Those who lost their homes in the heavy monsoons of Karnataka last year are between a rock and a hard place, literally between the ruins of their houses.
By Riya Sharma
The heavy rainfalls of August 2019 left Mallavar Bassva Yeti in dire straits overnight when she lost a significant part of her house to the rain. The only remaining proofs of what used to be her house is an L-shaped wall and a tin-shed over it, where she has kept her cot.
Mallavar, a slight woman in her seventies who used to be a daily wage labourer, lives alone in the remains of what used to be her house.
Due to heavy rainfall in the Monsoon season, severe flood affected the southern Indian state of Karnataka in the first week of August 2019. India Meteorological Department issued Red alert to several coastal and malnad regions of the state as a security measure in the prevailing situation of heavy rains.
Owing to the heavy water discharge from the Maharashtra reservoir, the North Karnataka districts of Belagavi, Bijapur, Raichur, Kalburgi, Yadgir, and Uttara Kannada were severely affected by the flood discharge. On August 8, Karnataka received nearly five times the rainfall it normally used to have, adding to the severity of the ongoing floods in 12 districts that had killed 20 people by August 9, 2019.
These intense rainfalls caused extensive damage to more than 1900 houses in the villages of the Bailhongal taluka in Karnataka.
Out of the 700 houses in the jurisdiction of the Amatur Gram Panchayat, which covers the villages Amatur, Bevinkoppa, and Nayanagar in the Bailhongal taluka, 264 houses had been significantly damaged due to the rainfalls and only a few had been provided with a relief fund of Rs. 25,000 by October 2019 under the Rajiv Awas Yojana scheme, according to Gram Panchayat member, Rudra Gowda Patil.
In the entire Bailhongal taluka, a total of 1945 houses were significantly damaged, according to Koujalagi Mahantesh Shivanand, MLA of the Bailhongal constituency. A majority of these houses were still in the same predicament 3 months after the monsoons in October.
By February, there were some noticeable changes in the villages as several households with demolished houses had been compensated, but there were still many houses that stood wrecked since August because a significant number of households had not received any monetary compensation.
The damage to the houses is classified by the state authorities into three categories – A, B and C. The houses that encountered more than 75 percent damage come under category A. The ones that met with 25-75 percent damage, come under category B, and the houses that faced 25 percent or less damage, come under category C.
Those with houses under category A are ought to receive Rs. 3,00,000-5,00,000 in compensation, while category B and C are to receive compensation between Rs. 75,000 and Rs. 1,00,000 and Rs. 25,000-50,000 respectively.
Besides throwing the lives of thousands of people out of gear, the untimely rain had damaged houses, roads, and bridges and standing crops on lakhs of acres of area in the taluka.
The 2019 Karnataka floods sustained damage of more than 40,000 houses with more than 2,000 villages affected, per the data released by Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC).
Sixty-five-year-old Shivrudrappa Yerrappa Murugan from Amatur had six people living in his house that crumbled down in the August monsoons. The house now has roofs missing in two rooms and a major part of a wall missing in one room.
Murugan’s family does not have the money to repair the house and they have not received any compensation from the state either.
After the havoc that the August rainfalls created, the Executive Magistrate’s office surveyed all the villages of the Bailhongal taluka and therein started the process of giving monetary compensation to those affected by it.
“If any house is completely damaged, compensation has been provided but the houses that are partially damaged have been left to hang high and dry,” Murugan said.
Murugan has written to the MLA’s office, the Deputy Commissioner’s office, and the Executive Magistrate’s office multiple times requesting for monetary relief with no luck.
“We are a family of six people and every time it rains, we have to huddle and sleep in the only room of the house with a proper roof,” Murugan said, fighting back tears.
In the villages Amatur, Bevinkoppa, and Nayanagar, the authorities reported 13 houses under category A damage, 45 houses under category B damage and 138 houses under category C damage.
Prakash G Bediyer lives in Bevinkoppa with his mother and sister. Until October, there were only ruins in the place where their house once stood. The family received a monetary relief of Rs. 70,000 to start the reconstruction of their house, with a commitment of Rs. 5,00,000 in total.
“We will have to take a loan to finish rebuilding our house. Rs. 5,00,000 will not be enough for us to rebuild our house from the ground,” Prakash said.
