Mehboob Ahmad Fani sold all jewelery and took a loan hoping that he and his family would finally shift into a house of their own, taking benefit of the Centre’s flagship housing scheme, but now the 10 members are living in a tin shanty as they battle the freezing cold everyday to survive.
In Bhaderwah town, which is the coldest place in Jammu region, Fani, 50, said he has been running from pillar to post for the past three years to get a dwelling under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) Urban but ”till date nothing has happened”.
Fani, who works as a daily-wage sweeper at the Bhaderwah Municipal Committee, is the sole bread-winner for his family, comprising his aged mother, wife and five children, besides two younger brothers.
”My repeated appeals evoked no response. Every day is a nightmare for me and my family as we are living in the constant fear of getting buried under snow or freezing to death,” he told PTI at his shanty in Chinar Mohalla locality, just one km away from the office of the Executive Officer of municipal committee.
The family is using a wooden ‘Bukhari’ (heater) to beat the bone-chilling cold and remains watchful at night to avoid any mishap. Bhaderwah is presently the coldest recorded place in Jammu region after the recent heavy snowfall. The night temperature dropped several degrees below the freezing point and was recorded at minus 2.1 the previous night.
”Unfortunately, I cannot afford to shift my family to a safer rented place. We were putting up in a rented room but after coming to know that all the poor are being provided financial assistance to build their own house, I sold whatever little we had, including the jewelery of my mother and wife, beside borrowing Rs 80,000 from bank, to buy a piece of land to build our own house,” Fani said. He said half of his monthly earnings go towards repaying the monthly loan installment.
His mother, Begum, said the recent heavy snowfall has added to the worries of the family.
”I fear one day we will get buried under snow or freeze to death. We put all our efforts in keeping the kids warm at night by staying up and lighting firewood,” she said, making a passionate appeal to the government to take note of their plight and help them build a house. Fani’s eldest daughter, Sania Bano (13), said the biggest happiness for the family is to see the rising sun.
”My father works very hard to take care of us. He clears snow from the roof of the shanty and repeatedly keeps assuring us there is nothing to worry about,” she said. When contacted, Bhadarwah Municipal Committee Executive Officer (EO) Yousaf-ul-Umar gave an assurance that Fani’s case would be taken up on priority. ”I was not aware of the gravity of the situation… Now that we know about the family’s plight, we will fast-track the process under the PMAY (Urban) and hopefully, by next week of this month, the family will get the first installment of BLC (Beneficiary-Led Construction),” he said.