Dovan Bazaar fire victims worried about resettlementA total of 324 people of 63 families have been rendered homeless after a fire destroyed 50 houses at Dovan Bazaar in Taplejung last week.
While Province 1 Chief Minister Sherdhan Rai, who arrived at Taplejung’s Dovan Bazaar in a chopper, was distributing relief to the fire victims on Saturday, Futi Sherpa was breaking into tears looking at the remnants of her fire-ravaged house. Her husband Darinji Sherpa was in the programme venue to receive relief. The 53-year-old woman has been restless thinking about their rehabilitation and uncertain future.
“We took shelter on the banks of the Tamor stream on the day the fire destroyed our settlement. We are now staying in a cowshed near our fire-destroyed house. All of our properties were destroyed in the fire. How can we rebuild our house now?” said Futi. According to her, properties worth around Rs 2 million, including Rs 250,000 cash, were destroyed when her house caught fire.
The Sherpa couple used to run a hotel in a three-storey house they built a few years ago on leased land.
“The landlord might not lease us the land anymore. But even if he does, we don’t have the means to rebuild our house,” she said. “My husband received a tent and other relief materials, but we don’t have land of our own to pitch the tent.”
A massive fire that broke out at Dovan Bazaar in Meringden Rural Municipality-3, Taplejung, had burned down 50 houses on March 2, destroying properties worth millions of rupees and displacing around 63 families. It took three days for the local unit to assess the damage caused by the fire. Meringden Rural Municipality formed an 11-member team led by chief administrative officer Dambar Bahadur Aangdembe to investigate the incident.
“A total of 50 houses were destroyed in the inferno. But the land belongs to eight persons only. Most people had rented the land and built their houses. We also found some middlemen who took the land on rent, built houses and rented the buildings out,” said Aangdembe. “It is difficult to reconstruct the fire-ravaged houses without the consent of the landowners.”
Ganesh Bahadur Limbu, the chairman of the local unit, argued that an agreement should be reached first to rebuild the structures.
A total of 324 people of 63 families have been rendered homeless in the incident. All of them had shops selling food grains, clothes, hardware and jewellery. The fire victims say they can’t leave the place and move elsewhere, as they have their business there.
“It is a rural market. Many villagers have taken goods from our shops on credit,” said Guru Prasad Paudel who lost his shop in the fire. “We have investment here. So we can not leave the area immediately.”
Taranath Ghimire, the chairman of Taplejung Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the business community is planning to hold a discussion with the traders and landowners soon.
“The landowners should either sell the land or rent out the land for certain years or build houses themselves and rent the buildings to the traders,” said Ghimire.
As per the damage assessed by the rural municipality, properties worth around Rs 400.5 millon, including Rs 16 million cash, were destroyed in the fire.
There are 87 houses in Dovan Bazaar, a local market place. The incident site is about 17 km west of Phungling, the district headquarters of Taplejung.