Edhi saheb had to leave for a meeting with the Sindh chief minister at Circuit House.
We all stand up in respect for the man. His son complains to him that the Edhis were only feeding a few thousand flood survivors, while hundreds of thousands were still going hungry.
“Faisal! Let’s be grateful to God for whatever we are able to do. Don’t complain, and God will send more,” he tells his son. Faisal is not embarrassed. He looks back at Edhi saheb and smiles.
Edhi saheb leaves in an old car to meet the chief minister. Faisal sees him off and later joins us. He tells us that he’s worried about his father’s health. Then, a man, who had so far stayed quiet at the gathering because of Edhi saheb’s presence, begins to tell me about the popular myths making the rounds in the flood-hit areas of Sindh. A teenager loved his calf so much that he put him in a large trunk and set sail in the raging waters. The Rangers spotted him near Rohri’s Saat Saheli shrine and rescued him.
An elderly woman from a town of Punjab sat on a buffalo, which swam all the way to Sindh. She too was spotted by the Rangers guarding the Sukkur Barrage. A young man who had brought his little son to meet Edhi saheb said vultures are heading for Sindh’s towns and villages after their habitat in the kachcha forests was destroyed by the floods.
“Floods have made these vultures homeless too.”
Another man takes part in the conversation. “My relatives in Kandhkot tell me vultures come in such large numbers, they have to chase them away with rocks and sticks. Some even have plans to shoot them down.” I am told about a sordid tale of animal cruelty. When the fish farms around Khairpur, spread over acres of land, were flooded, the fish in the tanks were provided with an opportunity to escape into the river.
The farmers hired young men armed with bamboo sticks to stand on the edges of the tanks so they would “shoo” the fish back.
Let’s talk about another breed of vultures that preys on the weak and vulnerable. A stream of flood survivors had started showing up at camps in the first week of August along with their cattle. At one stage, it became difficult for them to feed their livestock because fodder prices went up.
The butchers of Sukkur saw this as a great opportunity to make a profit. One butcher tells me that he bought a buffalo worth Rs100,000 from a survivor for just Rs10,000.
“But did you pass on this discount to the consumer?”
“Why?” he responds, as he sharpens his knife on a stone.
One family tried selling gold bangles, but the best offer they were given was 10 per cent of the actual market price.
Even though they accepted it, they weren’t able to get their hands on the much-needed cash. They were told the bangles would be sent to Hyderabad to determine their value and quality first.
“Who will drive out these vultures?” asks a man at the gathering. “Don’t forget the looting in Ghouspur. Wait till you hear stories of human trafficking, prostitution and bonded labour by vultures of another flock.”
to be continued
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2010.
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