Every winter, the poor in Tarai are left to battle the cold aloneAlthough the authorities provide help, it comes too little too late, say locals.
A Musahhar settlement in Pratappur in the plains is comprised of a hastily put together shanty village. Around 50 families live in the settlement, who, come winter, are seen scrambling for warm clothes, blankets, and food.
“We have neither warm clothes to wear nor blankets to beat the biting cold. I have a family of six and my income as a daily wage worker is not enough to buy us warmth for winter,” said Bamati Musahar.
Almost all the adults in the settlement eke out their living as labourers.
The past one week has seen dense fog enveloping the settlement in the morning and the bleak afternoon sun provides little relief. Come nightfall, the families huddle around a fire to keep themselves warm.
“The weather is turning colder by the day. We face the same ordeal every winter; that of not enough clothes and shelter,” said Bamati.
The local units and various organisations run a distribution drive every winter but it starts only in the last week of December and sometimes in January. “It’s already cold but the distribution materials are yet to come,” laments Bamati.
The data of the District Natural Disaster Rescue Committee showed that there are more than 3,000 Musahar, Dalit and other impoverished families living in Nawalparasi (West). Many impoverished households are going to face a difficult time this winter.
Raj Kumar Sharma, chairman of Pratappur Rural Municipality, however, said the local body has allocated budget to provide warm clothes and blankets for the needy people from poor communities. He, however, did not specify the budget that had been issued for the same.
Chief District Officer Shambhu Prasad Marasini directed the chief of the local units, head of the government offices, representatives of the political parties, chamber of commerce and industry and various social organisations regarding the preparedness for the cold wave. “We have held discussions over the management of relief materials and preparedness strategies recently,” said Marasini.
The cold wave affects normal life mainly in Tarai districts every winter and the authorities are criticised for their poor preparedness every year. Ramji Gyawali, a rights activist working on social justice in the district, said that the authorities should take initiatives to protect the poor communities, old people, postpartum mothers and children from the cold conditions on time.
“Every year, the concerned authorities take initiatives to help needy people after the end of winter. If the victims do not receive relief on time, such programmes become meaningless,” Gyawali said. According to him, the people’s representatives should take prompt measures to distribute warm clothes and bedding before the cold sets in in earnest.