From rebuilding homes to cultivating crops, scores of villagers in Chozhapandi village of Thiruvarur district estimate that it would take over a year for normalcy to return.

How do we rebuild without govt aid TN hamlet in ruins after Cyclone Gaja
news Cyclone Gaja Wednesday, November 21, 2018 - 12:10

The muddying roads to Chozhapandi village in Mannargudi are littered with freshly-fallen electric poles and large neem trees. Even as the rain pelts down into large puddles, the villagers stand in the rain, looking to see if a government official is arriving with help. Five days since the brutal onslaught of Cyclone Gaja, the state has provided no rescue and relief, allege the villagers from the Dalit hamlet in Thiruvarur district.

A walk through the meandering streets of the village reveals the intense damage caused by the cyclone. While roads have become unmotorable, tiled-roofs have collapsed into homes, missing their occupants by a whisker. Thatched roof homes have been completely blown away and lie muddied on the ground. The damage, by all accounts, has been devastating and unprecedented for the village.

Brinda, a farmer, points out that rebuilding her house would have to begin from scratch. “Our crops have been destroyed. Our livestock has died. How do we even begin to make up for all these losses?” she asks.

Having waited for days for the government to provide relief, the villagers have turned to a local school, turning it into a night shelter.

58-year-old Jayalakshmi is scooping water out of her house. She and residents in the village are worried that they will not be able to make their monthly payment to the chit fund they have all borrowed money from.

“We have many payments to make, which is due in 10 days. We have to pay the fund. Else, we will not be able to do farming. But our farms have now been destroyed. "We have spent whatever money we have on clearing up the streets. We had to cut the trees that had fallen and move them to the side of the road. We would not have been able to walk otherwise. Whom should we ask about this when no one has even peeped to see if we are alive?” she slams.

Being an economy dependent on agriculture, the villagers are reeling from the worst natural disaster of their lives. From piecing their homes back together to getting back on their feet, they estimate that it would take over a year for normalcy to return.

Indrani, a farmer who is taking care of her infant grandchildren, sits outside her home that is now roofless. She is here to take care of her husband, who has physical disabilities and is unable to accompany the family to the local government school-turned-night shelter.

She says, “Our homes have been built by the government as part of its housing scheme over the years. But the authorities are telling us that we will not receive cyclone compensation for houses with one floor. How do we rebuild without government aid?"

Pasarai Rajendran, a DMK functionary and the former president of the village, notes, “If government housing crumbles, isn't it the government’s responsibility to rebuild it? Just because they have built the house once, it does not mean that all problems have come to an end. From drinking water to basic supplies such as clothes and candles, the government has failed us every step of the way.”

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