While the state government has announced plans to rehabilitate people of landslide-affected Malin village in the district, the villagers said they do not wish to continue staying there even if the government builds the houses for them free of cost.
They say it’s not the fear of such disasters in future that is prompting them to keep away but the haunting memories of at least 150 of their brothers, sisters, cousins and fellow villagers who were buried alive and the fear associated with such disasters involving mass deaths.
The village in Ambegaon taluka of Pune district, with a population of around 600, lost about 158 villagers in Wednesday’s landslide and the bodies of half of the number of people missing in the landslide are yet to be found.
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The Maharashtra government has announced that apart from providing relief and compensation to the kin of the dead, the government was committed to proper and speedy rehabilitation of the villagers.
“Of the 600 villagers, about 250 stayed in the gaothan (the main settlement) and the rest in three to four hamlets. Half the gaothan-about 45 of the 60 houses-have disappeared. It’s such a terrifying feeling. People who were staying with you till then suddenly died such a scary death. We are naturally scared and don’t want to stay here anymore,” said Raju Zhanzare, a villager who claimed of having escaped death on that fateful morning as he was away to buy milk.
Sudam Zhanzare, another villager who lost a brother and three other relatives, said that since the day of the disaster all the residents of the houses which were intact have moved out.
“We packed off children and women to our relatives’ places in other villages and men are staying in a residential school nearby. We have moved our cattle out of the village. We don’t feel like returning even to collect our belongings. I can’t even imagine setting up a home at the same place again where we had to cremate 80 loved ones in three days,” he said.
Villagers said that if the government is serious about rehabilitating the village, it should do that away from this place. “I don’t know if I would go back to even cultivate the paddy field where I had planted the crop a week ago,” added Zhanzare.