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Malin landslide rehabilitation: Villagers will be able to restart their lives only if the government assures safety

The road to Malin bears a deserted look except for a few people who are busy with the road construction work. The stream on the side of the road lies in a dry state; there are very few people who can be seen working in the fields. An uphill climb takes you to the place where the Malin village once existed. What remains now is the smritistambh (memorial erected in the memory of the deceased, with the names of 151 people who died in the tragedy) and a ground where trees are being planted for a garden.

Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis is set to visit the village in few days and government officials are leaving no stone unturned to make sure that his journey is comfortable.

151 people of Malin village were killed when heavy rains hit the village on 30 July 2014. People had barely woken up when a landslide had wiped out the entire village; rescue work was carried out for over a week but only a few villagers survived.

 Malin landslide rehabilitation: Villagers will be able to restart their lives only if the government assures safety

A view of the newly rehabilitated Malin village. Firstpost/Prachee Kulkarni

Nothing of the old village remains except for the school which had survived in the tragedy along with a few broken houses. The school is now being used as warehouse for construction work. Just a few metres from the old village is a colony where the rehabilitated villagers live in single-room houses with tin-roofs. The soaring temperature has made it difficult for the people to stay inside these rooms. People prefer to sit outside their houses below the roof seeking some comfort. Cradles in verandas ensure comfort and breeze. This is what life looks like for villagers from Malin for the last two and a half years.

"We had no other option. We have tried to survive in whatever ways we could. But it's difficult in every season. And particularly in summer due to the heat...We have been waiting for news homes for a long time now," says Bababai Ankush.

Her hopes for a new home are set to come true soon. The new village where these people are to be rehabilitated is nearing completion. The villagers will be handed over the keys to their new homes on 2 April at the hands of Fadnavis."This will be a smart village. And it is well planned. It took time as we couldn't find the suitable land. But we have managed to complete the construction in one year's time after getting hold of the land," Tehsildar Ravindra Sabnis says. He adds, "We have built the homes with Alu-form technology. This made faster construction possible. We have also built a retaining wall to ensure the safety of the village."

This new village lies at distance of about one kilometre from the old village on the opposite side of the hill. 67 houses of 450 square feet each are will be allotted to the families. The village has all the necessary facilities inside — a grampanchayat, school, primary health centre and a cow-shed built in the premises. The compound walls have paintings that depict the Warli-style paintings. And the new village's school's walls have cartoons drawn on them. A central water tank has also been built for supplying water to the entire village.

Newly built houses in Malin village. Firstpost/Prachee Kulkarni

Newly built houses in Malin village. Firstpost/Prachee Kulkarni

But is this enough for the villagers?

Vitthal Zanjare doesn't feel so. He has spent most of his life in old Malin. Now at almost 80, he wants to live the comfortable life he had been living for all these years "I have a family of almost 25 people. Even if some have moved to other cities in search of jobs, there are almost 10-12 of us here. How will we manage to stay in a one-bedroom-hall-kitchen? Somehow, we adjusted and stayed in this tin shed from last two years. I had sent letters to the government authorities to allocate another house for my brother. But my requests went unanswered," he said.

The case is not different for Chandrabhaga Zanjare. Sitting outside her house, taking care of her grandchildren, Zanjare confesses that not all the members of her household stay in the house. "A few members from my family still stay in our old house in old village. We can barely manage here considering the joint family we have," she says. When asked about about the risk of another landslide and the notices issued by government, she says that they come down when it rains, "We don't want to take any risk but we don't even have any option."

The tin-roof houses are too hot to live in. Firstpost/Prachee Kulkarni

The tin-roof houses are too hot to live in. Firstpost/Prachee Kulkarni

Some people haven't received the funds allocated for them. "Some of the families didn't get the money for their deceased. The government was supposed to pay Rs 8.5 lakh per deceased person, but they are saying they have sent the proposal again. We don't know when will we get it," laments Vimal Ankush.

However, the government officials claim that they have "done everything as per the norm," Tehsildar Sabnis adds, "The houses were allocated according to the names registered with grampanchayat and in the voters list."

The other fear villagers have is about the location of the new village, which like Malin is located on the hill slop. A retaining wall has been constructed taking safety into account; in many cases, it hasn't proven to be useful. "We have selected the site based on the survey by Geological Survey of India's suggestions," says Saurabh Rao, Pune's collector.

"The terrain and landscape of Malin, and villages around it, is dangerous. It seems that the government has taken care by trying to build a retaining wall. But whether it will survive during heavy rainfall is doubtful," says Professor Shrikhant Karlekar, an expert in Earth Science.

Malin is being rehabilitated, but the rehabilitation of other villages is still pending. The government along with COEP had conducted a survey of villages in pune district after Malin landslide. "We found that almost 23 villages were prone to Malin-like calamities. We had issued notices to the concerned villagers. But, at times, they are not ready to move out. We have now sent a proposal to the government for the construction of retaining walls in these villages as well. It might be approved soon," says an official from Pune district's disaster management department.

The fact that it has been more than two and half years cannot be ignored. Though the memories of the deceased are not going to fade, Malin's villagers will start their lives with renewed hope. All they wish for now is that safety should be taken into account and that the necessary steps will be taken by government.

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Updated Date: Mar 28, 2017 13:04:14 IST