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Why are 10,000 Himachalis confused?

By Onkar Singh in Shimla
August 13, 2004 21:59 IST
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Over 10,000 Himachalis are confused.

They don't know whether to stay put in their makeshift flood relief camps in Shimla or go back to their homes in Kinnaur, Kullu and Bilaspur, which were devastated by an angry Sutlej River.

It has been more than fifteen days at the camp and all of them are frightened by reports of an impending breach of an overloaded Tibetan lake, reported to hold several hundred million cubic feet of water.

"We are afraid to go back to our home because we know what happened four years ago when over 200 people were killed in flash floods and villages were swept away by the gushing water," said Pramod Thakur, who comes from Rampur Bushair-assembly constituency of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.

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Sixty-five families who lived close to Sutlej River in Rampur have been shifted to camps set up in government schools.

Hansraj who works as a waiter in a hotel in Shimla was lucky, as his village was situated on a hill and escaped the gushing waters. But others were not so lucky.

The homes of over 100 families were destroyed in Nogli, Nisru, Duttnagar and Luri. Some people spoke to seemed to have resigned to their fate.

R Negi, a resident of Nogli, is neither happy with the present status nor upset about it. "I am a businessman and I am losing money everyday because my shop is closed. I am caught between the rock and the hard place. If I go back I can open my shop, but would run the risk of being killed in case the flash floods take place. It is not easy to chose between the two," he said.

But there are others who are clear on not taking any risks. Rama Devi, whose house was washed away in 2000, said, "I have removed doors, windows and even the door frames to minimise the damage to my house. We have removed all the belongings. We have no choice but to stay on. I am determined to go back only after the government declares that it is safe to go back."

Businessman P S Chauhan blames the state administration for not giving them the correct picture of the amount of water that is there in the artificial lake. "We are sick and tired of living in the camps. We want to go back to our homes and resume our lives as we did few weeks back," he said.

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Onkar Singh in Shimla