Almost five days after tragedy struck this tribal district of Himachal Pradesh,the nearly 80,000 residents,80 per cent of them apple orchards and farmers,are yet to come to terms with the calamity.
There is a trail of destruction all over the district with ravaged apple orchards,green pea fields,seasonal crops both wheat and barley and smashed houses. In harvest season for wheat and barley,people have nothing to reap.
Several families have become homeless 510 in Pooh alone and another 200 at Reckong Peo. At least 36 villages of Chango,Moorang,Ropa valley,Kanu Charag and Choling are still under heavy snow. 25 shepherds are reported missing.
The farmers have worries like repayment of loans taken under Kisan Credit Card for their crops,rebuilding their terrace fields and also rebuilding their lives.
Initial reports suggest a loss of Rs 1,500 crore to Kinnaurs apple economy,agriculture and private property. This estimate could rise to Rs 2,000 crore, chief secretary Sudripta Roy said.
The chief secretary said about 10,000 hectres of apple orchards have been damaged by the unseasonal snow,incessant rain and landslides.
While the focus remains on devastation in Uttarakhand,Kinnaurs story still untold. Most high mountain valleys and tough terrains are cut off from rest of the world with officials also unable to reach out to the affected families.
National Highway 22,which is Kinnaurs lifeline and also holds strategic importance,is damaged beyond Wangtoo upto Pooh,bordering Tibet. More than 250 meters of road have vanished at different spots either due to landslides or caving in of the motorable portions. Road communication to most areas is snapped,irrigation channels breached beyond repair and drinking water supplies washed away. My mother Tashi Simo Negi is 82 years old. She does not remember seeing such a tragedy in her life. Heavy snow in June is something unheard of. So was the rain, says Sher Singh of Pooh.
Kinnaurs best apple producing belt – Ropa valley is worst hit by the unseasonal snow and torrential rains that have wiped out 70 to 80 per cent of the crop,and destroyed apple plants. Sangla valley and Pooh,also a cash crop growing belt,presents a picture of complete loss of agriculture and fruit economy,besides damaged houses and link roads.
The officials have confirmed 14 deaths,12 of these in Kinnaur due to landslides and house collapse. Even though the state government has pressed three IAF helicopters into service,beside its own Pawan Hans helicopter,to evacuate stranded people,protests are becoming loud to speed up the operation.
Some 800 people have been evacuated from half a dozen places including Pooh,Sangla and Reckong Peo. More than 400 are still waiting.