In the seven months since the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar, survivors have fled their villages, moved to makeshift camps and braved a severe winter with scant essentials. Their latest struggle: battling rain and disease.
Intermittent showers through Wednesday resulted in puddles across camps, breeding mosquitoes and flies. Toilets and sewers overflowed and cooking was near impossible. And the water seeped through tents, sending its occupants into a frenzy as they tried to keep themselves and their belongings dry.
“The place is already unhygienic and below living standards, when it rains it becomes completely unliveable,” said Anshul, who lives in the Malakpur relief camp in Shamli, which is flooded with at least two inches of water.
“The conditions at these camps worsens during rains. We were given a few blankets and solar lights by some organisations for the winter. But now everything has changed,” said Gulshaad Choudhary, a coordinator of the camps.
Disease is also widespread as doctors are irregular and the medicines distributed are mostly basic, the survivors alleged.
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Sarif Ahmed, 75, a resident of the Nurpur camp, has been complaining of cough for over three months but was prescribed just a cough syrup. “I have had this cough for the past three months along with severe chest congestion. This medicine hasn’t really helped me so far,” said Ahmed.
“Doctors are supposed to visit all the relief camps and stay for an hour. But their irregular visits have made healthcare a major problem. Also,there is a limited supply of medicines from the government and most people get the same basic medicines for their ailments,” said Choudhary.
As they battle the elements, many survivors said politics no longer matters to them and several don’t want to even cast their vote in the Lok Sabha elections.
Residents of Shamli’s camps said that in the past three months, few politicians have visited them.
“What elections are you talking about? We do not even recognise candidates by their face. We do not even know their name. No one is going to vote this time. Who do we vote for? Who cares about us homeless people trying to make both ends meet every single day,” said Iftequar, 28, a native of Lisarh village who lost four children in the riots.
Tabassum, another survivor, said she had even urged others not to vote this time.
“We have been living in this condition where we do not have food to eat, clothes to wear and not even a toilet to relieve ourselves. No politician from our constituency has cared to come and listen to our problems. We would have voted for the candidate who would have worked to rehabilitate us. Since there is no one, our vote goes to no one,” she said.
– Vohra, Kabir & Chowdhry are students of Exims