What Should We Do?
The 4th January, 2010 had become one of the memorable days in my life. In the morning of that day, the cold and blowing winds had silenced each creature. No birds singing, no hovering of the river, except cold winds roaming. There was no sun rise because dark clouds had wrapped sun rise before hand. The entire town was fuzzy and gloomy because brown sand was coming from inner part of my town where the catastrophe had overcome. The dust was flowing like a stream in a constant manner. The dust in the good morning was indicating something else, but I refused to accept whatever the nature of morning would indicate. I was going to college, passing through dust, but unaware what was happening though it was unusual case in the history of my town. Indeed, I was in my own world, but I got bewildered when I saw groups of villagers rushing with desperate and despair faces on my way to school.
On my way, I kept observing people’ faces and movements; suddenly my eyes went to groups of vehicles which were loaded with spades, ladders, and other materials while some men and boys were still loading these materials with sort of perplexity. I felt strange to ask what was going, but slow down my steps and tried to catch up their conversation. In a moment, the shocking news passed through my ears. They were talking about land sliding nearby my village. I could not trust my ears, but later I found that my ears had listened right. Their words were flowing in my mind. “Land slide has occurred in Atta Abad village (the village where disaster has occurred, it is located on mountain, consisted of around 40 houses: YouTube) sand is not stopped yet. It is still continue. Nothing has left behind except villagers who are living out of their homes. The stones are still coming from upper side of the mountains”, said passersby. I was shocked and could not move anymore because it had never happened before in the history of my town. My body started trembling, food steps were numbed, and mind had almost stopped its operation.
In the afternoon, around 5 pm, I returned back to home. Before I reached home, I went to Altit play ground, the place where Atta Abad victims were settled down. I could not imagine while passing through play ground because it was over crowded. There was not enough space even to take a deep breath. There were my town people and some other villagers, who went to the displaced area, Atta Abad, to help the villagers. The victims were shifted to different schools in my town, Altit and some of injured victims were admitted in Ali Abad Health center. I could not tolerate when I heard their desperate voices, which were echoing in my town. Moaning and only moaning which made me stunned.
After couple of days, I came to knew how many villagers were dead and disappeared under mud. It was estimated that total 19 lives were lost including men, women, young boys and girls, and children. Beside that their entire land had been destroyed. Indeed, land slide occurred, but the rest of year was more destructive than land slide. Since we had Hunza River from the beginning that flew constantly, unfortunately it was cut up by the debris of land slide into two parts. The water jammed in the inner part which transformed into an enormous lake. As a result of this lake, some of the villages submerged under the water. Indeed, the natural disaster had occurred, but the lake which formed was something unexpected. I was amazed when I saw the images of lake, the greenish water everywhere which looked like a wide ocean, the heads of trees on the surface of water like blue water lily, triangular boats which were swimming like ducks, and trees beneath the water which portrayed image of the earth surface in an ocean.
On the other hand, the transportation system was also blocked due to this catastrophe. Therefore, government of Pakistan had offered helicopters and boats for transportation. However, after three-four months, I did not hear the loading noise (torr-torr) of helicopters. In the beginning of land slide, there was no peace in my home town. Noise of helicopters I could hear in the pleasant morning, instead of birds singing. I could awake early in the morning because helicopters were like an alarm watch. Beside that noise, there was noise of people and other vehicles which bought aid for the victims. The people were rushing here and there to help the victims.
Indeed, we were also informed to help the displaced villagers, so I went most of the time as a girl guide with other girl guides of my village. We helped while distributing food among victims, and sometimes, we helped volunteers during cooking. Volunteers from other villages also got together and helped them in many ways. They had helped in distributing food, aid, and other necessary materials. At least, for five months, this continued. Indeed, government aid was constantly arriving till seventh months, so all volunteers had tried their best to distribute the government aid equally among the land slide victims. The aid was based on their daily necessities including food, shelter, and health. Indeed, government had also paid money beside humanitarian aid; however, other NGOs as Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development had also provided aid and fund.
No matter how much other NGOs had supported the land slide victims, but support from the government of Pakistan was not enough. If government support was sufficient, why are they suffering today? Why are they protesting against the government? In fact, there are many reasons behind their protest, and the lack of fund and aid are two of them. You might wonder if you watch videos of this catastrophe. The tears will roll down from your eyes if you see their vulnerable condition. The protest in the burning sun in summer, the 100 miles walk in summer, and the blood of two suffered victim which is shed by a police during the protest, and the burning of children due to cold in winter and summer. Indeed, I am not the victim, but I can feel their pain whenever I remember the disaster. I really feel sorry for them and their children who have lost everything, their home land, their friends, their schools, and their books. But, I feel guilty for our corrupted government which has forgotten them. Indeed, if the government offered enough economic facilities as job, free education for their children, and land for agriculture, they would not be in a miserable condition today. They would have probably continued their agriculture since they were mostly dependent on agricultural system. They made potatoes in their green fields, and fed their children. Also, they paid their children’s fee from money they earned from their agriculture. But now their agriculture is completely destroyed by that massive landslide at glance.
They are indeed hopeless now, and they do not know when they will have their own lands where they can continue their agriculture. Indeed, their tear full eyes were looking towards the governmental rehabilitation and humanitarian aid, but they do not expect from our government anymore because it has already stopped supplying aid and fund. No matter the vulnerable situation of Atta Abad villagers portrays the image of poverty in an underdevelopment society and nation. Indeed, their condition refers to the poverty in Pakistan which has become more poor and undeveloped due to our leaders who invest country’s money and resources for themselves rather than their citizens. Due to those leaders, today we are suffering from the lack of aid and fund. Due to those selfish leaders, I can see social polarization in each corner of my country. The vulnerable people like Atta Abad victims are becoming more vulnerable, and self-centered people like my leaders are becoming richer and richer. Nevertheless, our leaders do not feel how much it is difficult to survive in poverty because they have wrapped their eyes.
In fact, it hurts when you see your own people sufferings. Last summer of 2012, I visited Hunza and did research on the land slide victims. My aim was to measure their vulnerability, and I was shocked while doing survey and taking interviews. Hearing women’s poor condition, I felt sympathy for them. Being women, they have big problem and face difficulties during their menstruation because there is not any proper sanitation system for them to throw the disposal wastes. Neither there is open space, where they can be comfortable during menstruation period. Since girls in Hunza are having menstruation when they are 12, and I found that girls in most of the households were above 12. In some households, there were girls who were under 12. In some families, there were girls more than five including mothers, and grandmothers, which is the biggest challenge for them to handle themselves during their menstruation. On the other hand, male and female do not have separate place to sleep, all family members sleep together, which is indeed awful.
Indeed, my goal of sharing this piece is to realize our government about the vulnerable condition of land slide affected people who are still suffering since land slide. In fact, I agree that our government had supplied rehabilitation, aid, and fund to affected people, but it would make sense if the government sustained its support unless they were shifted to any safer place, where they could start their new lives. Indeed, being students we cannot do anything for affected people, only we can do is to write a letter or write a piece of paper, and send it to the government. No matter whether government accepts or rejects, it’s our responsibility to wake up our responsible leaders who are in deep slumber, and unaware of what is happening in their surroundings.