After divine help, human hand elusive

 
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Namla (Uri), Oct 8: ''Divine help'' may have come to the rescue of this family of six members with five of them handicapped when the 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck at 0920 hrs on October 8 last year...but it still awaits the promised ''human aid''.

A miracle saved Juma Najar's family when the devastating quake struck both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) exactly a year ago, killing hundreds of people and rendering millions destitute.

The killer temblor left 960 people dead and more than 400 others wounded in Jammu and Kashmir. More than 25,000 structures were fully damaged and 1,85,000 structures partially destroyed. The border area of Uri in north Kashmir's Baramulla district was the worst affected with 672 deaths while 273 people were killed in Tangdhar area of frontier Kupwara district.

Recalling the horror-filled memories a year on, he says a ''divine force'' prompted him to send his family members out of the house minutes before the disaster.

Najar's wife and four young daughters, all handicapped, had initially refused to go out of the house located in a narrow, twisting rough track through the mountains, about 20 km from Namla, one of the worst-hit villages in Uri tehsil.

But, his persistence finally prevailed and they agreed to take the cattle to the fields for grazing.

''As they were getting ready to leave along with the cattle, I came out to see them off and give some directions...By now all of us had come out of the house.

''As I turned back to go inside, the disaster occurred. The earth and the mountains shook so vigorously that for a moment I thought it is 'qayamat (judgement day)'. I gathered some courage to sit down and prepare myself for the worst. There were screams, sometimes gut-wrenching, from everywhere. That was more scary. I thought my wife and daughters are all dead,'' he recalls.

Najar, 45, says his house was reduced to a heap of rubble in just few seconds. ''Everything had finished. There was nothing left. In few minutes, we were left homeless and shattered.'' Najar says his handicapped family survived the devastating earthquake only by the grace of God Almighty.

''I firmly believe a divine force prompted me to send my family members out of the house. Otherwise, the death was inevitable.'' Now, after a year Najar is bitter and disillusioned with the state government as he awaits the promised aid.

There has been no help so far from the state government, aid agencies or any non-governmental organisations (NGOs), he says.

Still living in a torn and dirty tent besides the rubble of his house, Najar wonders what the future has in store for his family members as they get ready to face a second harsh winter, just days away, without permanent shelter.

He earns the livelihood to feed his five handicapped family members by working on a road construction project in this hamlet.

''When there is no work, my relatives support me by giving some money and food. But, for their help, we would have died of starvation a long time back,'' Najar says.

The state government has pledged Rs 1,35,000 as cash relief to each individual quake-affected family. Out of this, Rs 75,000 has been paid while the remaining Rs 60,000 would be disbursed in next few days to enable the survivors to complete the construction of their houses by December 31 this year.

The government claims that this is the highest compensation given so far in such natural calamities in the entire country.

Expressing satisfaction over the ongoing rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the earthquake-ravaged areas, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said his government will initiate a massive infrastructure development to ensure emergence of affected areas as ideal habitations.

But as the anniversary of the devastating earthquake that destroyed his home passed today, Najar disputes the claim of the government that aid has reached to every affected family.

''The government only indulges in big talk. I have approached the authorities a number of times and repeatedly requested for help but in vain. A year has since elapsed and I am still waiting,'' he says.

UNI

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