Forced to live under a temporary shelter for months, a father of six children, including a physically-challenged daughter, is frustrated by the apathy of authorities in Jammu and Kashmir and cursing his stars.
Showkat Ali Khan has set up a shelter with the polythene-covered roof in the remote Malsu village under Sarna Panchayat. He and his family live virtually under the open sky as the promised assistance under the centrally-sponsored Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana to build a concrete structure has not yet come.
Expecting the money, Khan had demolished his one-room mud house, what he said was a home for his wife and children.
Monsoon rains have compounded their trouble. They desperately want to move into the promised new home before the onset of the unforgiving winter season.
Khan, 50, is not alone in his desperate pursuit to provide a home to his family. The government had identified 28 beneficiaries under the Awas Yojana in Bhaderwah block, but 17 of them have not even received the first installment of the promised monetary assistance to rebuild their homes.
Nima Devi, a widow from Kharothi village, said she has paid several visits to the rural development department office but the “indifference” of the officials there has frustrated her.
These homeless people are angry and annoyed, that the promises made to them by the authorities have not been kept.
Bhaderwah Block Development Officer Mohammad Ashraf admitted that there has been a delay in transferring the money to some of the beneficiaries, including Khan.
Ashraf said the delay was due to issues related to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries, but he assured they would receive the money soon.
“We have taken a serious note of the complaint and holding an inquiry and if anybody is found guilty, appropriate action will be taken against that person,” the BDO stressed.
Khan, however, said his refusal to pay bribe to officials was the main obstacle stopping the transfer of the assistance.
“We dismantled our mud-room structure on the advice of rural department officials after being informed that Rs 1.30 lakh stands sanctioned under PMAY in my favour in April. I borrowed money and completed the first phase (plinth work) on May 9, hoping to get the first instalment of Rs 50,000 transferred to my account,” Khan told PTI.
He said the decision to dismantle the mud structure has left his family homeless and under the open sky. He said they now share the polythene-roof temporary shelter with cattle.
Under these trying circumstances, Khan bravely said he was quite content with his life. But, he added agitatedly, the money he has borrowed sometimes gives him sleepless nights.
“I owe money to many people for completing the plinth work. I do not have money to feed my family or take them to a concrete accommodation. How can I pay commission to the officials,” Khan, a labourer by profession, said.
His elder daughter, Aafiya, was more direct in holding the rural department officials responsible for their miseries.
“Over the past four months, we have braved rain and threat of wild animals. The village-level worker is seeking Rs 40,000 to clear our case. My father has no money to pay him,” she said.
The 75-year-old widow, Nima Devi, also dismantled her temporary shelter to start the construction of a pucca house.
However, it proved a nightmare for her as she and her mentally-challenged son were forced to live either under the open sky or were at the mercy of the local villagers.
“Everyday I come to BDO office with my documents and plead before the officials to release the payment. I want to die under my roof and not in paddy fields to become a feast for dogs. My tears have had no effect (in diluting) the arrogance of the officials. They make fun of my old age,” Devi said.
She said she urges the senior officials to look into the cases to enable them to live in peace and liberate them from the miseries.