Efforts to recover bodies from mud-and-rock debris in Malin village neared completion after the recovery of the 151st body since rescue operations began last week. Survivors of the landslide who are leaving the village were not in a mood to abandon home and hearth and believe that the village will bounce back. Even top local politicians do not believe the village will disappear from Pune’s map and they do not rule out rehabilitating the survivors at the same place.
“Where will we go? We have nowhere to go other than our village,” says Meena Lembhe (35), who lost her two children and mother.
Meena, recuperating at Manchar hospital after she was pulled out of the debris, said, “We have our farm nearby which is our only source of livelihood. We cannot live in our farm… we will have to live nearby, probably in the same village if the government allows us to live,” she says.
Two days back, the district administration asked the families living in 12 houses to evict. This was after an advisory by the Geological Survey of India (GSI), which warned of more landslides .
Ramchandra Zanjare, a farmer whose house remained intact when stones and slush from the hill crashed down, said, “Most of us are farmers who have farms in and around Malin village. We have been living in Malin for years. If the government evicts us, we will have nowhere to go…,” he said, tears in his eyes. Pramila Lembhe, who and her son were miraculously found alive in the debris nine hours after the landslide, said, “My son Rudra was born here…,” said Pramila likely to be discharged from Manchar hospital along with her baby on Wednesday.
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On Tuesday, the last of the family that survived the landslide bid goodbye to the village. This morning, the family of Rajiv Zanjare collected some belongings they had kept in the house the previous day while moving out. “We have been asked to move out…we don’t know where we will go; actually no one wants to leave this place…,” he said.
Like the villagers, top local politicians are keen on the village not becoming history. “It would be wrong to state that Malin will become history. It is true that eviction notices have been issued by the district administration. But these are temporary eviction notices taken as a precautionary measure. Since there have been warnings of more landslides, survivors have been asked to shift temporarily,” Assembly speaker Dilip Walse-Patil said on Tuesday. Walse-Patil said, “The question of shifting villages at the foothills has to be taken at the national level. This is because across the country thousands of villages are located at the foot of hills,” he said. Walse-Patil was reacting to comments by NCP chief Sharad Pawar, in Malin, that the state government should take expert advise on shifting villages from foothills.
Walse-Patil said there were 800-850 villagers in Malin and nearby hamlets. “158 have apparently died. There are other survivors whose views need to be taken before deciding to rehabilitate them or not in the village,” he said. On the other hand, Shirur MP Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil, in whose constituency Malin village falls, said, “I have not really thought what would happen. Actually, I am not even aware the district administration issued eviction notices since I am in Parliament,” he said. Adhalrao’s associates said they would talk to survivors before any decision is taken.
The NDRF recovered 151 bodies so far. While the district administration believes 158 were buried by the landslide, villagers claim there were 200-300 people. “As per our information, there were 44 houses. Each had at least four members when tragedy struck. So we guess between 150-170 people were present,” said Additional Collector Ganesh Patil.