Come the winter months, and the woes of the Terai amplify. Scores of poor people succumb to the cold wave annually for lack of basic amenities – warm clothes, a fire and medical care. The month of January appears to be the cruelest as it takes the life of Terai residents on a daily basis. In Rauthat, nine persons have died in the last nine days. The deceased are from the Dalit community, a socially and economically deprived class. It is not only the children, old and sick people, even agile youths are struck down by the chilling cold.
Tuesday morning, two people froze to death in Birgunj. It was a strange casualty. Manju Mandal, 40, heard his father’s sister, Inarmatiya Devi, had died of the cold spell, so he rushed to her residence on a bicycle. But on the way, he too felt the cold and stopped at Bhawanipur village to warm himself up next to a fire. He then started pedalling to get to his relative’s house. But he suddenly fell on the ground owing to the cold and passed away before having a glimpse of his dead relative.
It is obvious that the people are ill-prepared to fight the killing chill. Most of the time, the Terai burns with the heat of the fiery sun. It faces severe cold for around two-and-a-half months, and the people find it difficult to protect themselves from it. Since the cold spell claims the lives of many people annually, why does the government not devise a contingency plan to save them? Why are the local political parties indifferent to the routine tragedy?
I wonder why the Madhes-based parties are not coming forth to support the victims. Some Madhes-based parties have become strong from the movements and electoral win. They have also the necessary resources.
When Sitaram Kattel, a popular comedian, brings cheers to many poor Terai lots, why don’t the Madhesi parties follow suit? Sitaram, who is popularly known as Dhurmus, recently distributed blankets to the Musahar, Dom, Mestar and Chamar – all from the Dalit community- in Janakpur. He reached there with warm clothes after coming to know that the cold had thrown their life out of gear. He also distributed blankets to the children at a local orphanage. During the rainy season, when the floods inundated many Terai villages, he appears as a Good Samaritan and provides relief materials to the flood victims.
In yet another philanthropic deed, the Nepal Army personnel served the cold victims with hot tea free of cost in Janakpur. The NA soldiers offered tea and firewood to the Dalit people. This is a good idea to fight the freezing cold.
On the eve of their second round of agitation a few years back, the Madhesi parties had announced that they would provide Rs 5 million to a family of a person who had been killed in the protest. They also announced to grant the same amount to the families of the martyrs in their poll manifesto. This bizarre announcement met strong opposition from different quarters. Now one can question their ‘dirty politics’ as they show a height of apathy towards the Madhesi people, who are dying of cold-induced diseases. Instead of making illegal promises to the innocent guys, they should have launched a relief operation to save the needy people left out in the cold.