The recent spell of monsoon rains has literally wreaked havoc in more than half of the country. It has destroyed almost entire Balochistan, lower Punjab, parts of KPK and Upper Sindh. While the devastation may be more gruesome in other parts of the country, this piece focuses on Sindh and discusses how the rains have unleashed huge destruction, thereby creating an environment of panic and fear.
When the 8th spell of rains entered Sindh, I was in Matoo, a historical village 20 km in the east of Larkana. The people of my area became worried sick because they had already witnessed 7 spells of the monsoon rains in the past 2 months. The houses they were living in had weakened to the extent that they were collapsing on their own. They could no longer withstand the next spell. I remember how houses were caving in when it was raining on the night of 24 August. Dozens of cemented houses fell down in my village that night. The situation was no different in the other parts of upper Sindh, which includes Sukkur, Khairpur, Shikarpur and Kashmor.
Out of fear and harassment, most of the people of these areas had started moving to lower Sindh even before the onset of the 8th spell. The attractive destinations for them were Hyderabad and Karachi, as these are the biggest cities in Sindh, and as almost each household has a family member living there.
As a result of people’s attempts to flee the upper Sindh, the vehicles who could help them move became short in supply. As happens in every emergency, the fares shot through the roof. The vehicle owners and drivers started charging extortionate amounts. Normally, it costs Rs. 6,000-7,000 to book a 1.3 CC car from Larkana to Hyderabad. However, it cost more than Rs. 20,000 to hire a cab. The people who had their own conveyances or were well-off had little difficulty travelling. But the wretched of the earth, the poor, had no cash to finance their travel. So, they had had to sell their cattle and jewellery for very little amount just to make it to safer places. Some of villagers sold their cattle heads for dime a dozen, and vacated the village with that meagre amount, not knowing how would they get their next meal.
However, those who had cattle or jewellery were still lucky ones because there were people who had nothing to sell. They had no choice but to walk to nearby camps, which can in no sense be called camps, because there was no food or shelter. They were and still are sitting under the open sky, with their eyes fixed to the roads to see if any elected representative or government official was coming to their rescue. But no matter how hard they search or see, there was/is no trace of them.
The rains have left large-scale devastation. More than half of the houses in villages have collapsed. The remaining half are not in a good position either. Over 500 hundred people have died. As per a statement of CM Sindh, more than 10 million people have become homeless in Sindh alone.
It is disheartening to say that the Sindh government’s response to this calamity has so far been patchy, inefficient and uncoordinated. The government has, as ever, failed its people, because it has not provided any relief to the victims. A couple of days back, CM Sindh Murad Ali had claimed to have spent Rs. 8 billion and distributed 1 lac tents. However, ground realities show that the numbers are quite misleading. Most of the victims have not received any thing. What’s more, the tents and rations have been handed to feudal lords who are segregating between their voters and the voters of other parties.
As has been said earlier the victims are feeling helpless and this can be witnessed from the increasing protests taking place against the elected representatives. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and CM Sindh Murad Ali Shah should ensure that people are well-taken care of in a true sense. The PPP leadership should also consider devising a long-term plan for the rehabilitation of homeless people and must consider relocating them to cities such as Hyderabad and Karachi, while bearing all the costs.