Dr. D H Hugar, Executive Magistrate of the Bailhongal taluka said, “To prevent the misuse of the funds, we give the money over stages of construction. Whenever one stage of construction is finished, the BDO goes and captures a GPS-based picture and sends it to me and we verify it with the original pictures of the house and only then hand over the money for the next stage of construction. If we give the money all at once, there are chances people may spend all of it on weddings and festival celebrations.”
Pakkirappa Ningappa Doddalinganwar, a coolie from Bevinkoppa has a family of six. He received Rs. 55,000 to begin the reconstruction of his house that was demolished due to the rains. The family is yet to receive Rs. 50,000 more but he says it would not be enough money to rebuild his entire house.
“Even if we go by the process and build it stage by stage, the funds won’t be enough to build the entire house from the ground,” Pakkirappa said.
Dr. Hugar said, “Most of the damaged houses are mud houses and do not require a large sum of money to be rebuilt and even if there are a few pakka houses, they are only about 10 percent of the damaged houses and the government cannot afford to pay Rs. 30,00,000 to everyone.”
Around 1,080 houses in the Bailhongal taluka that were damaged due to the excessive rains have not been compensated. Dr. Hugar said that this was because there were problems with their Aadhar cards, their house ownership documents, and bank documents.
“We give monetary compensation to only those people who have bank accounts and are the sole owners of the houses. If there are multiple owners of the same house, who the money should be given to becomes a problem,” Dr. Hugar said.
Families like Pakkirappa’s, who have not received sufficient monetary funds or like that of Murugan’s, who haven’t received any compensation for that matter, do not even have the resources to avail the loans and then repay them in time. The state laws make it impossible for them to receive monetary compensation.
Avinash Mishra, Joint Adviser at Planning Commission, Government of India said, “The monetary compensation is provided out of the State Disaster Relief fund and because it is a disaster, the burnt of this is to be faced by the individuals who got affected. The government can certainly play a role but cannot help with 100 percent restoration.”
Although he said that the state government should incorporate other possible funds, like the MNREGA funds, Gram Panchayat funds along with the State Disaster Relief fund to provide monetary relief more efficiently and liberally.
“One has to intelligently place all these things in order to properly take care of the public,” he said.
There have also been cases where some houses damaged under category C have reportedly been given the compensation for category A and vice-versa.
“Around 1080 houses have been left out in our taluka because there are problems with their Aadhar cards, ration cards and Record of Rights, Tenancy and Crops (RTC) documents and all these entries are done under Rajiv Gandhi Rural Housing Corporation Limited (RGRHCL) scheme,” Dr. Hugar said.
He added that it requires three documents, an RTC certificate, aadhar card, and a ration card for a person to receive monetary compensation and wherever there is a problem with any of the three, those houses are left out.
Hema Swaminathan, Professor at the Centre for Public Policy, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore said, “People not getting benefits because of lack of ownership documents or other documents is a serious issue we need to pay attention to. You cannot penalize people for not having proper documents.”
She said that she sees no reason why any problem with one document should create trouble in receiving the monetary compensation. If there is a problem with the aadhar card, there is the ration card, bank documents, and vice-versa, she added.
“You want to make sure that the right household is identified and as long as they have a bank account, which most households now do, under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan program, why insist on the aadhar card?,” Swaminathan said.
The compensation is only given to beneficiaries whose houses were destroyed due to the heavy rainfall between August 2019 to October 2019, according to Dr. Hugar.
He said, “We cannot cover houses that were damaged before August 2019 in this scheme and they will be covered under the regular housing scheme.”
Those who have not been covered under this scheme due to problems with their house ownership documents (because there are multiple beneficiaries of the same house) are asked to submit an agreement letter declaring who the sole owner of the house is, so the money can be transferred under that name.
“There is no cooperation between the brothers in the same family to declare one sole owner in order to avail the compensation. We can’t help them then,” Dr. Hugar said.
Swaminathan said, “If there is a problem in identifying whether these are true beneficiaries, or under which beneficiary’s name should the money be transferred to, it can easily be done with help from Gram Panchayat for community-level identification.” Panchayat would easily be able to identify and help households in declaring a sole beneficiary, if necessary, she said.
With the issue of multiple beneficiaries of the same house, a one-shot solution cannot be derived for the problem, Joint Adviser Mishra said. The local administration should come up with a solution to this problem because this is a very genuine problem and it’s the story of every other rural household, Mishra added.
He said, “As I understand, everyone today has an aadhar card which has the complete definition of the kith and kin of a person, so one way to do it is to make it an adhaar card-based distribution where there would be one address which would appear for all family members living in the same house.”