A Kashmir village, a month after the flood

Zalpora is crying out for help, attention: a first-person account

bvrao

BV Rao | October 11, 2014 | Zalpora, Jammu and Kashmir



Zalpora is a village of farmers in Sumbal tehsil to the south of Srinagar. Disconnected from the summer capital way beyond the physical separation of 30 km can justify, it lives on the periphery of urban consciousness at the best of times.

Little wonder then that when, on September 6-7, the flood waters engulfed the entire village of about 2,600 people (300 families), neither cameras rushed here nor help. The village was left to its own means to battle nature’s fury.

The waters receded after 16 days, but the neglect of Zalpora continues. Today (October 10), more than a month since the flood hit the village, it has received no attention, much less, help.  

Ghulam Ali and Ghulam Hussain, student leaders of Zalpora who have raised a volunteer force to help put the villages back on track, explained the terrorising 16 days to Reliance Foundation’s #MissionRahat team that brought the first medical camp to Zalpora:


But it was an unequal fight. At 00:58 on the night of September 6, the ravaging waters breached the sand-and-stone bund. Zalpora (on the left in the following video) was swallowed up in no time.



Ali, Hussain and 14 other young villagers fighting to bolster the bund were lucky not to have been swept away when the bund broke. So was the rest of the village, which escaped without any loss of life. But they are now miserable and lonely. The water current was so strong that it cut a 40-metre hole in the bund (video below) that also doubles up as the only road connect with the rest of the world.


That means no vehicles can reach Zalpora. The only way is by boat. There are only two or three boats and they can’t take more than six persons at one go. Sometimes it’s better to wade through the dirty, black and smelly water at its shallow point rather than wait for your turn on the boat.


But wading through this water is the least of their concerns. I guess it’ll be yours, too, if your only source of drinking water is this stagnant pool here and all around Zalpora.

Many houses have been washed away forcing at least 60 families to live practically in the open. Because what they have built for themselves on the bund are not ‘houses’ by any stretch of imagination. They are built from whatever scrap available, they’re flimsy and provide hardly any protection against the elements.

God knows what will happen when winter sets in in the next few weeks. “We get at least three feet of snow here, these houses will cave in under the weight of snow,” says Mahsud Hussain, another volunteer.



Three or four families are squeezed into small tin-boxes. Most of them are cooking in the open and this (picture below) is what they have for toilets!



One month of fending for themselves has obviously made them bitter. “Whatever help has come, has come only from NGOs,” says Ghulam thanking Reliance Foundation for the medical camp, “the first and the biggest” in Zalpora.


The women of the village are particularly happy because a lady doctor is part of the #MissionRahat medical relief team. As a result, women made a beeline for medical examination.

As we wind up our medical camp and a tour of the pitiable state in which Zalpora is barely surviving, Ali bids us goodbye: “Thanks for coming. I know Reliance Foundation cannot provide us everything or all solutions, but just that you came, heard us and saw our plight lightens our burden a bit… there is somebody who cares.”

Just as I begin to think if adversity makes youngsters mature beyond their years, I realise that the village has not lost its sense of (black) humour either. Peals of laughter break out as one of the two overloaded boats has capsized, spilling all its passengers into the dirty water.


Funny respite for Zalpora. I’m not sure if the rest of us should be laughing, though.

[Rao is part of the #MissionRahat relief team of Reliance Foundation and is Srinagar for the last few weeks.]
 

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