CHERUTHONI : Eight months since the catastrophic flood, that unleashed havoc and wiped away villages along the banks of the Periyar, the scars inflicted by the gushing waters still remain. In Cheruthoni town, located just below the flood gates of Idukki dam, life is trudging back to normal. The massive wall of water, that gushed down Idukki dam on August 14, 2018, had swept away the villages and roads, inundating lives and cutting off Cheruthoni from outside world.
As many as 57 people died in Idukki district in the tragedy that unfolded on the eve of Independence Day and 15 of them were residents of Cheruthoni. The scars are visible in the terrain and the eyes of the victims. The Cheruthoni river has dried up revealing the river bed. The flash flood washed away the rich weathered soil in the river bed and what remains is big boulders. The houses on the banks have been buried in sand and most of the open wells in the area have dried up. The water in the remaining wells turned slushy and yellow coloured, making it inconsumable. The panchayat has not started distributing water to the houses and women are forced to walk some distance to fetch water.
“We have lost everything, our houses, our crops and our life-time savings. Politicians give tall promises and forget us after elections. The government gave Rs 10,000 as initial aid and Rs 60,000 as compensation. Can we rebuild our houses with this amount?” asks Aneesh, a painting worker at Thadiyambad. “Our house was submerged completely in the flash flood and the soaked walls will collapse anytime. The government gave Rs 10,000 as initial aid and Rs 1.5 lakh as compensation. I was forced to avail myself of a bank loan to reconstruct the house. Our livelihood is lost and we are staring at an uncertain future,” said Shylaja Joseph, a widow at Thadiyambad.
Beena, who lost her husband and two daughters in a landslide, said the government gave Rs 8 lakh as compensation. However, the family is yet to recover from the trauma. Beena works as a daily wage earner to support her family.
The family of Navas Velleparambil lives in a rented house at Thadiyambad as his house is buried in the sand. The flood waters ravaged my house and I got only Rs 10,000 as initial aid. The government officers said they will sanction Rs 4 lakh to construct a new house if I purchase new land. Where should I go for the money,” asked Navas.
There are many flood victims who are yet to get the immediate relief of Rs 10,000, said Idukki District Congress Committee secretary AP Usman. “A team of officers from the Revenue Department had assessed the damaged and recommended compensation. However, the government later conducted a satellite survey and divided the compensation into slabs. As per the guidelines, a house that suffered 75 per cent damage will be considered fully damaged and compensation of Rs 4 lakh will be provided to the owners. If the damage is below 75 per cent, the compensation will be reduced to Rs 2.5 lakh. To deny compensation to the eligible beneficiaries, the authorities have marked may houses as 74 per cent damaged,” he said.
“The government has provided immediate relief and the first instalment of compensation to a majority of flood victims. There has been a delay in assessing the loss in certain cases, which is being reviewed by the District Collector,” said LDF district chairman KK Sivaraman. Life is limping back to normal in Cheruthoni but only time can heal the scars of the devastation and the pain inflicted by the loss of family members.