Police personnel who managed to cross the overflowing Krishna on a motor boat to rescue the people stranded at Madaragaddi in Lingasugur were in for a surprise.
The islanders said a firm “no” to vacating the place, unmindful of the dangers of a river in spate, with 2.53 lakh cusecs of water released from the Basava Sagar across the Krishna near Narayanpur in Yadgir district.
“We have settled down in the island with our agriculture lands, cattle and huts. I will go back to the island once the Krishna calms down,” Parasappa, one of the three rescued, told The Hindu.
What added to his irritation was the fact that the boat broke down, leaving them stranded in the middle of the river. While three agreed to move after much persuasion, others (30 from five families) stayed on in the island.
Madaragaddi, which literary means “island of Madars” (referring to a Scheduled Caste community to which the residents belong) had hardly caught the attention of outside world till the terrible floods of 2009. They had all moved to safety after the floods then, but gone right back.
Then on, Madaragaddi has topped the priority list of villages to be on alert in case of floods. As the water gets released from Basava Sagar, irrespective of the quantity, the district administration starts rescue preparations.
The five families together own around 40 acres and their main occupation is agriculture. As the island is not connected by a bridge, they rarely come out. They buy grocery from nearby villages once in three months. They transport their agricultural produce out of the island in summer when Krishna is completely calm. The only mode of transportation are country boats. Their children have never seen schools.
The islanders appear to see the rescue workers as a “nuisance.” They say that they feel threatened only when around 4 lakh cusecs of water is released from the Narayanpur dam. “The rescue teams every year rush to the island even when just 2.5 lakh cusecs is released. The government does not want to permanently rehabilitate our families with proper compensation. They just shift us to a nearby school in Yeragodi and leave us without even providing proper relief material. This year also, three of us were shifted to the school and no relief material, except a bag of rice, is provided,” said Mallappa.
Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner S.N. Nagararu says he wants to settle the issue once and for all. “I would like to send a proposal to the government to acquire the entire Madaragaddi island after making alternative rehabilitation for its inhabitants,” he said.