One family’s ordeal with government’s dilly-dallying while disbursing compensation post floods has left them questioning the system. Saima Bhat narrates the painful tale of Nusrat and her sisters who lost their father and their shelter to the recent floods
It is chaotic outside district commissioner’s office in Srinagar. “Either give me the money promised by the government for rebuilding my home or I will jump out of the window,” said Nusrat Qadir, who looks pale and worn-out, while standing in the narrow corridor leading to the DC office room.
After managing to get attention from people standing around her Nusrat began to narrate her tale. “They (officials) are making fun out of our sufferings and they don’t bother to pay heed to me. How can government say they are here to help us?”
People around her, mostly those seeking compensation like her for post-flood rehabilitation, nod in approval as Nusrat goes on.
But Nusrat’s case is different from all others seeking compensation. She has lost her father in the recent September 7 floods. “Come with me and I will show you how my three room, three storey house vanished in flood, with our hopes,” she says amid tears.
Nusrat along with her four siblings (three sisters and a brother) and parents was living a modest life in Maisuma, Srinagar, till floods forced them out on the streets with no shelter and livelihood.
Her father, Ghulam Qadir Bhat was earning for his family by driving an auto rickshaw and his two elder daughters would contribute by spinning a wheel and tailoring.
While Nusrat and her elder sister Neelofar are school dropouts, they have somehow managed to send their younger siblings to the university. They wanted to see their siblings better placed and economically well-off.
That wish was fulfilled when their brother completed his graduation and got selected in state police department and other two sisters completed their graduation and masters respectively from the University of Kashmir, and now are working as private school teachers.
“Everything was normal, we were a happy family and our happiness doubled when some months ago we two sisters got engaged. But floods changed everything for us,” says Nusrat.
At 4 PM on September 07, there was hue and cry outside that Jhelum will breach again and will inundate Maisuma in a matter of minutes. The news panicked everyone.
Within no time everybody started rushing towards two multi-storey hotels – Taj and Standard, presumed to be strong structures to save their lives. Nusrat’s family was one among them. “I and other cousins stayed at hotel Taj while my father and other male cousins went to Standard hotel,” says Nusrat. “My brother was in Kangan for the training.”
While Nusrat’s family stayed at these two hotels, her father went out to check the house. “He must be worried about the belongings, trousseau and jewelry that we had got for our marriages,” says Nusrat.
After half an hour, Nusrat’s father came back and informed his daughters that he will be staying at his house. “There was a rumour that thieves are roaming around in the locality,” says Nusrat.
Nusrat recalls, one of their cousins, who live next door, informed her father about the crack in the wall of their house. “He (Nusrat’s father) left immediately to check the cracks with a solar light in one hand and never returned,” says Nusrat.
For next seven days nobody in Nusrat’s family was aware about what happened to their father. “Only I knew that my father was stuck by a wooden pole on his head and he died on the spot. But I did not tell anybody about it,” says Nusrat.
It was tough for Nusrat to keep her father’s death secret. “But I had no other option. My mother, who is ill most of the times, would have died. And what could have we done with water all around us,” says Nusrat. “There was no other option then to wait for the water to recede and hope for a miracle.”
After seven days, when water level receded, Nusrat’s brother managed to reach Maisuma from Kangan. “I along with my brother then went to our house to seek mortal remains of our father from the debris of our house,” says Nusrat.
When finally brother sister duo reached their home they found their father lying dead in the debris. “He was still holding that solar torch in one hand and his other hand was holding a window,” says Nusrat.
But that was not the end of Nusrat and her families ordeal. It was just the beginning of a nightmare. “I have been following compensation file ever since from one government office to another,” says Nusrat.
Two months later and after her bold act at the DC’s office, Nusrat finally got Rs 75,000 for rebuilding of her collapsed house. Nusrat also received Rs 2.30 lakh as compensation for her father’s death. “It was not easy to get that money from government. I had to move from one official to another in order to get that money. It is not easy,” says Nusrat.
Nusrat claims that there were three families living in that house when it collapsed. “But government considers it a single household. Thus the sanctioned amount will get divided equally among all three,” says Nusrat.
Meanwhile chairman of moderate Hurriyat group, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has promised to build a storey for this family under his initiative of Akh Akis, where he will be rebuilding 100 houses for flood affected families.
Nusrat alleges that the local candidate from Amira Kadal constituency, Altaf Bukhari never came to enquire about the family neither offered any help, as was claimed of late that Bukhari had acted as a savior for the flood victims of his constituency.