As floodwaters swell in the incessant downpour over the past few days, humanity has taken the front seat in Tripura as a group of Hindus and Muslims came together to shelter people rendered homeless near Radhanagar slum, and that too in a temple.
Radhamadhab temple, situated very close to 50-year-old Radhanagar slum, near Agartala is today the temple of communal harmony during testing times. A group of volunteers, including Muslims, was seen freely moving in and around the temple that opened its doors to 300 people from 53 displaced families. It was one of the seven camps initially opened by the government.
Haran Miah, 53, a volunteer, said Hindus and Muslims living in the area are close-knit and when floods displaced them they have come together to help each other.
A city of 76.51 sqkm, Agartala has over 52 notified slums which house over 6,000 families. Among them, Radhanagar slum houses roughly 650 families. As part of a 2013 mission to make Tripura slum-free, part of the slum was re-developed and 80 families were rehabilitated there. A large section of the slum, however, still lives in small tin or thatched makeshift huts.
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When floodwaters stormed into these huts three days ago in one of the worst rainfall in the past 62 years, the residents had to be shifted to relief camps.
A group of social workers from different religious and ethnic communities came together to form volunteer teams running errands for displaced people sheltered at the three government-run camps set up at Kathaltali, Kabarkhola and Radhamadhab temple.
Haran, a Muslime, said everyone rendered homeless in the heavy showers is provided food cooked at a local marriage hall. The victims were put up at a local temple – the Radhamadhab temple, irrespective of their faiths.
“The local community has lent a helping hand to everyone. Here we all stay together. The temple authorities have also cooperated with us,” he said.
Manoara Begum, a 59-year-old Muslim woman from the slum, said she rushed to the temple Saturday evening, after storm water gathered in her makeshift hut. Her daughter-in-law Sarala Khatun, 35, says life is hard amidst repeated flood conditions every year due to incessant showers.
“I waited 5-6 hours to see how things would turn out before I actually came here. These floods are such a nuisance. Our houses get affected every year. Things get damaged. We are poor,” Sarala said.
Among many problems encountered at the camps, theft is one of the major concerns apart from stormwater-induced displacement.
Sarala’s husband Bacchu Miah and many others like him were not found in the camp as they were out wading through the water to guard their meagre possessions from thieves, as was the case in previous monsoons.
Among the many sheltered in the temple was Rahima Khatun, another Muslim. Most of the elderly women like Rahima in these slums can’t tell their age but her daughter-in-law Shazeda Khatun said the veteran is nearing 100 years of age.
Asked if they were getting along well at the space which was getting cramped, 80-year-old Brajabala Das said, “Flo water does not distinguish people based ons. We are all equal. We always stay here like this.”
Her words echoed the opinion of all inmates at the relief camp set up at Radhamadhab temple. They said the flood disrupted the normal life of everyone, and staying together was the only alternative.
18-year-old Papon Banik was seen earnestly holding his prized possession – a flat TV and an LPG cylinder – as he squatted at a corner of the camp.
“Water has submerged my house. I tried to bring the TV, gas cylinder, some clothes, while my relatives helped to shift our bed to their place for the time being. Water ravages so much every year. At times, we have to bring our belongings on our backs,” he said, recalling the woes of repeated flood conditions.
45-year-old Sabita Debbarma, a tribal woman, all soaked in water, was seen rushing with her daughter at the camp. She said she had moved to the relief camp the night before but was still bringing in stuff from her hut as she feared they might get damaged or stolen.
As showers continue to lash Tripura, bringing water level in rivers close to danger level, such good Samaritans keep working in silence. The worst brings out the best in people as they say.
Two people injured, one reported missing
The local administration had initially announced only seven relief camps across the city. According to latest reports 46 camps are housing 2,485 displaced families. Two people have been injured and one reported missing in the floods
Arindam Chakrabarty, who was among the volunteers, told IE.com, “We are raising funds and are managing daily errands in the three camps all by ourselves, apart from delivering medical and essential supplies provided by the local administration,” Chakraborty said.
Arindam and his friends are raising money to meet the daily expense of Rs 15,000 to supply milk, biscuits, khichdi and drinking water at relief camps. But since more people are coming in, Arindam feels newcomers should explore camps with less number of inmates.
The administration is arranging free visits by doctors, medical supplies, drinking water etc in the camps but these good Samaritans have taken it upon themselves to see through the crisis.
Water level in River Howrah coming down
Meanwhile, the state administration has said the water level in different rivers, especially River Howrah, which practically encircles Agartala city, is coming down. The water level in River Howrah was still learned to be close to danger level while that in rivers like Gomati, Khowai, Muhuri, Feni, Juri, Kakri, Manu etc were below the expected flood level.