Bijaya Devi is the oldest widow of her village Deoli-Benigram, and her daughter-in-law, the youngest

news Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 05:30
Biswajeet Banerjee | The News Minute | June 15, 2014 | 7.14 pm IST Gupt Kashi: The catastrophe that hit the Kedarnath valley a year ago has left villagers seething with anger. They say Kedar tragedy has taken away their livelihood and with no support coming from the government they are on the brink of starvation. “During Char Dham Yatra we work as purohit (priest). The young set up shops and lodges for the pilgrims. But now administration has denied permission to do business there. What do we do now? We have no source of employment,” Sumedh Rawal, who worked as one of the priests in Bhaironath temple said. The Deoli-Benigram village, nestled on the top of the hill in Guptakashi, has a population of over 200. It witnessed 57 deaths on one day – leaving behind 37 widows giving the village a new name “Village of Widows”.  Bijaya (63), is the eldest of the widows while her daughter-in-law Kiran Purohit, who is just 22, is the youngest. It is almost a year since Bijaya Devi has ventured out of her house after she lost five members of her family - three sons, husband and a nephew – on June 16. “That night changed our life,” she said. “We were a happy family. My husband along with the support of my sons was doing a roaring business. Just a year back we were the richest family in this village and now we do not know from where our next meal will come,” she said. Bijaya’s husband Pashupatti Prasad Purohit used to earn well for six months a year during Char Dham yatra. Pashupati was a priest while his three sons looked after two lodges and a grocery shop in Kedarnath. “We have lost everything. Our shop and lodges have been razed by big boulders which came down rumbling with gushing glacial water. Where used to be our lodge, now stands a big boulder,” she said. When a glacial lake in Kedarnath valley busted open following a cloud bust the gushing water brought with them boulders that flattened whatever came on their way. It rained continuously for three days, starting June 15. The flooding washed away roads and nearly two dozen bridges demolished 365 houses and partially damaged 275 others in Uttrakhand. As agriculture is rain-fed the economy of the villages in and around Kedarnath depended on this temple. The elders worked in temple as assistant or jajmaan. They performed puja in nearby temples while the young people ferry pilgrims to the temple on mules and children on their backs as `pithu’. “It was a lucrative business. The mule operators used to earn Rs 1900 for to and fro trip from Kedarnath and in six months they used to earn enough to expand their business for the next season,” Shiv Lal , a resident of village Bhatwadi said. Government response to this tragedy is limited only to distributing compensation. Government gave Rs 5 lakh each to the family of those killed or missing after tragedy. Those who shops or hotels were damaged in flash floods were given Rs 25,000 each.
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