The Cruel Reality of Resettlement and Rehabilitation in India

In the wake of heavy rainfall 2005, this village in Maharashtra was washed away; its 2000 odd residents wait for rehabilitation to this day.

Digras, a village in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra was devastated by flash floods in July 2005. Yavatmal is part of the Vidarbha region of the state, usually in the news for scanty rainfall and droughts. In 2005, however the monsoon in the areas surrounding Digras was particularly heavy, and the gates of the Nandgavhan Dam collapsed. As a result, at least 400 houses in the village were washed away and at least five people lost their lives.

The government reportedly evacuated 500 families from the village. It has now been 13 years to the evacuation but the rehabilitation plans of the government never saw light of day. Multi-storeyed buildings were constructed to rehabilitate the flood victims, but even today, they remain incomplete, just hollow walls and corridors.

“We don’t have homes, we have been taking shelter in the nearby temple since our homes got washed away. We don’t even have anything to eat, we eat when someone comes with food,” says Shabana, whose community has faced the wrath of floods more than once in the last 13 years.

The 2005 floods affected several district of Maharashtra, including the state capital, Mumbai. In the aftermath of the floods, the Centre released 200 crore rupees from the National Contingency Fund and the National Calamity Fund. Then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh subsequently announced a package worth 500 crore rupees, exclusively for rehabilitation. But that is where the flood relief activities seem to have ended.

“Everything is incomplete,” says Eesril, who also lost his home to the floods. “The (rehabilitation) committee asks us to submit 25,000 rupees each at their office if we want a roof over our heads,” he says.

“The clothes we have on us are the only belongings we saved after the floods, everything else is gone, cookware, food supplies, electronics,” adds Prashant.

The uncertain lifestyle is also affecting the education of children whose families have neither the wherewithal nor the amenities to educate them. It is possible that the community also stands the risk of losing their traditional means of livelihood. When rehabilitation is carried out in a mindless manner by building multi-storeyed buildings for rural, agrarian communities to live in, they also lose their sense of community and occupational mainstay.

Earlier this year, the Maharashtra Cabinet appointed a committee to ensure that in the wake of a natural disaster, compensation is to be distributed on an emergency-basis. This bypasses the erstwhile norms in case of a major natural disaster. While this change is a welcome step, it will not apply to affected communities on a retrospective basis. In the meantime, the 13-year long wait in Yavatmal appears to have no end.

India has a poor track-record when it comes to resettlement and rehabilitation, both in cases of forced evictions and natural disasters. Rehabilitation is often done on contested or inhospitable land, with no facilities and with no regard to a community’s way of life. In another part of Maharashtra, in Nandurbar, those displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Project were allocated plots of land that actually belonged to Adivasi communities, creating further conflict. In another instance, the victims were rehabilitated in a flooded expanse of land, their situation having gotten only worse after rehabilitation.

Support the community in Digras get a suitable rehabilitation package by calling the District Collector, Ashwin Mudgal, at +91-7232243538, and urging him to take action immediately.

Video by Community Correspondent Kalpana Jawade

Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV Editorial Team


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