‘Need jobs, money,’ say Wayanad’s tribal community as they rebuild lives after floods

Among the problems, several residents worry there is an excess of certain items and an acute shortage of some essential relief material supplied to some camps.
‘Need jobs, money,’ say Wayanad’s tribal community as they rebuild lives after floods
‘Need jobs, money,’ say Wayanad’s tribal community as they rebuild lives after floods

Kamalam gazed through a tear in a pink salwar top she received from the camp. The 45-year-old woman and her family were among hundreds of others who had to leave their colony and spend 15 days in the Anjukunnu relief camp in Panamaram, Wayanad, when the Kabani river was in spate.

What awaited her and other colony dwellers on returning to their homes was a heartbreaking sight - a lifetime’s worth of belongings were washed away and soiled in the muddy flood water. The residents here lost clothes, beds, cupboards, vessels, notebooks and textbooks and even television sets and mixer grinders. Relief soon started pouring in from the government and private parties across and outside the state. However, many colony dwellers in Wayanad still have no respite from flood-related losses, primarily due to discrepancies in the supply of relief material here.

Among the many problems that worry the people of Mattothupoyil-Ambalakkadavu colony is the excess of certain items and an acute shortage of some essential relief material supplied to their camps.

“We lost all the clothes that we bought by toiling at construction sites and farms. What we now have are torn clothes that we picked up from the relief camps, that too, in excess” says Dhanya (38), a resident of the colony, who spent 15 days with her mother and children at the camp.

“In fact, we have a lot of items that we don’t need. We have received torn clothes, innerwear and diapers for children in abundance. But, each one received only one nightwear from the camps. So, we keep wearing the two or three good pairs of clothes that we have,” Dhanya added.

As for other essentials, such as beds, cupboards and cooking vessels, most residents in the colony are managing with what they had or received.

Jhanu, a resident of the colony, said, “We were lying on plastic sheets at the entrance of our houses for days because we had just one bed.”

Shortage of basics cooking utensils, too, posed a problem in several houses, leaving residents wondering how to cook food.

“I did not cook for two days after returning home,” Jhanu recounted, adding, “All our bowls and pans were washed away. We did not have a vessel to even boil rice in. So, we had to borrow a few vessels from our neighbours to prepare food.”

The troubles of these women echo in Valliyoorkavu colony in Manathavady, 35 km from Kalpetta, where a Paniya community of eight flood-affected families lives.

“We have rice and vegetables that were provided by the government. Some of us have received five blankets and many bedsheets, but no clothes. We don’t need so many items; what we really need is money,” says Muthu (52), daily wage worker and mother of three children.

Most colony residents here, including men and women, have no source of income post floods. The women have stopped going for house work as the surrounding houses have been inhabitable or are in the process of being cleaned after the water receded.

With damaged fields and shortage of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) jobs, the tribal people here feel the pinch for money and hope the government provide them with Rs 500 each, instead of supplying relief material that they do not need.

“We are a municipality, so we don’t get jobs under NREGA like how colonies under panchayats get (NREGA fund allocation is lesser for municipalities when compared to panchayats). We do not have other means to earn money. We cannot travel to other districts or buy medicines that are not available at government hospitals as we do not have cash,” says Sreedhar, a 45-year-old daily wage worker of the Valliyookavu colony.

This article has been produced in partnership with Oxfam India. In the last 10 years, Oxfam India has delivered over 36 impactful humanitarian responses in India. Oxfam India is providing critical relief to the affected families and communities in Kerala: clean drinking water, sanitation, and shelter kits. Click here to help #RebuildKerala.

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