The 900-odd families living in 10 villages near the Line of Control (LoC) are in a fix. The Jammu and Kashmir government has told the villagers that if they want the second installment of Rs 60,000 each for building their houses, they should first file affidavits stating that they are constructing houses in a designated unsafe area at their own risk. The affidavit should add that the government would not be held accountable for relief and compensation in case another earthquake or natural calamity strikes the area. And that the villagers have chosen to stay in the danger zone despite the government’s offer to move them elsewhere.
Now, the catch: the 500 kanals that the government had earmarked in Jabri, Karnah Tangdhar, for relocating the villagers disappeared in a landslide this August. The government is yet to decide on an alternative. “Despite this, villagers are being forced to submit affidavits,” says Jamil Khan, 36, a civil engineer from Tithwal.
After the earthquake, the government’s mining and geology department had conducted a survey and declared 10 villages near the LoC unsafe for construction. These are Tithwal, Badarkot, Ibkot, Tangdhar Nad, Gundi Shath, Gundi Gujra, Dringla, Nau Gabra, Pingla Haridal, and Batla.
“Do you think I am mad to build a house in an unsafe area?” asks Ali Zaman, 60. “I am ready to move, but the government should at least tell us where to go,” he says.
Karnah Sub-Divisional Magistrate Abdul Hamid Khan admits that the stretch in Jabri was lost in the landslide. “As soon as we zero in on a new area, we will let the villagers know,” he says. He goes on to add that they are demanding the affidavits so that villagers stay in temporary shelters till they can be relocated. “But the villagers are adamant and want the second installment. We should not be held responsible if some calamity occurs,” he says.
Meanwhile, the villagers are sceptical about the government survey as well. “The government even found the schools built by the army in Tithwal unsafe,” says Ijaz Ahmed Khan, the headmaster of one such middle school. “Also, most of the villagers are illiterate. They do not know what is written on the Rs 20 stamp paper with the seven-point promise already printed on it,” he adds. “They are signing it thinking that this document is what will get them the second installment of relief money.”