Palghar tremors: Citizens’ lives affected, government indifferent

Dhundalwadi, Palghar: Dhanumati Prajapti (15), a student from Dhundalwadi village is preparing for the upcoming Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examinations, which is less than 15 days away. She has not been able to study properly since November, 2018. Dhanumati is not an exception, as this is the situation of every student of Dhundalwadi village in Palghar district.

Being an epicentre, Dhundalwadi along with Haladpada, Dapchari, Amboli, Bahare and Wankas are most affected villages of repeated earthquakes in the Palghar district. The first earthquake in this series was recorded on November 11, 2018 and since then life of villagers have changed completely.

“I cannot focus on studies as there is a constant risk to my life. The SSC exams is less than 15 days away and I am worried about it,” said Prajapti. A scientist researching this situation concluded that this phenomenon is earthquake swarms. “Dhundalwadi and surrounding villages in the Palghar districts are undergoing earthquake swarm.

This is a phenomenon, where there are repeated earthquakes of low magnitude in the region. It varies from 2.5 to 3.9 Richter scale or less. On an average, the area faces 20 earthquakes of small magnitude in a day. But once, it has also gone up to 600 earthquakes in a day,” said Dr Vineet Gahalaut, Scientist from National Centre for Sesimology, appointed to study this phenomenon of Palghar district.

It has been more than three months, but the situation has not improved and the villagers are living outside their houses in temporary tents. “We are slowly learning to live with this calamity. In the past three months, we have structured our lives around earthquakes.

Most of us are living in make shift tents to avoid a tragic incident,” said Sarpanch of Dhundelwadi village, Shivaji Mahale. But the shift from house to tent in the peak of the winter season was a challenging task, he added.  The district administration claims that it has provided tents and trampoline sheets to villagers.

“We have provided over 1, 016 tents in Dahanu taluka and over 200 tents in Talasari taluka. We expect villagers to shift in these tents till the frequency of earth quakes reduce. This is a precautionary measure to avoid an unnecessary incidents,” said an official from District Administration (DA) office, Palghar.

However, The Free Press Journal found these claims to be questionable. A pada (small village) with not more than 90-100 families have not got more than 4-5 tents. A size of a tent is not even sufficient to accommodate a family of five. “Where should rest of us go? Land lords and rich villagers have captured these tents.

Is the government waiting for someone to die, before it provides us with these facilities?” questioned Sandeep Basara (35), a villager from Dhundalwadi village. Besides, Basara also highlighted risks associated with these tents. “In a neighbouring village of Haladpada, a family had shifted to the tent fearing earthquakes.

But their house was looted in their absence,” said Basara. Haladpada is the village where a two year girl lost her life after tripping and hitting the stone during a tremor. The condition of schools in the Dhundalwadi village is more deplorable. A wall of the Ashram school of Dhundalwadi village has collapsed during one of the tremors.

“Luckily, we had already shifted the schools to tents. But these tents are not given to us by the government. They were donated by some NGOs and corporates through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds. These organisation have also given us sheets and blankets to survive the chilly winter.

However, we have got no help from the government and it seems least bothered about the education of village children,” said another teacher from Ashram school of Dhundalwadi village. Classes in the affected villages are conducted in make shift tents and open classrooms, and the residential students of these schools have to sleep in open tents during chilly winter nights.

Initially, schools were shut for 20 days, but now under open classrooms, they are conducted regularly. There is a medical emergency camp commissioned in the Dhundalwadi village and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has undertaken few awareness drives.

But the synergy between the DA and Taluka level offices is missing, as there are discrepancies in the statistics given by both the offices on relief measures work. Going forward, the government official focus in the area would be on awareness drive. “These natural calamities cannot be controlled.

Hence we are conducting training, relief and rehabilitation, emergency services, disaster management camps in the affected villages. Our focus will be on preparing villagers, in case there is a major earth quake,” said a civic official from Dahanu Taluka.

Another civic official from Talasari Taluka said that compensation is provided to villagers who are affected due to the earthquake. “Houses in dilapidated states are provided relief of Rs 1,600-Rs 1,900. But after the Collector of Palghar, Prakash Nanaware, took cognisance for the damage, the compensation increased to Rs 6,000-Rs 9,000,” said the civic official.

However, the villagers vehemently contested this claim. “We have not got a single penny from the government and have been left to look out for ourselves,” said a villager. Gahalaut rules out the likelihood of a disaster awaiting to come.
“Earthquake swarms is a passing phenomenon.

It has occurred in several places on the western coast. We have installed four earthquake recording units in Dahanu and three in Talasari. We have not recorded any big earthquake since then,” said Gahalaut. Hopefully earthquakes would subside with the beginning of the monsoon season, he added.

The scientist from National Geographic Research Institute (NGRI) have submitted their report to the district administration and the meeting in Mantralaya in the upcoming week for the course of action ahead.

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