With documents washed away, seeking flood relief is a struggle

September 08, 2019 12:49 am | Updated 12:49 am IST - Belagavi

A file photo of a house damaged by flood at Gokak in Belagavi district.

A file photo of a house damaged by flood at Gokak in Belagavi district.

Hussein Bi Khasim Mulla’s hut in Gonaganur village of Belagavi district and all things inside it were washed away in floods three weeks ago. She also lost her sheep. But she has not got any relief from the State government till now because she is not able to produce any document, such as ration or Aadhaar card. Government rules stipulate that beneficiaries should produce all necessary documents to establish their identity in order to claim benefits.

“It was difficult to save our lives and run away. We ran out with a few clothes and food. We had no time to look for documents,” she said. She, however, hopes that the documents might have been stashed in the bags of her relatives and plans to keep searching for them.

There are several such cases being reported from across villages in Belagavi, which saw floods last month and is again facing the threat of inundation in some parts.

Claim not submitted

At Lolsur, near Gokak, the Nayak family is yet to get benefits as it has been able to produce documents. Balappa Nayak, a farmer, said he could not submit claims for house damage or crop damage as he could not find his documents. He had left his house before the floods and spent a few days in a relief centre, before moving back into his home.

Dhareppa Bilagi, a young farmer from Hukkeri, said there is no clarity on the necessity of such documents. “Some of our leaders said it is not necessity to produce documents. But officials keep asking for copies of our documents,” he said.

Rayanna Sangalad from Khanapur said many officials are not even clear about what documents need to be submitted. “Surveyors and revenue officials keep asking for copies of ration card, records of rights, tenancy and crops, bank passbook, Aadhaar card, and photographs. Some officials also insist that we bring multiple photocopies of documents and photographs. It is difficult because in several places, people have lost their documents. In some villages and towns, there is no power supply and no facilities for printing or photocopying. Many families are suffering,” he said.

Activists say the government should explore alternative methods. “I urge the government to conduct Pancha Nama or local inquiry to ascertain the identity of flood victims,” said Ashok Chandaragi, convenor of a working committee of Kannada organisations. Sharada Gopal of the NGO Mahila Jagruti Okkootta said the government should rely on its own records and not harass flood victims.

There is some hope of the government taking this advice now. Chief Secretary T.M. Vijay Bhaskar has sent a message to all Deputy Commissioners instructing them to ask all personnel engaged in flood relief work not to insist on documents from beneficiaries. In a phone message to all DCs, he has said, “Officers should, in turn, confirm the identities [of the victims] or get other details from the ration shop or the Food and Civil Supplies Department.”

An officer from the food department said the portal www.ahara.kar.nic.in has all the details of ration card beneficiaries. “It has details of poor families with BPL cards and those with APL cards. The data is aggregated village-wise and is easily searchable. If we have a person’s name, address and phone number, his or her identity can be established,” the officer said.

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