It is a feast fit for a king with chicken broast, karhai and partridges. But it isn’t for the villagers soaked to the bone. This was the table set for some officials of the irrigation department on Friday night.
They included superintendent engineer Imdad Larik and SCARP project director Manzoor Panyar. “No one can do anything anyway,” they say. “You might as well join in.”
There was food for more than the five men sitting there. But scouts from a camp set up next door, who went to them to ask for food for the villagers, returned empty handed.
The regret started to set in at about 7 pm Friday night.
“Please rescue us, the water is entering our houses,” said resident Asghar Uterah to the scouts. “We are trying to help ourselves but we need the Rangers and scouts to help move things on foot.” He admits that they had refused to move earlier on when the administration had issued warnings. “We had thought we would be safe from the flood water, but we were mistaken. We should have listened to the warnings.” Luckily, for them the Rangers, irrigation department and scouts had set up a camp at Ulrah Jagir (zero point).
Pir Hayat Shah
At another vulnerable point, Pir Hayat Shah village, a relief camp was set up at the high school but it didn’t have the anti-venom for snakebite. On Friday, one case was reported from Kot Chandko, Gambat. Rashid Channa died after being bitten. He had gone to the field and stopped to relieve himself. A snake got him as he was squatting.
According to Ahmed Shah Bukhari of Kot Chandko in tehsil Gambat, the reptiles emerge in the floods because they seek drier ground. “Usually the snakes are the ‘Lundi’ type,” he said. They are small - about 15 inches long - but cause a lot of damage. The relief camps don’t have refrigerators to keep the anti-venom either.
At the Pir Hayat Shah village camp, the volunteers were present but unable to help. “We have been sitting here since morning but the administration has not been looking after us,” said one volunteer. They hadn’t eaten all day and needed to ask the villagers for food.
All hail the PM
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s expected visit had the opposite effect of helping people as the district administration had to divert its attention to preparing the protocol.
One officer felt that the VVIP movement should have been postponed as Friday was already a high-alert day. Another district official argued, however, that if the prime minister didn’t visit, the media would start bashing the government.
“I think the prime minister should visit as it would have an impact on the administration and they would speed up the relief work.” said Amanullah Channa. Others were not so sure. “What was the need for this formality as it will only cause unnecessary delays in the relief work,” said flood affectee Akram Janwari. Either way, the PM’s visit was called off in the end.
Leaders of the pack
Several local leaders from the two main political parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and Pakistan Peoples Party, visited the vulnerable sites. But their visits left residents bitter. “MNA Nawab Wassan came and visited Fareedabad Bund, had a photo session and left,” said Rashid Arejo, a local from Fareedabad in tehsil Kingri. “Last night, I was watching it on TV and it said that Wassan had established a rescue camp in Fareedabad. I was shocked to see that because he didn’t set up any camp.”
It was the same words for the PML-F leadership. “These leaders come in their Land Cruisers just as a formality,” said resident Barkatullah Kanhar. “After delivering speeches, they leave without offering any support or assistance.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2010.
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