PUTHUMALA (WAYANAD): Exactly a month ago, life turned upside down for Puthumala residents when a devastating landslide struck their hamlet. As many as 12 bodies were recovered while five are still missing and 70 houses have been completely wiped out. Those who lost their dwellings in Puthumala and Pachakad are lodged in relatives’ homes and houses taken on rent in and around Meppadi town, 12 km away.
Now, the report of the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) team, which says that human habitation cannot be permitted in 105 locations in the district, including Pachakadu and Thollayiram Kandy situated near the Puthumala landslide spot, has aggravated the agony of survivors. At the meeting held on Saturday, the district administration has decided to seek a second opinion on the report. Yet, widespread concerns have not receded. Express met some of the affected people who lost their savings in the disaster.
‘Can’t even get a SIM card’
Abid, 30, Kakkothuparambil of Pachakad, lost his brother Khalid, 44, Khalid’s son Junaid, 20, sister’s husband Ayoob, 46, and Ayoob’s mother Nabeesa, 68, in the landslide. Now, the remaining members of the family are staying in a rented house at Chambothara, 11 km away. “We have not got any financial aid from the government. Life is going on with the food and materials supplied by NGOs. We had been in the relief camp but when I searched the list of beneficiaries at Vellarimala village, I found that we were not included. I am doing plastering work. But I cannot go for work as I am running from pillar to post to get identity documents. There is not a single document left to procure a SIM card now,” Abid said. The family has 32 cents of agricultural land at Pachakad where cardamom, coffee and pepper were cultivated. “Now, that plot cannot be used at least for two generations,” he said.
A farmer in tears
Sreekumar, 44, is a farmer and he was leading a contented life with his wife and two daughters with the earnings from cardamom, coffee, pepper and pineapple on his 2.5 acre-farm until disaster struck. His land is now a pile of boulders and landslide debris.
Sreekumar and family have shifted to an abandoned Paadi (single-room dwelling of estate workers) nearby. “I think the land would be ready in three months for cultivation. Perhaps, the waste brought in by the landslide would be good for cultivation,” he said. Sreekumar’s wife Beena, a helper at the anganwadi at Puthumala, hopes that the institution reopens so that she can protect her job.
“We need a cot and a table here. It is very cold now and we cannot sleep on the floor,” she said, looking at the dilapidated condition of the Paadi. Post-tragedy, Sreekumar got Rs 5,000 from a block panchayat member and Rs 10,000 from a religious group.
‘Want to perform the last rites of my father’
Sunil MA, the 24-year-old son of Annaiah, is going through a hapless situation. Annaiah’s body is yet to be recovered from the debris. “I have to perform my father’s last rites at Thirunelli temple next week,” said Sunil. Sunil has got a job offer from Harrison Malayalam Ltd (HML), where Annaiah was a permanent employee.
Another survivor Hameed Pilathottathil said exploiting the situation, unscrupulous elements have steeply increased house rent at Meppadi, Elavayal, Arapatta, Chunda and Kalpetta, where the homeless are put up now. “From Rs 3,500, house rent has shot up to Rs 5,000 and Rs 8,000,” he said.
‘Will find land in Meppadi itself’
Allaying fears, Sub Collector N S K Umesh told Express, land for relocating people who lost their house and land at Puthumala would be found in Meppadi grama panchayat itself. “There is sufficient land in the panchayat. Talks to procure an estate at Kalladi is going on. Regarding the SDMA report, we will take a second opinion on it,” he said.