CHINIOT: Despite being surrounded by floodwater, the chimney of a brick kiln at Rashida was emitting smoke while a group of men was having a siesta on charpoys under a tree across the ‘island’ on Jhang Road on Tuesday.

“We’ve left with the last four or five buckets of coal, friends,” someone yelled from behind the chimney. “It is enough for the bricks left, Shabbir would be coming shortly with the lunch, come over here,” responded one of his colleagues. Soon a youth emerged from behind the kiln on a floating tube of a tractor heading towards the road.

“We had put some 700,000 or so clay bricks in the kiln and started the fire before rains began,” said Ramazan, one of the kiln workers.

“Floods swept away 25 or so rooms built for the kiln workers. More than one million unbaked bricks melted away in the water,” said Ramazan while expressing the optimism that more than 100,000 rectangular pieces of baked clay would be ready in a couple of days.

“We’ll make a new Pakistan with these bricks,” quipped another labourer while drawing the attention of his colleagues towards a mini-truck on the road carrying Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf flags. Except for this group of workers, majority of the flood-hit people were not happy with the Punjab government’s arrangements to cope with the natural calamity. Instead, they were all praise for the activists of the Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), a subsidiary of Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD).

“They (government officials) asked us to leave the grain and cattle in water. How can we?” Sughran, a resident of Qila Aasian, one of the marooned settlements on the right side of Jhang Road, told this reporter at Tibba Shah Behlol.

The young in the extended family decided to remain at Qila while the elderly ones were brought to safety by the government officials. “Afterwards, we were left unattended. No food, no shelter. It was the `bearded men’ (FIF workers) who have not only been providing us with food but also plastic sheets since then,” claims Sughran.

Imam Din, a resident of Bakhsh Shah Javan, too was annoyed. “They (officials) brought us here on Sunday but have been missing since then as the following day some high-up was due in the area. The camps set up by the government have relief goods only when a senior official is expected there.

They made us wait for hours and then gave us goods but only after a photo session. The Da’awa people don’t have photo sessions and they regularly provide us with food, though in limited quantity. They also helped us shift our wheat stocks and cattle here,” said the middle-aged man while feeding his cattle near Burjian stop.

A number of residents of Mauza Aasian, Thatha Sawan, Colony Lodia, Sarangwala, Billi Kaku, Junghar Kalutran, Kirioanwala Khoo, Pir Kot and Mianwal had similar complaints.

However, officials manning relief camps at Harsa Sheikh Rural Health Centre (RHC), a government school at Mathroma and on roadside at Jamiabad said most of the affected people preferred to either stay with a relative or acquaintance in safer areas. “The affected people visit our camps only to get medicines,” they said.

Rescue 1122 officials there said they had been trained to save people and not their belongings. “The fiber boats cannot carry 0 or so sacks of wheat, rice or a buffalo,” said a rescue official.

Published in Dawn, September 11th , 2014

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