My trip to Leh was fruitful but had mixed feelings: on one hand I saw the devastation caused by the floods on the other hand saw how the community takes care of all its people. I am sharing with you a few of our findings .....
The NGOs assured us that unlike other states, the level of corruption in Leh is very low, so the relief amounts declared by the center shall reach the deserving people. But the only question is " WHEN ". The local villagers too assured us that no one sleeps hungry and no one is shelter-less. This made me very happy as such values are becoming rarer by the day.
One of the NGOs was sincere enough to decline the need of any fund as they have enough for the time being and want to use the same before accepting additional funds. This again reaffirmed my belief in the values of these wonderful Ladakhi people.
THE EFFECT : Total area affected is around 625 kms. Many have died and many more are missing. The missing were mostly poor migrant labourers. The worst affected are the villages, apart from losing lives they have also lost their livestock, land and houses. The Indian Army played a very crucial role in restoring normalcy by acting fast on building the infrastructure and without their help it would have taken months to do the same.
CURRENT STATUS : The PM has announced an overall allocation of 125 crores and a compensation of Rs 2 lakhs for fully damaged houses and Rs 1 lakh for partly damaged houses ( this may not be enough )as all the needs of Leh are catered by road from Srinagar or Manali which are minimum 400 kms away. The cost of construction is very high, also the remote locations make it worse. More than POVERTY it is the Hardships which concern us. The temperature in winter drops to MINUS 20 DEGREES in many places. The livelihood of many is at stake as their small fields are covered with debris and mud; this may lead to depression and an idle workforce.
LOCAL NGOS : Met a France based NGO, Geres ( www.india.geres.eu ) working in Leh since 1986 on issues like Solar House and Solar Green House. They have partnered with 5 local NGOs mainly :LEH NUTRITION PROJECT ( www.lehnutritionproject.org ) , LADAKH ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH ORGANISATION and LADAKH ECOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT GROUP ( www.ledeg.org )
There is a feeling of brotherhood than of competition between them. The GREEN SOLAR HOUSE is of great importance as growing vegetables in such extreme weather is very difficult. This has brought a great relief to the people as it provides the necessary nutrition SOLAR PASSIVE HOUSE : this is again a boon to the people as without using any power this helps in making a room warm enough in winter by at least 20 degrees, so a family sleeps in a room for almost 4 months . This has helped them from pollution, breathing problems and saving wood and money. If the outside temperature is - 20 degrees the temp inside would be 0, this is very good for the environment too.
Caring Friends : Since Geres is the lead ngo , I met with the country Director Ms. Lydia , who arranged the field visits and meetings with the local NGOs and also took care of all my basic needs. CF would now try to go by their advice and then take up a suitable project which appeals to us and work in tandem with Geres. Broadly speaking a wait and watch policy is adopted to see how the Govt is helping these people and how much other funding agencies are doing , as the construction of houses is at standstill now due to the harsh winter. This shall commence only after March'11. CF has provided an assistance of Rs 5 lakhs to begin with. We have also asked Geres to come up with a good project for the rehabilitation of the flood affected and otherwise deserving people.