It has been 13 days since water receded from the homes of Ranni in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district. But with the cleaning of houses not yet completed and shops, banks, ATMs and fuel outlets still closed, it will be while before life in the hilly town returns to the normal. Ranni and adjoining areas were the first to bear the flood fury in Kerala. As the first major residential belt downstream Pampa river, which has six dams upstream, the flood has left a huge deposit of silt all over Ranni, inside its houses and shops and its farmlands.
Of the 1000-odd shops, less than 150 have opened. Banks and ATMs are still closed as staff are busy cleaning local branch offices. A sizeable chunk of the region’s middle class and upper middle class population is now struggling to move forward.
Ranni legislator Raju Abraham said, “Even those who have Rs 1 crore in bank balance are now finding it difficult to get 1 kg of rice here. If the flood hit 8,000 families in the constituency, the post-flood crisis has put another 12,000 in distress. As stores remain closed, we have distributed necessary items to 20,000 families.”
Relief camps have closed down after schools, which functioned as shelters, had to be reopened. Most people in Ranni clean their homes in the day and spend the night at homes of friends or relatives. The crisis is more grim for the elderly living alone. With domestic aides not turning up, volunteers have to take provisions to their houses.
The CPM legislator said it would take at least a month for life in the area to be normal again. “Most houses don’t have drinking water as cleaning is on. Stench of the silt is nauseating. Even if houses are cleaned, many can’t stay for lack of cooking stove or firewood. I am planning to find sponsors to supply a stove for each of the 8,000 affected families so that they can start cooking at home,’’ he said.
“Our well has to be cleaned and we are depending on water bottles. Every day I come to clean the house and return to my relatives’ in the evening,’’ said Shobana Kumari, who lives at Ayithala near Ranni. District traders association treasurer Binu George said business establishments in Ranni and nearby areas suffered a loss of Rs 500 crore. “We have traders who lost between Rs 1 crore and 2 crore as most of them had stocked up ahead of Onam. If government or financial institutions do not offer interest-free loans, the traders won’t be able to move ahead. Many traders are going through severe trauma,” he said.
In many places, a thick layer of silt has covered the grass. “… its thick cover has destroyed fodder for our milking animals, which are starving now,’’ said Rajasekharan Nair.