Flood-hit village in Bhopal battles hunger, infectious diseases, material damageWritten By Sanavver Shafi | Published on Updated: Oct 5, 2022, 08:13 IST | 1664937788156Residents of Samardha Tola struggle to get back on their feet after the heavy rains and floods, which marked the month of August. Though damage assessment is over, compensation is yet to be announcedBhopal, Madhya Pradesh: “It was dark when flood waters from the Kaliasot gushed in. In no time, it rose to around three ft. We were sinking fast. We somehow moved our furniture and appliances to the terrace, and waited for the rescue team. We were shifted to a government school from here,” Saroj Bai of Samardha Tola village, located 20 km from Bhopal, shuddered as she revisited those days.
Despite the rescue, she was more worried about the house. “I kept hoping and praying that the rains would stop soon. At the break of dawn, I rushed to the school’s roof, and all I could see were a few tin roofs,” Saroj told 101Reporters.
From August 22 to 24, Samardha Tola resembled an island. Around 70 houses in the village coming under ward 85 of Bhopal Municipal Corporation were inundated. Saroj said she did not feel like eating in those two days, but when they returned home, they had nothing to eat or drink. Mud had accumulated at a height of three feet in most of the houses. “It still stinks and the children are falling ill.”
Pointing to the flood water mark at six ft height in his shop, grocer Naresh Dhakad said both his shop and house were ruined. Water touched a height of 8 ft in his house and caused damage to the TV, fridge and other appliances.
Saroj said they were looked after well at the school. They got poha-jalebi and tea for breakfast, and pulses, vegetables, roti and rice for lunch. The families also received food packets for a couple of days after returning home, but the government “has forgotten us since then”.
Fear of displacement
Samardha Tola has 310 houses and a population of 1,380. Though the government issued land leases in their favour, the villagers have no permission to build pucca (concrete/permanent) houses. They can only live in makeshift houses with tin or thatched roofs.
“River Kaliasot is only half-a-km away and the water reaches the village when all shutters of Kaliasot dam are open. We live in fear of rain every year. The government should find a permanent solution without displacing us, as we have built these houses with our lifelong savings,” Ashok Gaharwar told 101Reporters.
Sapna Ahirwar questioned why the government issued leases, if they were to be sent out. Pointing to a premium residential colony located nearby, she said, “Around 20 houses in that colony were also inundated. Influential people reside there. If the government displaces us, will they also move out?”
However, Bhopal Collector Avinash Lavaniya told 101Reporters that there was no plan to displace people. However, he noted that an action plan was being prepared to stop the Kaliasot from flooding the village. “A survey is being conducted among those residing along the river, as part of a special solution report. There is no plan to displace villagers. But if there is a need to do so in future, a comprehensive and fair plan will be prepared,” he informed.
After the floods, the administration organised a camp in the locality to issue Ayushman cards and ration cards. However, villagers wanted speedy disbursal of compensation as their houses were in disarray.
“Only we know how we are managing to feed ourselves. We even had to borrow money for food. If you rely on the government for help, you will die of hunger,” rued Rajesh Lodhi, a villager.
However, most villagers have still pinned their hopes on the compensation. Daily wage labourer Deepak Dhakad’s family has borrowed money for rations from their relatives, hoping to repay the debt through government aid.
Electric shop owner Raju Malviya said he received more than 20 household items — TVs, fans and fridges, to be precise — for repair following floods. However, people have not picked up their repaired appliances, as they have no money with them.
Sarita Vishwakarma said some government officials visited households in the area to get their details. “Nearly a month has passed, but there is no hint of any help or compensation. We have heard rumours about displacement as well.”
However, Collector Lavaniya said officials from the District Disaster Management Authority have conducted a survey to assess flood-related damage to houses, land, livestock, utensils, and crops. Digital photographs and videos were used to document the details. “The survey team has submitted its report and the compensation amount will be released accordingly,” he said.
Infections on the rise
Following the floods, cases of cold, cough, fever, breathing issues, skin diseases and stomach-related ailments are on the rise. According to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Bhopal Director Dr Ajay Singh, a multi-specialty health camp was organised in Samardha Tola by a team of 20 doctors from paediatrics, gynaecology, dermatology, general medicine, AYUSH, ENT and other departments.
Around 800 people were attended to, and most of them were found to be struggling with seasonal infections. At least 32 diagnosed with serious diseases were referred to the AIIMS.
Community Health Officer Meenakshi Patle, who was part of the camp, said people and children were educated on measures to minimise the risk of infections. They were told to drink only boiled water, maintain cleanliness while cooking, eat food after thoroughly washing hands with soap, and use mosquito nets and repellents.
Acknowledging the risk of infectious diseases, Collector Lavaniya said the health department has been carrying out fogging and anti-larvae spraying in the flood-affected areas.
Edited by: Gia Claudette Fernandes
The cover image is of the rescue operation being carried out for moving the villagers to safety as water levels had risen to dangerous levels. Photo: Sanavver Shafi
(The author is a freelance journalist and a member of 101Reporters, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)