Homeless and hungry in Benala

Govt has neither set up gruel centres nor erected sheds for villagers

Homeless and hungry in Benala

“We have lost everything. We don’t want to live. We climbed the hill when the floods began. The water has receded but our houses have collapsed. Where do we go now?” This is the plight of Nagappa Goudar, who hails from  Benala village on the banks of the river Malaprabha.

Vote bank politics has risen its ugly head in the setting up of gruel centres too. As a result, even nine whole days after the floods, there is not a single gruel centre in this village.

The moment a vehicle drives into the village, the villagers rush towards it. Shoddily-clad children stand near the vehicle, hands folded, hoping that they will receive some food.
When RSS workers distributed rice, biscuits, toast and other food supplies that had been brought from Chikkaballapur, the villagers scrambled, jostling children, the elderly and the weak to get ahead of the line.

At the same time, legislator M K Somashekhar arrived at the village with relief packages worth Rs 5 lakh. When the legislator announced that he would distribute ten kg rice per head - as well as clothes and blankets - a huge number of people gathered around him. The team led by Somashekhar distributed clothes, bedding and food brought from Mysore.

Benala village has 228 families, a majority of whom belong to the scheduled categories. All  houses have been destroyed. As many as 108 temporary sheds had been erected on the outskirts of the town, during the 2007 floods. When the floods struck this time round, the villagers fled.

Those who had managed to secure sheds during the previous calamity took shelter in them; but  more than 100 families are left without any sort of temporary accommodation. They have now taken refuge in the open fields, school premises or temples.
Various organisations have been visiting the village for relief work and supplying the villagers with foodgrains. However, the villagers are unable to cook for themselves, for they have no fuel.

“Benala village had literally turned into an island. So it was not possible to set up gruel
centres there. Later, the locals demanded that we relocate them, and did not allow us to set up gruel centres,” Deputy Commissioner Vishwanath told Deccan Herald.

Residents however, expressing their ire over the non-establishment of gruel centres, alleged that they were being made to suffer due to vote bank politics.
More than 500 gruel centres have been set up across the district. Some of them are located in villages that have seen no flooding whatsoever. Ironically, Benala, which was completely submerged, has none.

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