Padkai scheme not responsible for the landslide, claim survivors

Aug 08, 2014, 02:28 IST | Niranjan Medhekar

Twenty survivors have rubbished allegations that the government’s Padkai scheme for paddy farming led to the landslide in Malin

As many as 20 landslide survivors from Malin came forward on Thursday, rubbishing allegations that the government’s Padkai scheme for paddy farming had caused the landslide at the village. Even as the Geological Survey of India concluded on Sunday that the landslide at Malin had occurred solely due to natural causes, social activists and sections of the media persisted in their allegations that the Padkai method of agriculture — involving the levelling of hills to clear space for farming — had weakened the soil in the region.

Never again: While the survivors wait for rehabilitation to begin, they hope their new homes will not be in another hilly area. File Pic

Survivors speak
Macchindra Zanjre, one of the 20 who are currently residing at an ashramshala at Asane village, is grieving for his wife and two young children whom he lost in the landslide. While he is angry about the disaster and the crushing loss it has brought upon him, Zanjre does not blame the government’s Padkai scheme for it.

“The village had been built a long time ago, and it wasn’t made by cutting down and encroaching on the hills. Malin had seen at least three generations of my family, and the village school had started way back in 1930, but no such disasters had occurred here before. Those who are making baseless allegations while sitting all the way in Pune and Mumbai, should pay visit to the actual site to know the reality,” he said.

Another survivor, Pradeep Virnak said, “People should know that the patch where the landslide happened had only houses and no paddy fields. Saying the Padkai scheme is responsible for the landslide is completely wrong.”

No to hills
Meanwhile, as the survivors wait for the government to begin the rehabilitation process, they reveal they no longer want to stay in hilly areas. Krishna Dengle (29), who lost his wife, mother, brother, cousin sister and her two children, said he won’t  mind moving anywhere in Amb-egaon tehsil, as long as it’s not to another risky area like Malin. “Even if we do not get adequate farmland, we won’t mind. But before finalising the rehabilitation site, the government should consult with us,” he said, adding further, that he hoped that they would be moved to their new homes immediately.

What is padkai?

According to social activists, the state government had launched a scheme called Padkai on pilot basis in the Ambegaon tehsil about three years ago. The scheme was supposed to generate employment for the local residents, simultaneously helping them to create land plots for agriculture.

mourning their dear ones: The survivors currently residing at the Asane ashramshala are grieving for those they have lost in the landslide, but disagree with claims that the Padkai scheme is responsible for the disaster

Experts say the Padkai scheme involves deforestation on a significant scale, as well as the levelling of hills to create space for cultivation in hilly areas like Ambegaon. Several activists and organisations claim that certain areas such as Malin village already had very deep slopes, and the deforestation and terrain-levelling only led to further weakening of the soil there.

Top marks to the health team
With incessant rainfall and all the slush and debris making rescue work near impossible, it took eight days to extract all the 151 from the site. Considering that, it's close to a miracle that the disaster at Malin did not lead to any epidemics, a feat that should be credited to the medical team stationed in the village.

“Normally in natural calamities, epidemics start spreading from the third day onwards. But the Malin landslide is possibly the first in country that has not witnessed any such fallout,” said Dr Pramod Bankhele, based at the primary health centre (PHC) at Adivare village. “From first day we have taken utmost care, constantly spraying disinfectants to ensure sanitation. We had also distributed Mediclore solution (a liquid used to purify water) in the nearby villages to restrict the spread of water-borne diseases,” he added.

The PHC has been responsible for the speedy treatment of survivors, as well as postmortems and DNA sampling of the deceased for quick identification. Dr Bankhele said the facility has another 34 DNA samples from unidentified bodies which will be used in claim settlements.

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