Leh: Flash-flood hit people await roof over head

Re-construction works are going on at many places and Choglamsar, 5 km east of Leh, Solar colony.

Leh: Braving icy winds, 28-year-old Wangchuk Dorje of flash-flood devastated Choglamsar is among hundreds of displaced people who are eagerly awaiting a roof
above their head more than a month and half after the natural disaster.

"The location of Leh is such that it is like the second rooftop of the world after Tibet. But here, the people do not have a roof as most of the houses were badly damaged or
completely destroyed in the flash-floods that hit the place after midnight on August 5," says Dorje, who lost two relatives in the natural disaster that struck this scenic locality.

The heavy rains that triggered landslides claimed at least 200 lives.

Re-construction works are going on at many places and Choglamsar, 5 km east of Leh, Solar colony, which presently has the largest camp for victims mainly from worst-hit Tashi Gatsal, is the new site for a satellite township.

Though locals are aware of the massive scale of the destruction and complexities involved in getting life back to track, that includes issues like relocation, land ownership,
compensation among others, they are living with the hope that both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil have assured of all possible help.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had on August 17 announced a Rs 125 crore relief package for the victims and said all houses destroyed in the natural calamity will be reconstructed within the next two-and-a-half months.

He said a monitoring committee under the chairmanship of state chief secretary will be constituted to ensure effective implementation of various schemes for the affected people.

"In Choglamsar, as many as 158 families have agreed to relocate, of which 104 have been given physical possession of land as per their previous holding. The administration is
giving this land free of cost," T Angcho, deputy commissioner, Leh, told a news agency.

He said the administration is racing against time to fulfil the PM`s promise but admits much of the work will be completed only after this winter.

Those victims having bank accounts were already given Rs 1 lakh from the Prime Minister`s relief fund and will be given an additional Rs 1 lakh soon, the official said.

However, local politicians argue that the government`s figures of displaced persons in Choglamsar is inaccurate and misleading.

"The administration is misleading people. There are over 670 completely destroyed houses and 530 partially destroyed houses. The original land of almost all people is gone and the administration has only marked new land for them.

"Also, how can they build houses with Rs one lakh when the cost of raw material like cement and bricks is so high here," said Tsering Dorje, Chief Executive Councillor, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council.

The district commissioner, however, explains that people will have to build their own plinth/boundaries and then the government will fit pre-fabricated structures on top of them free of cost, this is an additional incentive.

He said officials of concerned departments of the Central Government recently visited the area and said as many as 300 pre-fabricated structures could be distributed among the
maximum-affected families.

"This could happen by October 31 or the extended deadline of November 15 depending on the Centre. Also, the Bamboo Corporation of India has announced that it will give 24
pre-fab structures at the earliest," said Angcho.

Akin to other natural disasters, it is not only the state and central administration that is working round-the-clock to bring life back to normalcy, NGOs too have been chipping in
with manpower and resources.

Activists of Samarpan, one of the first NGOs to land in Leh after the flash-floods, say that all focus of the administration is at Choglamsar because VVIP`s visited this
place, whereas numerous hamlets that were also affected have been neglected.

"We are focusing on smaller villages where even cars cannot reach. We are sending two machines to make bricks with local materials to build community halls so that the villagers can live in them till their houses take shape", said a representative of the NGO.

Thuptia Chewango is sad that he cannot host the numerous politicians, activists, journalists inside his tarpaulin tent at present, but there is a gleam in his eye when he says he is hopeful of being a good host when he gets a roof over his head soon.


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