Their homes reduced to a rubble by the swollen Malaprabha river on the night of August 5, most of the 2,160 displaced people living at the relief camp in Government Junior College, in Belagavi district’s Gokak town, are racing against time.
For them, there is little to cheer even as floodwater is receding over the lost two days across Belagavi. With Independence Day around the corner, the college officials have received instructions to ask all people at the relief camp to leave by 4 pm Wednesday (August 14).
Officials also want the college to resume from August 16. College principal Arjun Hadimani said: “We have not had classes for 10 days now (due to the flood). Students are suffering. We have done our best (to provided relief); we need to take back the college (now).”
“We have used our midday meal supplies to cook meals (for camp inmates). Now we need to return to providing education,” a senior college official said.
Motilal, 56, whose one-room house has collapsed, said, “We don’t know where we will go if the college sends us out tomorrow. We have to rebuild it first before we can return.”
According to those at the camp, at least 500 people do not have a house to return to, and the others are concerned about returning to weak structures, where mud and slush have played havoc with the interiors and electrical items.
Nagesh Lakshman, 19, a class XII dropout who works at a Big Bazaar outlet in Gokak town, said: “We spent the whole day today cleaning the house. It smells like a drain. We have to return there on Wednesday because the authorities want everyone out of the college to prepare for Independence Day.”
Besides shelter, people at the relief camp are provided three meals and medical treatment, if necessary, by government doctors. “There will be no food, no money when we return home with our children. I do not know how we are going to survive,’’ Ningavva, a young mother of two, said.
Watching women line up behind charity trucks laden with food and clothes from a vantage point on the first floor of the college, Deepak Manohar Gowdanawar, 29, a disabled person, was anxious how to get life back on track and recoup the losses of a life-time of savings — Rs 9 lakh invested in a puffed rice-making unit. Gowdanawar and his brother set up the unit with their father’s savings and some loans.
“We bought a machine for heating and making the puffed rice, a generator for power back-up. It was doing very well —- we were supplying to many people. Everything is gone now. The machines were in water for six days,’’ he said.
The BJP government of Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa has announced relief measures such as Rs 5,000 monthly compensation for people displaced by floods to live in rented homes for a while, and Rs 10,000 for repair of damaged homes. But there is confusion over how to access the money, and when it will be disbursed.
“We do not know about Rs 5,000 being given to stay temporarily in rented homes. We heard the government will give around Rs 3,500,” Nagesh Lakshman, a young man at the camp, said. “Anyway, where are the homes to rent?”
As of Tuesday, 13 of 48 people who have died in the flood in Karnataka are from Belavagi, the district worst affected — 4 lakh people out of 6.77 lakh who have been evacuated across the state come from this region, Gokak and Athani taluks being the worst hit. As many as 460 of 1,224 relief camps in Karnataka are in Belagavi; 1.7 lakh people from the region are in relief camps as of August 13 out of 3.9 lakh across the state.
Gokak Assembly constituency was represented by Ramesh Jharkhiholi, among the Congress MLAs who quit and joined the BJP and were subsequently disqualified.