The tremors haven’t stopped. So the fear of the next big one lurks around even street corner, and weighs heavily on every conversation about what happened on this day 25 years ago in Killari, a village in Maharashtra’s Latur district. Killari was at the epicenter of the 6.4-magnitude earthquake that snuffed nearly 10,000 lives in scores of villages across Latur and Osmanabad.
As many as 3,500 people died in Killari. For sole survivors like Chhaya Khajure, who lost her husband, four children and as many other family members, and now lives in the rehabilitated Killari village, life is a struggle. “Hichya mage tar konich urale nahi, ashich jagat aahe bichari. (Nobody was left behind from her family. The poor woman is living with the grief),” her neighbour says. “I don’t find any reason to live. Yet, I am, because committing suicide is a sin,” she says.
Before the earthquake, Killari, a village of 10,000 people, was a huge grain market. This unique identity has slipped away. Bapurao Birajdar, a grain supplier, says, “It (the earthquake) took away the livelihood of the farming community. Poor monsoons and lack of basic facilities have arrested the progress of our village.”
Killari has seen little progress over the past 25 years. Civic works of a public water scheme, laying of drainage lines and construction of roads await government approval.
The region has experienced 87 minor quakes since 1999. Sudhir Harhare, assistant meteorologist with the IMD’s earthquake observatory in Latur, says, “Precautions are necessary because of the seismic activity in the region and earthquakes are highly unpredictable.” But agencies mapping the tremors and the district administration authorities say they are more ready for emergencies than they were in 1993.
The assistant professor of history at Savitribai Phule Pune University Babasaheb, Dudhbhate, remembers the early hours of September 30, 1993, every time he hears about an earthquake. “For 40 seconds, the vibrations shook the walls and roof of our house in Hasalgaon. Then, there was a loud roar. Stone houses collapsed all around me and screams rent the air. I ran to an open area and was saved. Many died,” he said, adding he could never get over the trauma.
Back then, the human response to the devastation was among the few pluses. The rehabilitation after the huge rescue effort with several nations pitching in went on for three to four years, but later, the quake and its victims began to slip away from collective memory.
Weak monsoons have affected farming and basic needs like water, roads and the promised economic development are nowhere near visible in many of the affected villages.
Funds amounting to Rs 9.91 crore for the revival of public water scheme from CM’s Relief Fund, another Rs 14.79 crore for construction or repair of roads and drainage system and a tranche of Rs 71.52 lakh for extension of public water scheme for Sarwadi village are awaiting approvals. A Rs 200-crore proposal for concrete roads and drainage lines in Nilanga taluka is also pending.
In some villages, restricted ownership of the houses allotted under rehabilitation have stalled property transactions since the state is the owner. As many as 289 homes allotted under eighth and ninth rounds of rehabilitation in Killari village don’t even allow restricted ownership of the houses.
Jyotiram Ghayal, a 74-year old resident of Killari, counted eight deaths in his family, including his father, four daughters and a son. “The vacuum in our lives will end with our deaths. We often wonder who was more cruel to us — nature or destiny,” he says.
Septuagenarian Vishwanath Dalal from Sastur village in Osmanabad lost 18 family members. Hundreds of survivors were left permanently disabled. Still, a new sense of confidence made some orphans pick themselves up. Sajid Pathan’s parents and three siblings died at Limbala-Dau village in Latur district. He was nine then. “I went to an orphanage at Latur and completed my education and went on to work,” he said. Sajid is a journalist.
The calamity made the people of Latur equal sufferers. The state government has now planned public gardens in each earthquake-affected village in their memory. CM Devendra Fadnavis, along with NCP president Sharad Pawar, and senior Congress leader Shivraj Patil-Chakurkar will inaugurate the water conservation works in Latur and visit some of the quake-hit villages on Sunday.