Gokak flood victims stare at uncertain future

Gokak flood victims stare at uncertain future

After being displaced in one of Karnataka’s worst floods, victims in Gokak are at a crossroads. DH Photo/Pushkar V

Abdul Ontemuri and Pundalik Sevanje, neighbours from Guruvarapet in Gokak, stare at the rubble of mud, wood, clothes and kitchen utensils. The heap, until four days ago, used to be their homes.

Pundalik recalls how his life was swept away. His joint family of 15 had to flee the house at 4 am in the morning after the Ghataprabha river started flooding houses located a kilometre upstream.

Now, with no house to live in, he hops from one relative’s house to another. “Without a house, we are forced to move from one relative's house to the next. Renting a house is difficult as there are no houses available,” he says.

Photo: DH/Pushkar V

After being displaced in one of Karnataka’s worst floods, victims in Gokak are at a crossroads, as neither officials nor elected representatives have reached out to them.

Pundalik rued the pace of damage assessment and rehabilitation efforts. “Neither government officials nor elected representatives have been here to extend support. We are promised Rs 5,000 to pay to live in a rented house. But there aren’t enough houses in Gokak, and rent for available homes has gone through the roof,” he says.

People willing to live in rented houses are facing a challenge due to a sudden spike in rents.

Victims residing in rehabilitation centres are worried as there is no clarity on where they will be sent once schools resume.

Photo: DH/Pushkar V

With 22,229 people living in 77 shelters in Gokak taluk alone, officials say that schools and colleges might be shut till alternate arrangements are made for the homeless.

Most of the houses damaged or destroyed are mud houses, while concrete structures have suffered little damage.

At one of the largest rehabilitation centre at MHS School in Gokak, there are a total of 2,022 people.

“The numbers have actually reduced as many have gone to clean their homes or salvage what is left after the water receded,” says MS Doddannavar, a teacher at the school. 

School authorities are using the ration allotted for mid-day meal scheme to provide food for the residents. However, the overpopulated relief centre, according to flood victims, has just two toilets. In the centre with 18 rooms, each room is occupied by a minimum of 10 families. A few others have camped in the corridors of the school.

Those who have lost their homes worry at the fate that awaits them.

“When will we get a house,” asks Kaalavva, who lives with his daughter, a visually challenged son and two grandchildren.

Bheemshi Yamunappa, a labourer, wants to know what will happen to them after the schools reopen. “What will happen when schools and colleges reopen? Where are we supposed to go,” he asks.

Rendered homeless by the flood, Roshan, mother of an 18-year-old boy with a severely debilitating condition, fears for her son’s health. “My son is not getting his usual medicine and has been unwell,” she says. 

Officials say efforts are on to provide necessary facilities at temporary shelters. “Food, medicine and clothes are being provided. As of now, our orders are to continue shelters at schools and colleges,” says an official at the Gokak taluk Panchayat office.

Temporary sheds are under construction to provide accommodation for those who lost houses until new ones are built for them.

And to rub salt into their wounds, Gokak currently does not have a legislator - incumbent Ramesh Jarkholi has been disqualified - leaving locals with no legislative representation. 

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