Over 365 villages in Uttarakhand await rehabilitation

Dehra Dun : The spate of incessant rains in the Uttarakhand coupled with the disaster that hit the Kedarnath Valley on June 16-17 has increased the number of unsafe villages in this small mountain state to over 365 and there are indications that if an overall survey is conducted afresh, this number could also rise further.

The maximum number of unsafe villages in the state is in Chamoli district which bore the brunt of the flash floods and a number of landslides that were triggered in the region due to heavy incessant rains. As of now the number of these unsafe villages is put at 74, but fears are that the number could be higher as those in the very interior regions have yet to be visited by officials.
According to reports it is not only because of the recent rains and flash floods that all the over 365 villages have become unsafe, but many of them had been declared unsafe years back. However, apathy of the state government in finding land to rehabilitate these villages is the reason that their numbers have kept increasing.

But what is appalling is the fact that the over 10,000 families living in these villagers are leading a nightmarish experience as they are not sure of their future. While many of the families have left their hearth and homes and moved to safer areas in the villages themselves, yet others, with no where to go continue to live on at nature’s mercy.

While land is sinking in some of the villages causing cracks to appear in houses, in some of the villages there are landslides that are causing havoc. Some of the villagers along the banks of the rivers are facing severe erosion, which is washing away their fertile land and almost taking away some of the homes also, forcing the villagers to think in terms of moving out.

To add to their plight most of the connecting roads to these villages have either been washed away either partially or wholly and the villagers are forced to take to pedestrian paths, which are not without their share of hazards. Under such circumstances taking patients to a dispensary for treatment is an odyssey.

As for the state government, it is so caught up in its relief and rescue operations following the June 16-17 tragedy that it has not been able to give even a thought to the rehabilitation of these villages that are passing every day with a prayer on their lips and fear in their hearts. But they have no option till the government can find adequate land to rehabilitate them.

Unfortunately the ‘babudom’ of this small hill state neither has the time nor the inclination to think of how best these villages that can be lost for ever should there be a heavy landslide or flash flood in the region, be rehabilitated. The revenue and the forest departments are busy looking at each other and rather than finding ways and means are only coming up with excuses.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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