NATURE’S FURY, CALLOUS STATE
A year aer an earthquake devastated Sikkim, landslides have again wrought havoc in the state. on a disaster mismanaged
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