Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Three days and much to learn - Part 1

My last college trip with friends in SoC was as memorable as the first two. Even though, only six of us could make it, what with demanding jobs and internships to take care of.

Five of us, along with our dean on the right. And I am clicking the photograph :D

This time our destination was Satoli, a small village town in Uttarakhand situated a few kilometers away from Nainital, the popular tourist spot.

It had started out as a cool-off trip to the mountains, away from the Delhi heat, the last time together with friends. But Aarohi, an NGO active in the region, taught us more. 

The workers at Aarohi were very discomfited with the petty news coverage of villages in the Kumaoni region and that's where we were brought in. Divided into two teams of three students each, we were sent to two remote villages, Ramela and Khansyu to find stories. 

I was a part of the Ramela team, the village that had been partially destroyed by a flood in September, last year. We had to trek through the rocky mountain for about forty minutes, cross a river and then reach our destination. There is no direct road connectivity to the village. 

I still remember how a number of eyes had lit up with hope when they saw a group of outsiders come towards the village. They always did, since the disaster that September.

The Disaster

It had been raining continuously for eight days back then, not an unusual occurrence in the region. So no one had paid heed to what was happening in the upper regions of the mountain.

A road was being constructed round the village and the rubble had been disposed off in the easiest way possible: dumping it down the slope. There was no drainage system for the water to flow down its natural course, either.

The mound of rubble had turned into a makeshift dam that was readying itself to burst any day. And so it did, taking away four lives (not a significant number, eh?), washing away most farms and hence the livelihood of farmers, burying livestock beneath rock boulders and breaking houses into pieces.

After nine months


Even after nine months since the incident, there hasn't been much improvement in their situation. Some of the natives have been able to repair a few of their farms, some, their homes, but most are still trying to get back on their feet.

Amazingly, even though the villagers are uncertain about their own next meal, they were adamant on inviting us for lunch, or tea. 

Government representatives have paid a few visits since then, some came with compensation money for the families of the deceased while others came with words of hope and promise.

But even now, the village is waiting for another disaster to happen because still no provisions have been made to safeguard it from another flood. The rubble still remains, just moved into the village a little. The houses are still build in the danger zone, vulnerable to another heavy wave of water. 

However, the villagers do not want to move, only shifting their houses to higher altitudes. Primarily, because that land is extremely fertile and produces an abundant harvest and also because they do not realise the danger they are in. 

What should be done?

There is an urgent need for the district authorities to conduct a geological survey of the region to determine if the village still remains a safe place to live or not. And accordingly, the people need to be rehabilitated to a safer place. But that's the immediate solution.

For the long term, a proper drainage system needs to be built into the roads in these mountains along with an appropriate dumping mechanism for the construction debris. 

Why nothing has been done so far? 
  • The village has only 40 houses, not many votes to count for any political party to invest in the village.
  • It is some remote village in Uttarakhand where a flood once drowned four people. Who cares?
  • There are thousand other villages in the country facing similar or worse problems than Ramela, how much and how many can we help? To that, my friend had an answer - you got to start somewhere!
  • The villagers don't know how to voice their opinions to district authorities because they have lost trust in them and are rather intimidated by them.  

{"Na jaane baadlon ke darmiyaan ye kya saazish hui, ki jiska ghar mitti ka tha, ussi ke ghar baarish hui."}
(Don't know what conspired among the clouds, that they chose only huts to burst on)


  1. Lovely! It was a great learning experience indeed. I am so glad we went to those villages...that was an experience of a life time..Will soon blog about the village that my gang visited....its got a lot of problems going on at the same time...

    The point u raise about other villages facing similar problems so how much can one help is true...that is why we need states divided on the basis of administrative viability....its the only solution....small is always doable...and hence is always good

  2. Well, Uttarakhand was created for administrative convenience, so that separate planning and schemes be applied to the mountainous region. But the problems didn't go away. So, am not sure dividing states further will do any good.

    It's the will of the common people as well as the will of those in power that can bring about any positive change.


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