NEW DELHI ~ Last month, during floods in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, the district administration pressed at least five rescue boats into operation. Ganesh Shinde, tehsildar of Chandrapur, was on one of them. The water level then was as high as the first floor of apartment buildings. When they neared one such window, Shinde peered inside to find a bunch of children and bewildered adults waving at them to head back. “They said we will come later,” Shinde says. It is still raining in the region and the administration continues to send rescue boats to the flooded villages. But people just don’t want to leave.
To combat the situation, tehsildars in the district have now started recharging the mobile phones of village pradhans so that they can contact the administration in case of emergencies. “We are recharging Tok and Gangapur villagers’ phones for Rs 100. They send us updates,” says Rajesh Sarwade, tehsildar of Pomburma, over the phone. “It is a strange situation for us.”
“We keep our phones with us all the time in case someone calls,” a district official says. “We are doing rounds, pleading with people to leave, but they look relaxed. I guess they are used to the floods.”
Villagers have their own parameter to judge the danger point. In Ballarpur tehsil, they have decided to move only if the water reaches a particular room of the primary school. In the apartment complex from where Shinde was turned away, the water level rose and the families had to move to the second floor. They still didn’t want to leave. They said they had food and asked the officials to recharge their phones.
Finally, when they realised the danger they were in, they called the officials. “By then, we couldn’t take the boat into the campus. So we had to figure out another treacherous way, where an official climbed a wall and rescued the families,” Shinde says.
In Tok, the administration brought people to a camp, but when the water receded, they went back despite being told to wait. “People are obstinate. We are also tense. What if it gets too late?” asks Sarwade.▪