Two weeks ago, Minister for Commerce and Supplies Sunil Bahadur Thapa arrived in Dang district to meet the flood victims.
In Urahari and Phulbari, two of Dang´s worst flood-affected villages, Thapa assured the flood victims that he would do all he could to ensure that they celebrate Dashain, the most important festival of the Hindus in Nepal, in the best possible way.
“My brothers and sisters, you need not worry about anything,” Thapa said, in presence of local journalists. “You will get enough (money) to eat delicious food and wear fine clothes in Dashain.”
Caption:Flood victims in Dang complained that a government team this week distributed just Rs 850 per head for the upcoming Dashain festival.( Devendra Basnet/Republica)
The flood victims, who could not celebrate Teej, another important festival in the Hindu culture, felt relieved by Thapa´s assurance. They hoped that they will be able to forget, albeit briefly, all the damage caused by the mid-August flood by celebrating Dashain.
But, their hopes are dashed. They find themselves betrayed and humiliated.
“We feel the government rubbed salt into our fresh wounds,” said Devi Ram Kusari, a flood victim in Phulbari village-6. “We can pacify our agitated souls but not our children. They want food and clothes in Dashain. How can we tell them that the flood washed away everything that we had?”
It is not that the government has not given anything. But, the flood victims say that it is too little for them to celebrate Dashain.
Two weeks after Thapa´s assurance, government officials, divided into several groups, are reaching out to the flood victims and giving them Rs 850 each. Of this money, Rs 500 is for buying new clothes and Rs 350 is for buying rice grains for 10 days of the festival.
“At first, I did not believe that we are being given just Rs 850 as our Dashain expense,” said Tilak Ram Khadka, a flood victim of Motipur-6. “But, we had to believe when they (government officials) said that´s it and left us.”
Shiva Bhandari, another flood victim of Motipur-6, said, “I don´t know how we can celebrate a festival with such a small amount. It is not sufficient for us to even buy foods, let alone nice clothes.” Bhandari said his children are expecting new clothes but he has no money to fulfill their wish.
After a heavy downpour on August 15, Babai River had swollen up and washed away lands and houses of thousands of people, most of them farmers, in Dang and Bardiya districts. At the same time, other swollen rivers had wrecked havoc in Surkhet and Banke districts as well, rendering thousands of farmers homeless.
The flood victims are still struggling to rebuild their wrecked lives. As Dashain is hardly a couple of weeks away, the flood victims, with no houses to live and no money to survive, want the government´s succor but what they are being given has made them feel betrayed.