This is what it’s like to be homeless every monsoonRadha Devi Mukhiya and her family move out of their home and spend months living under tents every year during monsoon
Every year, Radha Devi Mukhiya watches patiently as the monsoon arrives. She knows what is going to happen next, but there is little she can do about it. As the rains come down, the waters in the nearby Saptakoshi rise, breaching the banks and flooding the village of Hanuman Nagar Kakalini in Saptari.
Mukhiya collects her belongings and moves to the nearby embankment, where she lives under a tent for two to three months, waiting for the floodwaters to recede, surviving on relief material handed out by the government and various charities. This has been Mukhiya’s routine for over three decades now.
“My family goes through this every year. I was married into this family when I was 16 and I remember my grandfather-in-law telling us about how the floodwaters would enter the village,” said 50-year-old Mukhiya. “Then, it was my father-in-law’s turn to live like this. Now it’s mine.”
This year, as continuous rainfall led to flooding across the country, Radha Devi has been trapped in her village since Saturday. Knee-deep water had entered the village, drowning her possessions under a foot of the Saptakoshi. In her one-storey thatched roof home, there were few belongings she could salvage.
Mukhiya is helpless against the yearly phenomenon. She is too poor to build a proper elevated home and she cannot afford to move out of her village. After her husband died, her family, consisting of her son, daughter-in-law and grandson, have been subsisting as daily wage labourers, with few savings.
“We work all year round in the fields and store food grains in our house, but every rainy season, the floodwaters take away everything,” said Mukhiya.
Things have only gotten worse in recent years, said Mukhiya. The village, which is around two kilometres from the river, now floods more than before. Mukhiya blames a pilot channel constructed by India that changed the course of the river. The river now flows towards the west, flooding villages, like Hanuman Nagar Kankalini, on the western banks.
There are no options but to move the entire settlement, said Shailesh Sah, mayor of Hanuman Nagar Kankalini municipality.
“The only way to save these settlements is to move them to safer locations, but the municipality does not have the money to buy land and build new houses,” he said.
Data from the municipality shows that around 70 percent of flood victims are from impoverished backgrounds, primarily Musahars, Chamars and Malahas, who are unable to afford to migrate to safer areas in the district by themselves.
“We are planning to provide Rs 200,000 each to families so that they can move to safer areas,” said Sah.
But for Mukhiya, the money might bring immediate relief, but it will not guarantee a long-term solution.
“The ward chairperson tells us that the municipality will give us some money. I don’t know if that is true, but even if it is, the amount he has mentioned is not going to be enough for us to be able to move out, buy land and build a house elsewhere,” she said.
Lacking any real options, Mukhiya has grown accustomed to her yearly displacement, where she expects the monsoon to flood her home and push her to living in a temporary settlement for months.
“I’m afraid this sorrow is not going to end with us,” said Mukhiya, turning to her daughter-in-law, sitting nearby with a year-old child in her arms. “My grandchildren have already started living the nightmare now.”
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