TANDO BAGO/JHUDDO: Sept 20: Although facing severe hardships because of widespread devastation caused by heavy monsoon rains, the affected people are bravely confronting the challenge.

The disaster has again highlighted poverty and social disparity in rural areas of Sindh.

Sadori Ahmedani slices onion to cook fish for her family. Her children had caught the fish earlier in the day from a nearby submerged farmland in the village of Imam Bux Ahmedani in Badin district.

Sitting in an improvised tent on a link road, she appeared calm and composed with no signs of depression and frustration.

Another woman, Saami, cleanses fish she plans to cook for dinner. “I don't have any complaint. God kept me and my children safe. It's more than enough for me”, she said calmly.

She owned some land and had cultivated cotton and rice but the crops had been lost. “Our village was inundated and we were forced to live in the open,” she said pointing to her nearby village.

The rural women who have always suffered neglect are the most vulnerable segment among the rain-affected people.

Still they maintain their dignity and do not want to be photographed by journalists. They would often cover their faces with their Dupatta (scarf) usually a worn-out piece of cloth.

Misery everywhere

At night they find it difficult to sleep because of mosquitoes and insects. There are stray dogs all around. Unkempt children, mostly underdressed, play in hazardous conditions, but with a broad smile, apparently oblivious of the scale of disaster that has visited their families.

Although the displaced families are facing the hardship with courage, the condition in which they live in is miserable.

And there seems to be no respite in sight. Recent rains have wreaked havoc in Mirpurkhas and Badin districts. Vast areas are still inundated, blocking access to villages.

The uprooted families have set up tens on roads. Water-proof shelter boxes have been provided by some NGOs but only to some families. Relief goods sent by the government don't reach them. Only those living near the district headquarters are getting some help.

“We were told by a close associate of our area's MPA and minister to loot any truck carrying relief goods but we refused to do so as we don't believe that will be real help. God will take care of us,” remarks Haji Mubeen Ahmedani whose rickshaw developed fault when rainwater entered its engine. “Our standing crops have also been washed away,” he said with rotting cotton crops behind him.

Even former naib-nazim of Khalifo Qasim union council in which this village is located is living in an improvised tent with his family. Najaf Deen said: “No one from the government has come to us even to ask if we need anything”, said Najaf.

A 100-year old man of Imam Bux Ahmedani village recalls a past experience when it rained for nine days and nights but didn't spell such disaster. “The water flowed out to Thar but now these saline water drains have wreaked havoc in the area,” said a bespectacled Imam Bux.

There are similar scenes on all main and link roads connecting the districts of Badin, Tharparkar and Mirpurkhas. Soldiers are ferrying people in boats to and from the Kaloi area of Tharparkar in Shadi Large area of Tando Bago, the place through which the Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) and Dhoro Puran Drain pass.

A ghost town called Jhuddo

Jhuddo — a taluka of Mirpurkhas district — remains inaccessible from the main Mirpurkhas-Jhuddo road. One could go there from Tando Bago side only in a 4x4 vehicle.

Almost 80 per cent of the people of Jhuddo town have left the area.

Power supply to Jhuddo is frequently cut off and the town plunges into darkness after sunset.

“On August 15 the outskirts of Jhuddo were inundated and the town suffered the same fate on September 6,” said Shahid Jatt - who had just managed to come to Jhuddo after passing through fast flowing rain and saline water. The water is flowing towards Dhoro Puran Drain in the direction of Shadi Large, Badin.

“We bought an egg for Rs15 and the shopkeepers were left with no food stock,” said Maqsood Ahmed, a dealer of soft drinks.

“Now shops have run out of bottled water. The main reason behind the shortage of foodstuff is inundation of Tando Jan Mohammad-Jhuddo and Jhuddo-Naukot roads,” he said.

Rainwater is stagnating in Jhuddo although its main road has cleared. Local basic health unit remains inundated with its staff having left the place.

“The town has only one private doctor,” said Jamil Ahmed, a wholesale vegetable seller.

Some families were seen returning home after paying exorbitant fare to transporters. Faqir Mohammad Sachal Siyal and his family have returned to Jhuddo from Hyderabad.

“We have returned after Pir Pagara asked his disciples not to leave their homes,” Faqir said. The owner of a pick-up who brought the family back to Jhuddo charged Rs5500. “Now the rickshaw driver will charge Rs150 or so against normal fare of Rs70 to Rs80,” he said.

Jhuddo was inundated by saline and rainwater flowing from northern, southern and eastern sides. The LBOD had developed a breach at Silor Mori. It is overflowing. The road to Jhuddo from Tando Bago is still flooded.



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