Need to pick up the pieces, speed up compensation

| JULY 11, 2024, 12:54 AM IST

The four-day rain fury that Goa witnessed inflicted pain on common citizens causing immense loss of life and property. On Sunday, a retaining wall collapsed in Kundaim killing three labourers while on Monday, a woman and son died after the wall of their house collapsed on them at Mandur. Desperate measures by locals to revive them failed and the two were declared dead on arrival at the health centre.

Ironically, the family had suffered a jolt last year when another wall had partly collapsed during the previous monsoon. The local Talathi and PWD officials visited the site and prepared an estimate on the cost of repairs. Unfortunately, there was no progress after that and the compensation never arrived. This year, after the two deaths in the family, the PWD is reported to have assured the kin of rebuilding the house besides providing them with financial compensation.

The question is whether the system awaits tragedies like these to move its wheels. Year after year natural calamities and flooding happen. Goans have been witness to hostile weather with gusty winds and heavy rainfall blowing away rooftops, bringing down walls and inundating residential houses. This year, it has got even worse. Many houses in Mandur and neighbouring areas and low-lying areas like Painiwada-Tivim and villages like Ugvem, Varkhand, Nagzar, Kasarvanem, Chandel and Mopa in Pernem have been ravaged by flood waters filling houses.

In situations like these, the distressed common citizen looks forward to relief, and not mere words of comfort or promises. People seek speedy disbursal of compensation to get back on their feet. The government boasts of a Disaster Management Authority that is fully geared to handle calamities natural disasters and floods. We are told that quick response is the motto of disaster management where teams are identified to attend to emergencies within the shortest possible time. Why then are victims never treated with similar urgency on compensation? Why are there so many systemic hurdles that are leaving citizens in the lurch?

In the current situation, the compensation doled out by the State government, although meagre, is not easy to come by. It is not that the PWD announces and it is a done deal. There is an agonising process that involves Talathi, the respective department, mamlatdar and the collector, there are estimates drawn, documents processed and clearances awaited, and finally, there are budgetary constraints. Some files have been stuck for more than three years for varying reasons.

Storms, cyclones and inclement weather are common in Goa. If one considers the recent trail of devastation, in 2019, the monsoon havoc crippled the State and the government pegged the loss of property and crops to Rs 157 crore. In 2021, another cyclonic spell brought down houses and caused extensive damage to crops. With climate change being the talking point, we are headed for worse times. The question is how does the State government secure the lives of people?

At a time when Goa boast of speedy development, nature has been striking hard and taking us back in time. It is exposing the chinks in the system where the discourse is about concrete highways and high-rises, about projects and development. And it reminds us of the many in mud houses with a silent prayer on their lips and a hope in their heart of just living another day. It is for these people that governments must find a way out.

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