Nothing is wrong with rain. It is the Pakistan Peoples Party’s criminal governance that has created an emergency.
In fact, the rain has exposed our poverty – material poverty, cultural poverty, even poverty to think and act.
Dr. Zaffar Junejo
Nothing is wrong with rain. It is the Pakistan Peoples Party’s criminal governance that has created an emergency. Let us forget big debates for a while, and allow me to reproduce some entries from my ‘Flood-Notebook, 2010.’ These are selected entries, which only talk about material possessions at household level. Regarding, flood 2022, I asked my friends to send me photos of 2022 rains. I compared the contents of my notebook (2010), and photos of 2022. I found nothing new – our material status was same, what I observed 11 years ago. Now let us go orderly, first read entries, then comments on photos.
Johi Bund: Our emergency team reported that a considerable number of families are still estranged in flood water. Considering the emergency, we started rescue operation. With a record time, fifty families were saved, and they were settled over the embankment (new bridge, Johi). I looked at the staff’s prepared list of rescued families’ valuable items. I was shocked to read. The most common items were: ‘some faded rilis, different sizes of cooking pots, pairs of used clothes, goats and wooden cots. Another observation states: ‘their homes consist of two to three rooms, the majority of houses are Katcha, made of mud-bricks. Some houses’ foundations were made of kiln bricks, and all houses were partially damaged.’
Jhalo/Dadu-Moro Bridge: Through media reports we learned that some villages near Dadu-Moro Bridge over Indus River are under water. We went there and rescued 14 families. We settled them in New Sabzi Mandi Camp. All of them were poor. As usual, I read the list of items. It mentioned: cooking pots, plates, faded clothes, rilis, tin-boxes, some copies of Holy Quran and three old copies of Noornamo.
Gozo/ K.N. Shah: Dadu office reported that around Gozo, some villages need dry ration. Immediately, we went there. I observed: ‘there was abject poverty, women were weak, their clothes were dirty, and almost half the population was ill. We convinced them to leave the place. But, they insisted to live in their environment. We handed them edible items. Meanwhile, I observed: people and animal live in a same place, women looked old; their ages were not matching with entries of National Identity Cards. I also noted that two families lived in to two room-houses. It means, around 16-20 family members of all ages were packed into two-rooms (The maximum size of each room was of 14 fee x 16 feet).
Amri: Sehwan office started operation in Amri area. I went there, along with senior staff. We inspected medical camp. Our next task was a survey of adjacent camp. We did it. The entry shows: ‘cooking pots, goats, some rilis, old clothes, cots, few cows, tin-boxes of various sizes and buffalos. It adds: ‘houses were Katcha. Almost all houses were cracked. The women were weak. The majority of them were mothers of 4 to 5 children. The young girls looked pale, and old women seemed bunches of bones.’
Presently, I am out of the field. Therefore, I asked my friends to send me photos of physical damages. In all photos, I saw: ‘faded rilis, tin-boxes, broken cots, some pairs of ladies’ dresses, non-plastered narrow houses.’ At a human level I witnessed: ‘middle aged women appeared like a frame of bare bones, pale young girls, and old ones were confused. I attempted to decipher their silences. I found: ‘they were bursting frame of suppressed anger, helplessness, and annoyance.’
I observed the same situation in 2010. Honestly, at that time I expected behavioral change, a minimum expectation. But I was wrong. At least my notebook entry also says so – it reads: ‘nature pushed rural people to think differently, ponder over the causes of their sufferings, and define new terms with political parties.’ Another entry states: ‘Kotri Camp leaders invited us to attend the function, they arranged in honor of their Sardar/MNA/MPA. I attended, and found that camp people were happy, they took all measures to make their Sardars/MNA/MPA happy. I was surprised, when they presented ‘cash-garlands’ to their Sardars/ representatives. The last line of same entry tells: ‘they were clever people. They have learned survival art- in absence they abuse Sardars, and in their presence praise them.’
I think present suffering will never change Sindhi people. They will continue with the same survival trick. Perhaps, I am pessimistic. Therefore, I think bleak. Okay, let them choose their destinations. But, I think, ‘why rural people suffer or volunteer to be suffered?’ It is a multi-disciplinary task. But my old notebooks gave some clues that people suffer due to: 1) The nature of human settlements, 2) limited livelihood options, 3) avoid questioning, 4) traditional marriage patterns, 5) unhealthy socio-political and cultural relationships, 6) live in past/ inactive mental-frame, 7) non-futuristic vision, 8) poetic and fluid demands, 9) no sense of urgency, 10) avoid confrontation.
I am not sure, but I think my observations are still relevant. And I doubt that situation would alter peoples’ attitude. They would act same what, the people of Kotri Camp did 11 years ago– abuse the power groups in their absence and sing, dance, and celebrate in their presence.
Let me hold that broader discussion for a while and be thankful to rain. I say so, because it exposed our poverty – material poverty, cultural poverty, even poverty to think and act. Allow me to insult your ego, and remind you that common handy property of rural Sindh is faded reels, old dresses, a few goats, broken cots and tin-boxes. It is a shameful state of our material wellbeing.
Zaffar Junejo is Research Scholar, Department of History, University of Malaya, Malaysia. Mr. Junejo apart from scholarly contribution also writes for popular media. He could be accessed at: Email email@example.com, Cell/WhatsApp +92 334 045 5333 Skype Zaffar.Junejo Facebook facebook.com/zaffar.junejo