It was a dark Diwali for villagers in flood-ravaged Barmer district. Most houses in Kawas and Malva villages here are still underwater. Villagers have become refugees with many fleeing to hilltops when the rains wrecked havoc.
District officials are at a loss how to drain out the rainwater from the gypsum-rich soil. Almost nine kilometres of the two villages have stagnant water in the low-lying areas.
“Though engineers tried to drill the surface the gypsum prevented the water to seep in. The only way out now is to drain out the water through evaporation,” said relief secretary R.K. Meena.
Officials also tried out another method. They dug out a seven-km-long canal to pump out the water. “But that too failed,” Meena added. The western railway provided 72 tankers to ferry the water to the Luni river, a good 45 kilometres away from the site. “But the method was stopped as it become too expensive,” Meena said. The government paid more than one crore in 21 days to the railway ministry to transport the water. “Of the 3000 million cubic feet, only 500-600 mcf of water remains,” he said.
The floods have also sealed the fate of 700 internationally acclaimed folk artists Mangniyars and Langas residing in 40 villages in two districts. Eighty-year-old Dodhe Khan says that none of the artistes could perform on Diwali as their “rare instruments like Sindhi Sarengi, Kamacha, Raavan-hatha, Khadtaal, Mar chanag, Algoza were swept away by floodwaters”.
“I got invitations from different towns and cities but turned them down as I feel orphaned because of the loss of my instrument, Algoza, made of Kangaur wood from Sindh in Pakistan,” rues the artiste.
Two women artists, Alka from Dubodhari village and Rukma Khan were lucky to survive whereas two of their colleagues died. “We will celebrate Diwali next year as several donors and NGOs have offered financial assistance to purchase the instruments which may help in the rehabilitation of the artists,” they said.
Principal secretary Lalit K Panwar who has been camping at Barmer since August 23 to oversee relief operations told HT that floods victims were having survival as priority hence festival meant nothing for them. The ‘Festival of Lights’ was marred by the burning of the effigies of the chief minister Vasundhara Raje in several villages in Srigangangar district.