Six months on, trauma still haunts U'khand kids

Children yet to come out from grip of unknown fear

Three-year-old Himani clings tightly to her grandfather as if she is in the grip of some unknown fear when one asks her name. The prodding fails to get any response too.

Himani lost her father, a priest, in a tragedy that struck the holy shrine of Kedarnath and some other districts in Uttarakhand in June this year. Himani’s village Divli, about 200 kilometres from Dehradun, had lost in all 54 men and children in the tragedy.

The village earned the tag of ‘village of widows’ as 27 women had become widows here after their husbands died in the tragedy.

The little child is yet to come to terms with the enormity of the tragedy that had struck her family. The fear is still palpable on her pretty face. 

“She does not speak much nor does she mingle much with the other children of her age,” says her grandfather Sohan Lal Tewari. Tewari, who had two inns at Kedarnath, had lost ten members of his family in the tragedy.

Psychological effects

The floods that had caused huge destruction across Rudraprayag and some other districts in the state appeared to have a deep effect on the psychology of children besides taking away the bread earners of hundreds of families.

Himani’s mother Poonam Devi too is reluctant to talk about the tragedy. Financial help has come but that can never compensate for what the 23-year-old woman had lost.

 There was no hope of these young widows getting remarried and starting life afresh.“Remarriage is not at all possible. She will not go her parents’ house. She will be with us and take care of her children,” said an elderly woman, whose daughter-in-law had lost her husband too and was quite young.

Widows like Poonam are also struggling to accept the bitter realities of life and rebuild their lives. Though it has been six months since the tragedy had struck, the impact was still clearly visible.

“Very little help has been provided by the government. All we have got a solar lantern and a tarpaulin,” Tewari says.

Many others are sore that their village had earned the tag of ‘village of widows’.“Now people identify us as those from the village of widows,” says Tewari.

On Sunday, Sulabh International, an NGO which has adopted the village, distributed sewing machines to rehabilitate the widows and computers to educate the children. Its founder Bindeshwar Pathak announced that it will pay Rs 1,000 per month to 300 more families of the six villages that fall under Divli gram sabha. It has already adopted 155 people of the village. The NGO launched a vocational training programme for the widows and opened a training centre there.

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