Dibrugarh: The weather gods are in a foul mood. So feel the people of villages in north Sikkim. What else can explain the weather change three years back that hit their flourishing cardamom plantation, and then last month`s earthquake which snatched away the vestiges of their livelihood.
"We don`t know what to do. We are getting food packets which have given us immediate relief...but what about the future? Who will take care of us in the days and months ahead?" asked Pravesh Thapa, a 58-year-old villager, the lines of worry apparent on his face.
Thapa is one of the many other cardamom farmers in north Sikkim who led a comfortable life until five years back.
"But three years back, things changed. Because of a change in the weather pattern, the crop failed us... and it continued," Regina Bhutias, the wife of another farmer, said on phone.
Left with little choice, a number of people started looking for alternate options of livelihood and decided to set up small businesses.
"In north Sikkim, a number of dams, at least five of them, are being constructed on the Teesta river. Most of the workers on the dams are migrants, from places like Assam, Bihar and Orissa. Less than 10 percent workers are locals," Swapan Singha, of the NGO Action Aid India, said on phone from Gangtok.
"So the locals decided that petty businesses like eateries and shops are a viable option since a lot of outsiders live there. It had picked up and people had started to earn a decent living when this earthquake happened and the workers fled," he added.
The Sep 18 6.8 magnitude quake caused utter devastation in Sikkim - especially in the north - killing at least 80 people and injuring many others. It also shook parts of neighbouring states like Assam, West Bengal, Bihar as well as Nepal, Tibet and Bangladesh.
A number of those killed were labourers working on the dams. As fear and panic spread, a number of migrant workers fled the state, leaving locals in the lurch.
"Our businesses were heavily dependent on the outsiders. Now we are left facing an uncertain future once again. We don`t know when they will return, if they return at all," Thapa said.
According to Singha, even after three weeks of the quake, a number of places especially in north Sikkim are still cut off.
"For example, Toong which is beyond Chungthang, is still cut off. Then again, many roads are still blocked and relief material to these places is stuck," Singha said.
"As per our estimation, for the connectivity to be completely restored it will take at least four-five months," he added.
Nearly 90 percent houses were destroyed in the quake and some locals have started re-building their homes.
"But we have advised them to wait for the government to intervene and construct the houses with technical support, so that they are more resistant to quakes and the rough weather," Singha said.