A year after an earthquake pummelled Kashmir, the scars refuse to heal. The signs of disaster linger and the general mood is one of discontent.
On October 8, a temblor measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, epicentred 125 km off Srinagar near Muzzafarabad, destroyed large parts of Uri, Tangdhar and Teethwal in Baramullah and Kupwara districts respectively. It claimed 1,400 lives on the Indian side and 75,000 across the border.
The government announced a compensation package under which buildings were classified as “fully and partially damaged.” While Rs 1 lakh each was sanctioned for houses razed to the ground, the partially-damaged homes were allocated Rs 30,000 each. In addition, Rs 30,000 was sanctioned for the construction of temporary sheds and an incentive of Rs 5,000 announced for every family, who built their sheds on time.
Official estimates cited 14,818 structures, including houses, government buildings, places of worship, schools and hospitals as “fully damaged” and 92,048 as “partially damaged”.
The authorities, so far, have disbursed nearly Rs 187 crore in Baramulla district and Rs 50.03 crore in Kupwara. During his visit to Tangdhar and Teethwal recently, chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad instructed the administration to distribute the remaining aid in one go.
“People affected by the earthquake should be able to rebuild their homes before the onset of winter,” he told the authorities.
But the prospect seems unlikely. “What should have been done in April this year still remains a promise with winter round the corner,” villagers lamented.
Resentment is simmering. Villagers have decided to observe October 8 as a black day and are rallying against the government in public places. They allege that relief and rehabilitation agencies have been partisan in aid distribution.
Seventy-year old Mohammad Yousuf Bhat of Gharkote village said his house was “completely damaged”, but he was offered relief for “partial damage”.
“I returned the cheque and demanded my due share. But till date, I have not received anything,” he told the Hindustan Times. The remains of his ruined house testify his claim.
Residents of Gwalta, Nambla, Kamal Kote, Navanrunda and Dhani Syedain village in Uri also alleged discrimination in relief. “The Gujjars have been given preferential treatment while the Pahadis and Kashmiri-speaking people were cold-shouldered,” said Arshad Hussain of Gwalta village. “We were given free ration for three months, but nothing more. They government has been selective,” chorused Sikandar Shah and Mohammad Bashir Kataria of Kamal Kote.
“The State Vigilance Organisation (SVO) is probing the allegations and a departmental inquiry is underway,” sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Bashir Ahmad Dar said.