2023 monsoon havoc fresh on Mandi voters’ minds - Hindustan Times

2023 monsoon havoc fresh on Mandi voters’ minds

By, Mandi
May 31, 2024 11:31 PM IST

Some blame the central government for not doing enough to help the debt-ridden state cope with the disaster, while others criticise the state government for failing to provide relief to everyone in need.

Last year, Himachal Pradesh (HP) endured a tumultuous period due to an unprecedented monsoon, with Mandi district being among the worst-affected. The impact of this natural calamity remains fresh in people’s minds and has become a major election issue.

Polling team members setting up a booth for voting in Mandi on Friday. (Birbal Sharma/HT)
Polling team members setting up a booth for voting in Mandi on Friday. (Birbal Sharma/HT)

Some blame the central government for not doing enough to help the debt-ridden state cope with the disaster, while others criticise the state government for failing to provide relief to everyone in need. Many families, who have been informed that their properties are on government land, are still awaiting assistance. The voters in Mandi said that disaster will be one of the key issues on their mind, when they will vote on Saturday (June 1).

PM Modi during his recent election rally in Mandi accused the Congress government of mismanaging the relief funds given by the Centre, the ruling party in the state was quick to respond stating that PM’s claims are baseless. “The Prime Minister should tell with figures how much financial help he has given to the state during the disaster,” Congress’ Mandi candidate and PwD minister Vikramaditya Singh said.

The three spells of excessive rain in July and August last year wreaked havoc, devastating lives and property across many districts of the state. With over 500 lives lost, this was Himachal’s one of the worst disasters in the past 100 years. As per the government’s assessment, the state suffered a loss of 9,505 crore and the state government had also demanded a special relief package from the Centre.

Ram Chander, 39, from Kataula village in the Drung assembly constituency in Mandi district, says he will vote for NOTA because neither BJP nor Congress leaders visited his area since he lost his house and agricultural land last year during the disaster. “I have not received any kind of relief, and my house is still in bad shape. For the last 10 months, we have been managing our lives like this. They were told by someone that our houses are on government land,” he says.

He added that they can no longer live in their house and have been staying in rented accommodation. “There are others in our area who will also choose NOTA on polling day. Many received full relief despite having no damage to their houses,” he says.

The state government had announced a special relief package of 4,500 crore for relief and rehabilitation of the flood-affected families in the state. The state government has maintained that 22,000 disaster-affected families have been rehabilitated.

Ram Lal, 40, a resident of Gram Panchayat Jufar Kot, which falls under Seraj assembly constituency in Mandi said, “I think we are only remembered when there is an election. It has been almost a year now and the rainy season is approaching. Forget relief, even no one has conducted the survey of my house,” he said.

“We are OBC community here are mostly from a poor background. No one cares about us and it seems we are only for votes,” he said.

Centre did not help

Rajender Mohan, councillor, MC Mandi, said that while the state government stood by the people, the Centre did not help us during those difficult times. “According to our estimates, there was around 37 crore loss in Mandi MC area and there works that still need to be done. People here are aware about who stood by them during that time. To rehabilitate the disaster affected families, the state government changed the norms of the relief package,” he said, adding that state ministers stood by people.

“The relief given by the centre was a routine package which is given to every state. People waited for a special relief package from the Centre. More than election results, we are waiting for the Code of Conduct to end so that we can carry-out pending works before the monsoon season. People received assistance from the state and if there are some still left out, those will also be cleared. There are cases which are under process as some have applied online recently,” he said, adding that there are cases in which people have encroached government land and built property.

Meanwhile, Veer Singh Bhardwaj, OBC president of BJP Seraj Mandal, said, “There are many families who were not given relief and on the other side those who had no damage to properties were given the relief.”

The natural disasters have increased significantly in their area over the past few years. While both the Congress and BJP have targeted each-other on disaster issues, there has been little talk about climate change on the campaign trail. More than 1,550 people have lost their lives in the last five years during monsoon season in Himachal Pradesh.

Manshi Asher, who is with the Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, an NGO based in Himachal Pradesh, said, “Climate change is missing from the whole debate, and its impact is knocking on our doors, yet people are still not realizing it. The frequency of extreme weather events is increasing. The question of development and livelihood cannot be disconnected from ecology in Himachal, and resilience needs to be built to deal with these climatic conditions. It is a policy and governance issue.”

“The geology of Himachal Pradesh is sensitive, and the mega developmental projects have destabilised it further in the last few years. Over the last decade we have witnessed a trend where environmental laws have also been weakened,” she added.

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