Diwali carried no meaning for the villagers of Kawas and Malva in Barmer district in Rajasthan whose houses are still submerged under 8 feet of flood water and state government’s efforts to drain out the water have failed.
The villagers had fled to nearby hilltops to save their lives two months back when floods’ fury had engulfed both the villages with 18-35 feet of water.
The Barmer district administration is still at a loss how to drain out the water which still covers about 9 kms stretch and about 1100 families have been affected.
The stagnate water is mainly confined to low-lying areas which has made its outflow impossible. Relief secretary RK Meena said “ for drainage of the water -the only option left is by evaporation.” He said that engineers had tried to drill the land surface but methodology did not work due to presence of the Gypsum layer.
“Then a seven-km-long canal was dug to pump out the water, which also failed. Finally, western railway provided seventy two tankers to take water to Luni river which is situated about 45 Kms away from the site. But the government could not continue it as it was incurring a huge expenditures everyday.” Meena said. He said the government paid more than one crore in 21 days to the railway ministry to transport the water.
“Out of three thousand million cubic feet, only 500-600 mcf of the water remains,” he said.
The people, therefore, are still living a destitute life in shelters. “We are staying in tents and struggling for the survival of our kids and families everyday. It was difficult to answer the queries of the children who wanted to celebrate the festival but they little knew that we are completely ruined so how can we think of celebrating the Diwali?” said Tulsa Devi of Allaniaya Ki Dhani. Her husband Anoop Ram was equally upset. “Thousands of villagers do not have houses and they have to build from scratch which made Diwali festival irrelevant for them,” Ram said.
The floods had also sealed the fate of 700 internationally acclaimed folk artists Mangniyars and Langas residing in 40 villages in two districts.
80 year old Dodhe Khan said that none of us could perform on Diwali as our rare instruments including Sindhi Sarengi,Kamacha,Raavan-hatha,Khadtaal,Mar chanag, Algoza etc.were swept in the floods.
Khan said "I got a lot of invitations from different towns and cities but turned down as I am feeling orphaned due to the loss of my instrument Algoza –made of Kangaur wood from Sindh in Pakistan."
Two women artists including Alka from Dubodhari village in Barmer and Rukma Khan were lucky to survive whereas two of their colleagues died.
They said "we will celebrate Diwali next year as several donors and NGOs have offered the financial assistance to purchase the instruments which may help in the rehabilitation of the artists."
Principal secretary state government Lalit K Panwar who has been camping at Barmer since Aug 23 to oversee relief operations told HT that floods victims were having survival as priority hence festival meant nothing for them.
Bhunesh Jain district youth coordinator of Yuvak Mandal said that floods victims were still under shock and majority of them were in tears when they remembered their unique style and tradition of celebrating Diwali during the better days.
The Diwali festival celebrations were marred by the burning of the effigies of the chief minister Vasundhara Raje in several villages in Srigangangar district.
The farmers celebrated black Diwali to protest against the police repression and non acceptance of their demand to release more water from Indira Gandhi canal to irrigate the Rabi crops.