Year after floods, same status: Homeless and landless


On August 13, 2018, after it laid to waste Cheruthoni town, it was Thadiyampadu that the possessed Cheruthoni river targeted. It shot through all the 15 houses along its left bank. Those that it did not fully destroy, it smothered with sand and waste. The rampaging waters also destroyed the farmlands in front of the houses rich with cocoa, banana, tapioca, and coconut.

Year after floods, same status: Homeless and landless
Subair whose house was destroyed by floods and landslides last year.

Subair's house was completely destroyed in the floods. First the Cheruthoni barged through it and then, a day later, a landslide from the back flattened it. Only rubble and the broken remains of some of their furniture were left.

Last year Onmanorama team saw Subair and his wife Suhada, who were then living in the corner of a church in Vazhathope nearby, walking over the ruins of the house they had lived for the past 47 years. They were there for no particular reason. "Sometimes we come here and walk around," Suhada had told us then.

This time when Onmanorama team reached Thadiyampadu, Subair's plot was deserted, it was overgrown with weeds. We were told that Subair and wife were living in a room in a relative's house near Murikkassery, some seven kilometres away. His house was fully destroyed but he had not received any aid from the government.

Year after floods, same status: Homeless and landless
Subair and Suhada standing over the ruins of their house in Thadiyambadu, Idukki. The picture was taken in September 2018. File photo

We were told that Subair was promised new land and house by the Muslim League and so he did not opt for government assistance. "The house construction had begun but the party gave him just Rs 2 lakh. The contractors then abandoned the work," a neighbour said.

We met Subair at Murikkassery. He said an individual had now offered him land. "She has also promised to construct us a small house on the plot. But for this, she told us to construct a boundary wall. This will cost anywhere between Rs 1-1.5 lakh. We are doing all that we can to find the money," he said.

Subair has now shut his small shop in Thadiyampadu town that sold Ayurveda products.

"Business is dull. People have stopped coming to my shop," he said. Instead, he has begun work as a marriage broker. "I used to do this occasionally before. Now I am full time into this," he said.

The video was shot in September 2018.

Whenever, he gets time he also works as daily wager in a plant nursery at Murikkassery.

Suhada, who had never stepped out to work before, now goes out for MGNREGA work. We could not meet her as she was with her daughter who had delivered a baby recently.

Back in Thadiyampadu, auto-driver Saju's house is an oddity. The house, right in front of Subair's plot, is the only painted and neat house in the area. Saju lives there with his wife and four kids, the last one just two-and-a-half years.

Last time when we were there the one-storey house was choked right up to the chimney with the sand that Cheruthoni had deposited. "They wanted us to move out of the camp quickly but how can we bring these four kids here. So we rented a small house at Mulakuvally and then began cleaning this house," Saju said. It took three months and Rs 4.5 lakh to tidy up the house and strengthen its cracked roof.

The video was shot in September 2018.

He sold an old all-terrain vehicle, which he had used as a goods carrier, to finance the recovery. Saju is a local hero of sorts. It is said that back in 1985, a school bus had slipped down a gorge nearby. Saju was in his ninth standard then.

Locals say that on hearing that school students were trapped on the hill side, the 14-year-old Saju jumped into his father's jeep, drove up to the accident site and took the injured to the nearby hospital.

When we told him this, he just smiled. Now, this man who is known to have saved many lives with his driving skills, has just his autorickshaw to fall back on. "It is with this autorickshaw that I had constructed this house, bought my vehicle that I had now sold, and sent my kids to school. Now, I am saddled with debt and have only the autorickshaw to depend on," Saju said.

Year after floods, same status: Homeless and landless
A house in Thadiyambadu destroyed by the floods.

But the post-flood gloom has hit him also hard. "I don't get much work now. Many shops have shut down and no one these days opts for an autorickshaw ride. Like us, no one seems to have any money with them," Saju said.

Read the story of Bose, who lost his dream home in landslide, tomorrow