2024, the navies of four countries -- Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States -- held a maritime exercise in the South China Sea. Australia’s Warramunga, Japan’s Akebono, the Philippines’ Antonio Luna, and the United States’ Mobile worked together in these waters to strengthen their joint abilities and -- as they said in a joint statement  -- to “uphold the right to freedom of navigation and overflight and respect for maritime rights under international law.” 

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Palm oil industry 'deceptively using' geenwashing to market products

By Athena*  Corporate hypocrisy is a masterclass in manipulation that mostly remains undetected by consumers and citizens. Companies often boast about their environmental and social responsibilities. Yet their actions betray these promises, creating a chasm between their public image and the grim on-the-ground reality. This duplicity and severely erodes public trust and undermines the strong foundations of our society.

India 'not keen' on legally binding global treaty to reduce plastic production

By Rajiv Shah  Even as offering lip-service to the United Nations Environment Agency (UNEA) for the need to curb plastic production, the Government of India appears reluctant in reducing the production of plastic. A senior participant at the UNEP’s fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4), which took place in Ottawa in April last week, told a plastics pollution seminar that India, along with China and Russia, did not want any legally binding agreement for curbing plastic pollution.

No compensation to family, reluctance to file FIR: Manual scavengers' death

By Arun Khote, Sanjeev Kumar*  Recently, there have been four instances of horrifying deaths of sewer/septic tank workers in Uttar Pradesh. On 2 May, 2024, Shobran Yadav, 56, and his son Sushil Yadav, 28, died from suffocation while cleaning a sewer line in Lucknow’s Wazirganj area. In another incident on 3 May 2024, two workers Nooni Mandal, 36 and Kokan Mandal aka Tapan Mandal, 40 were killed while cleaning the septic tank in a house in Noida, Sector 26. The two workers were residents of Malda district of West Bengal and lived in the slum area of Noida Sector 9. 

Dadi, poti discuss 'injustice' under 10 yr Modi rule: Video campaign goes viral

By Our Representative  Watan Ki Raah Mein, a civil society campaign of the Samvidhan Bachao Nagrik Abhiyan, has released a short video conversation on social media of an exchange of letters between a dadi and her poti discussing poverty, unemployment, corruption and women’s safety. The letters also raise the question of  suppression of our fundamental rights of speech, expression and justice.