While rehabilitation efforts in Bahawalpur district continue in the wake of the floods in September, locals have complained of inefficiency and corruption in the process. The district has been divided into three sectors – Chennab 1, Chennab 2 and Chennab 3 – and relief camps have been set up in each sector.
While the local administration has utilised a state-of-the-art monitoring system to keep track of the number of displaced persons and their food requirements, it seems traditional methods of corruption have not been accounted for.
A central Flood Control Room was established at Panjnad Headworks and all rescue activities were monitored from this base. In anticipation of floods, 23 areas near Tehsil Khanpur were evacuated, including: Moza Ahmad Wah Kuddan, Mud Aadil, Basti Bhaara Pathan, Basti Dhakran, Basti Ghulam Khosa, Basti Gurwan, Basti Malik Yousaf, Basti Samoka. Basti Qasim, Basti Laang, Basti Ghulam Muhammad Ghuleja, Basti Abdul Khaliq, Basti Ahmad Ali, Basti Booray Khan, Basti Jama Abid, Basti Usman, Basti Allah Yar, Basti Andhani, Basti Wahid Baksh, Basti Hafiz Mukhtiar, Basti Chachran, Basti Ramzan and Basti Allah Ditta.
The district administration introduced a modern flood relief camp support system to ensure the provision of food and support to displaced persons on time. Through this system, the number of displaced persons can be updated and figures accessed through a mobile phone.
Those in charge of monitoring such updates travelled within a 40-kilometre radius twice a day and updated the control room on the situation in the camps. Assistants also included photographs in their updates and thus administration officials were able to determine the requirement for food among the displaced and ensured the provision of rations on time. The provincial chief minister also visited Panjnad Headworks in order to monitor relief activities during the floods.
While many families have begun the slow migration to their homes, the rehabilitation process has yet to begin as hundreds of acres of crops were destroyed by the waters. According to DCO Bahawalpur Imran Sikandar Baloch, the process of distributing aid and compensation will commence shortly and a survey has been completed in order to assess the loss incurred by victims of the flood.
However, residents of Moza Sadiqabad, located near Panjnad Headworks, have complained that the local administration has appointed a patwari named Iqbal Bhatti, who was dismissed on charges of corruption, to assess the flood damage. The locals have requested that another patwari Jaam Irshad be appointed in his stead as they told The Express Tribune that Bhatti has been demanding bribes of up to Rs1,000 from each flood victim in order to include his or her name in a list of those requiring compensation.
A total of 12 mozas were declared ‘disaster-hit’, including Khairpur Jadeed, Daulatpur, Makhan Bela, Bakhtiari, Chak Kehil, Bait Ahmad, Rasoolpur, Shakrani, Jageer Sadiqabad, Kachi Shakrani, Ghumani and Bhooran.
Local administration prepared accordingly, providing 4,000 tents and 5,000 water tanks to relief camps set up here. Medical teams dispatched to these camps have been provided with all necessary medications, as well as vaccines to counter snake bites, and veterinary teams have been vaccinating cattle in these camps.
Bahawalpur Commissioner Captain (retd ) Javed Akbar Bhatti, Bahawalpur DCO and Rahim Yar Khan DCO have consistently visited the camps in order to monitor the situation here. While local administration, Rescue 1122 and army officials assisted in the transport of those from areas vulnerable to the floods into the camps, local government departments cancelled all scheduled holidays and placed officials on high alert to counter any emergency situation.
Flood affectees were provided with medicine and food, including 10 kilogram bags of flour, grains, rice, sugar and cooking oil, in order to sustain a single family for up to 10 days. Those affected by the floods were provided with three meals a day as well.
However, a significant number of people affected by the floods staged protests against the administration and government, saying they had been deprived of relief goods and faced shortages of food and adequate shelter.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2014.