Year after floods, no PDS, few tourists in Uttarakhand

Government services to provide employment opportunities were halted due to onset of monsoon, finds survey

Bhawna Kothari | June 18, 2014



It’s been a year since over 5,000 people went missing and more than 540 bodies recovered were buried in the aftermath of the Uttarakhand flashfloods. But the deprived families have still not received the promised compensation from the state government even as their condition seems to have worsened.

According to a joint food security and livelihood assessment report, prepared following a detailed survey, government services to provide employment opportunities were halted due to the onset of monsoon.

Led by Dan Church Aid, the report is a compilation of assessment of food security and nutritional needs of the affected communities in the "target areas" of Rudraprayag, Chamoli, Pitthoragarh and Tehri districts.

According to the report, reconstruction, rehabilitation and restoration of normalcy still remains the major challenge for the government. Moreover, the long-term measures and policies needed to provide assistance to the worst-affected families have fallen prey to a defunct management system. Local resources have been hit hard and there has been a massive loss of agricultural land and food stock, the study found.

The report said there were no initiatives taken by the local government – or the gram panchayat – to engage people in the Mahatma Gandhi national rural employment guarantee Act (MNREGA) for cleaning debris or any kind of construction work.

Worst affected are members of the scheduled caste and Muslim communities, many of whom are till date unable to get two meals a day. Adding to their miseries, the government agencies responsible for compiling the list of most-affected families that need support have been ignored, the report highlighted.    

More than 65 percent of Uttarakhand’s residents, most of whom are subsistence farmers with small landholdings of less than a single hectare per family, are dependent on agriculture, and they have been irrecoverably affected. According to the survey, the public distribution system is almost non-existent. Inaccessible markets and rise of food prices have worsened the situation, it reported.

The survey also shows a disruption in food supply due to lack of proper connectivity. Transportation of relief material has become a discouraging task.

The report states: the disaster has adversely affected religious tourism in Uttarakhand. The tourism industry is one of the largest employers in the region, contributing to nearly 30 percent of Uttarakhand’s total gross state domestic product. While tourism revenue in 2013-14 was estimated at about Rs 23,000 crore, the figure is likely to fall to 70 percent this year to about Rs 6,900 crore. There has also been a plan to use global positioning system (GPS) to track all tourists and avoid any accident or natural calamity.

Some questions, however, still remain unanswered: how many more floods do we need? How many more lives do we need to learn the lessons of compassion towards the environment?

(Bhawna is an intern at Governance Now)
 

 

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