Describing the budget as disappointing, BJP state unit president Rajiv Bindal said: “The capital expenditure has been reduced to Rs 6280 crore in the financial year 2024-25."
74 deaths and assets worth Rs 10,000 cr lost, the state is picking up the pieces and showing resilience
After the loss of 74 lives and property and assets worth about Rs 10,000 crore due to large-scale devastation following the monsoon rains, the people of Himachal Pradesh who lost hearth and homes are showing resilience.
Sixty-eight-year-old Karan Gupta lost his house in the landslide on the Tarna Hills in Mandi. The house was valued at Rs 4 crore. Having lost his home, he says, he is living on hope. The entire Tarna hill which populates hundreds of families has become a sinking zone.
“I am relying on neighbours, family and friends who have thrown open their doors.” He adds, “Last year too, in August, there was a landslide. We went from pillar to post in the district administration, dialled the CM’s helpline but to no avail. Now I know not to rely on the administration.”
Narendra Rana, who also lives in Tarna had to vacate the house after it was declared unsafe. “We expect that the retaining wall will be set up to stablise the house. Things are moving very slowly. A team of engineers from Roorkie had to visit, but we are still waiting,” he says.
The only connection Tarna of Mandi has with the Chhaidala area in Theog, Shimla which is 200 km apart is Nature’s fury. Here too about five buildings developed cracks as a result of indiscriminate cutting of the slope to widen the national highway. Later, the monsoon fury also became a contributing factor. Now at least four families have vacated their house. One of them Sunil Kumar, originally from Uttar Pradesh says,” I bought this house a couple of years ago. But I didn’t realise then that soon we will have to vacate this house. The entrance of the house has developed cracks. Now, we are living in a neighbour’s house.”
The tales of the displaced are no different in Kullu and Manali. Hemraj Verma from Bhuntar in Kullu says, “I was away with my parents when my wife felt worried about our house which is on the bank of Beas. On July 9, she vacated the house along with our son. And a day later, the river took away our house.”
Hemraj may have age on his side but Jogi Ram from Manali is 60 years old. “I have lost my house. I have a large family, some members of the family are sick, and some go to school. My means are limited and I have lost hope.”
While in Kullu and Manali all along the Beas river, houses have been washed away or damaged, in the neighbouring Mandi, a total of 245 houses in the town were fully damaged. And in Shimla too, several dozen houses have been damaged if not collapsed and many families in Krishna Nagar, Shangti, Bhattakuffer, Fagli, Summer Hill, Annadale have moved out of their houses.
Similarly, in Solan district’s Nalagarh sub-division, about 100 villagers living in 21 houses in Bushani village have been moved out of their houses since the area is sinking. Another 450 residents of 26 villages in Baddi, Ramshehar and Kasauli in Solan district have been shifted out of their houses.
The Deputy Commissioner of Mandi Arindam Chaudhary says, “We are offering help. Any affected person can reach out to the patwari. The displaced are being given ration, bedding, shelter, tarpaulins, etc.”
The Deputy Commissioner of Shimla Aditya Negi could not be contacted, a senior official not willing to get quoted says, “Once the rain is over relief and rehabilitation will pick up speed.”
NDRF, IAF become saviours
Apart from the administration, it is the NDRF that is working day and night to ease the situation in Himachal. Baljinder Singh, Commandant, 14 NDRF Battalion says, “For us time is a very important factor. Time saved is life saved. The people affected are emotionally charged but we try our best to save as many as we can and extricate bodies from the debris and hand them over to their kith and kin.” He says, that till now their battalion rescued the lives of 1,417 people, evacuated 5,094 people, saved 18 livestock and retrieved 34 dead bodies. And the work is still going on.