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“The monthly relief being given will not cheer them, but at least it will give them a small source of income to run their families”

This time last year, “god’s own land” as the hill state of Uttarakhand is called, faced the worst fury of nature which left several thousand people dead and caused widespread devastation in rain-triggered floods. 

Life has become difficult for the families of the dead and the ones who have managed to survive the tragedy, as they are left with no source of livelihood.

Most of the men from Deoli village who died in the floods were either priests, hoteliers or porters – the bread winners of the families who are dependent on the pilgrimage season.

The ones who have survived are so traumatised that they are terrified to go back to Kedarnath temple, 30km away, and work.

Rikhuli Devi’s eyes still well up when she talks about the fateful day when she lost her son.

“My son died at Kedarnath. He was a ‘pandit’ (priest). For his death we got money, but what will my two grandsons do? There is nothing left for them to do, everything has been washed away,” Devi said.

It is the same story for Maya Suri, Sangrami Devi and many more who inhabit this village, which is rather sadly called “Village of Widows”, where 57 men lost their lives.

“My husband was taken by the river in Kedarnath. I have kids to look after and do not know what I will do. The money he used to make working for six months at Kedarnath temple was enough for our family, but now I do not know what is in store,” Maya Suri, a resident of the village, said.

“It would have been better if we too had perished rather than live a life of penury,” many of the survivors said.

“I was at Gaurikund when the flash floods came. Hungry for five days I walked and reached home. I used to carry people to the Kedarnath shrine. Thinking about that day still gives me shivers and I feel weak,” Govind Prasad, a resident of Pithora, another village, said.

There are many who admit that the scenes of devastation and death of a year ago still haunt them, and every time there is a small thunder or lightning they want to run away.

“By god’s grace I did not lose anybody, but my bread earning son Prakash has been sick since then. He gets terrified at everything and hardly talks,” Rukmani Devi, 72, said.

The village is desperately seeking help including medical attention, but nothing much has been coming from the government.

The government is building roads to the village, but the people say they need much more.

The village was adopted by Sulabh International, an NGO, in December last year. It is providing the widows, elders and children with Rs2,000 a month.

Also every affected family in the nearby six villages is being given an allowance of Rs1,000 every month.

“The monthly relief being given will not cheer them, but at least it will give them a small source of income to run their families. The amount will be paid to them for the next five years, and will try to rehabilitate them so that they can get the thread of their life together,” said Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International.

The organisation has also set up 12 computers and 25 sewing machines for the village people to learn some skills.

They are also being taught candle making.

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