NA­TURE’S FURY, CAL­LOUS STATE

A year aer an earth­quake dev­as­tated Sikkim, land­slides have again wrought havoc in the state. on a dis­as­ter mis­man­aged

Tehelka - - SIKKIM - SAI MANISH

seen pho­tos and videos in TE­HELKA’s pos­ses­sion show Lachung dev­as­tated by floods and rock­falls even though the Sikkim gov­ern­ment con­tin­ued deny­ing that peo­ple there needed as­sis­tance. This time, the gov­ern­ment does not even have a clue about the ex­tent of dam­age there.

So far, the es­ti­mated death toll is 29 and an un­known num­ber of dam work­ers are miss­ing. Like the earth­quake last year, pri­vate con­trac­tors build­ing the 1200 MW Teesta Stage-3 hy­dro-power project have grossly un­der-re­ported the num­ber of miss­ing. Around 250 work­ers were be­ing shel­tered and fed at the lo­cal gu­rud­wara in Chungth­ang, while many es­caped on foot to­wards Siliguri fear­ing for their lives. Work­ers es­cap­ing from dam sites said that their em­ploy­ers failed to pro­vide re­lief.

While many of the flee­ing work­ers died en­route, some of the injured were lucky to be spot­ted by mo­bile army med­i­cal units. The ad­min­is­tra­tion, mean­while, was pre­sum­ing that the food stock of the gu­rud­wara rep­re­sented the of­fi­cial food­stock of the town, thus com­pletely wash­ing its hands of pro­vid­ing sur­vival es­sen­tials to re­mote ar­eas to which road con­nec­tiv­ity had been badly hit. The first air­drop of food took place as late as 25 Septem­ber to work­ers stuck inside a tun­nel at Safu in the Dzongu Re­serve. The fate of many peo­ple in far-flung ar­eas like Lachung and Lachen re­mains un­known.

The Sikkim gov­ern­ment’s bizarre at­ti­tude has been that the peo­ple of these re­mote towns can­not stand a tragedy and if the dis­as­ter is mon­u­men­tal all of them would nat­u­rally come walk­ing down to the dis­trict head­quar­ters at Man­gan. The dev­as­tated roads, how­ever, have cut off all move­ment in the area.

An ex­am­ple of the gov­ern­ment’s cal­lous­ness can be seen in Nad­hay vil­lage — a small ham­let that has been cut off from the state by the land­slides. The brother-sis­ter duo of Lakpa and Furkit Tsh­er­ing run a small road­side tea-shop and had lost their house in the earth­quake last year. On record, peo­ple whose houses were fully dam­aged were en­ti­tled to an ex-gra­tia of 50,000 and an as­sis­tance of 5 lakh to

• Slip­pery slope The land­slides have made Sikkim in­ac­ces­si­ble

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