A man comes out of his damaged house to collect water in Berhampur. Picture by Gopal Krishna Reddy
Bhubaneswar, Oct. 22: Rebuilding his house that was damaged by cyclone Phailin has become a challenge for Natabar Behera, 54, of Chhatrapur in Ganjam district. He is neither getting the skilled man-power nor the construction material required for the purpose.
After the cyclone hit the area, most the labourers moved out looking for greener pastures. Those who are still around are making unreasonable demands.
The same problem has been encountered by cyclone victims in other parts of the state, particularly in the coastal areas such as Balasore and Puri.
Ganeswar Mishra, who is in the construction business in Jajpur said they were facing a dearth of masons and labourers.
“The masons who were earlier charging Rs 350 a day, are now demanding Rs 450. The situation will aggravate more in the coming days when the reconstruction of damaged houses will start on a large scale.”
A construction labourer usually charges Rs 250 a day. It has now climbed to Rs 320 a day. “Availability of construction workers has gone down with many of them leaving in search of jobs. Those who are around are busy rebuilding their own shelters which were destroyed by the cyclone Phailin and the subsequent flood,” said Nanda Samal, a labour contractor.
The labour wage problem is more acute in the Phailin-ravaged Ganjam district. “Masons are now charging between Rs 450 and Rs 500 a day. While unskilled male labourers are demanding Rs 350 a day, their female counterparts want Rs 300. This problems will aggravate here in the coming days,” said Pradipta Kishore Das, a contractor from Tulasinagar in Berhampur city.
The people are also facing another problem — the scarcity of raw materials such as bricks, sand and bamboo in the wake of the flood.
Hatin Murmu, a brick-kiln owner in Balasore district, said kilns have been damaged by the flood water. “There is not a single kiln that escaped the floodwater. Now, the drenched kilns will not catch fire. The bricks that were under process inside have been totally damaged,” he said.
“Apart from bricks under process inside the kiln, processed ones have also been damaged,” said Murmu.
Sand has also become scarce following the flood.
“The transport vehicles cannot go to the river bed to fetch sand due to bad roads. Besides, since the bed is wet, sand lifting cannot be done,” said Kanhu Pradhan, a sand supplier.
“Earlier, one tractor load of sand was normally sold at Rs 800. The cost will double now. Also, bricks, which were selling for Rs 4,000 per thousand pieces, will cost more. However, availability is a bigger concern than price now” said Satyaprakash Mohapatra, a supplier of Jajpur.
While the cost of bamboo has gone up to Rs 350 per piece, the cost of a ballha (wooden pole) has touched Rs 450 per piece.
“To construct even a thatched house is a difficult task by purchasing the materials at a higher cost. Besides, the rising labour cost is also another issue,” said Ramchandra Behera, a villager.
It would be more acute as government officials said construction activities were likely to go up in the state as the reconstruction of more than five lakh houses would be taken up in the areas affected by Phailin and the flood in the coming days.
Special relief commissioner P.K. Mohapatra said according to the preliminary assessment, more than 5.41 lakh houses had been damaged by the twin calamities. “The number is expected to go up as the final assessment is being done,” he said.
Once the final assessment is over, house building assistance will be disbursed to the beneficiaries, said Mohapatra.
Additional reporting by Sunil Patnaik in Berhampur, Sibdas Kundu in Balasore and Amulya Pati in Jajpur