Grief engulfed the halls of Sagara Darshana relief camp in Karnataka’s Karwar. As muffled whimpers surround the hall, 72-year-old Anand Neelakanta Giridhar hugs his wife Anansuya (67), as they weep for their uncertain future.
Neelakanta and Anansuya, residents of Gotegali village in Uttara Kannada district, rushed out of their 56-year-old home on Wednesday night when water from the Kadra Dam began gushing out and flooding their home. With no time to gather their belongings, the couple along with 400 families in Gotegali were loaded up in buses and taken to the relief camp.
“The officials told us that our homes will be flooded and that the water will recede soon. I turned back to look at my house one last time and I watched as the water washed it away. I watched my house collapse,” Neelakanta recounts, as he sobs.
On Thursday night, Neelakanta braved the thunderstorms and took a bus to Kadra. He walked to the main road, and all along, prayed that the flood water had receded.
“I was just saying silent prayers, hoping that god would have mercy on us. But that was not the case. There was no village to be seen. It looked like the sea. Not a single home was visible. Everything I had worked for in the 60 years of my life had just vanished in a few days,” Neelakanta says.
Hundreds of residents of Chamkoli village too had huddled together at the relief camp, consoling each other and hoping that they have braved the worst. “We came rushing out of our homes with the clothes on our backs and nothing else. Currently we are at this camp where we are getting good food, water, a bed to sleep on and also clothes to wear but we don’t know what’s happening. How long are we going to stay here?” asks 43-year-old Rajasri Maruti Nayak.
Rajasri is a single mother and has two children – her daughter Sujal (21) and son Gopal (22), who is studying engineering at a college in Mangaluru. Rajasri is an agricultural labourer and had put in all her savings to send her son to college.
“My cattle drowned in the floods. I used to get money by selling milk to people in the village. Now what am I to do? We are living well in the camp but once we are asked to leave, what will happen to us? Yesterday, some government officials had come here. When we asked them this question, they were clueless. We will be living on roads once the water recedes,” Rajasri says.
Over 10,000 people are currently residing in 49 relief camps in Uttara Kannada district. According to Deputy Commissioner Harish Kumar, the administration has no plan for rehabilitation yet as the state government has not intimidated them of any approved plans for rehabilitating those in the relief camps.
“We are currently looking at rescuing people. The rains are getting worse day by day and ensuring that people get out of it alive is our first priority. Once the floods recede, we will decide on the rehabilitation plan,” DC Harish told TNM.
According to sources in the Chief Minister’s office, the reason why no rehabilitation plan has been made is because the state has no Cabinet to approve any plans. “There is no Cabinet and ministries are vacant. Revenue Department officials generally offer funds for construction of homes and such when the floods are on smaller scale. The disaster relief funds are being requested from the Centre too. But so far there is no concrete plan,” the source added.
The flood-affected victims say they can only envision a life of misery ahead. “We have nothing to look forward to. We are clueless too. We only beg that the government does not leave us in lurch. They have to do something to help us,” Anasuya Giridhar says.