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Archive for January, 2010

Asgholi village lost highest number of fishermen in the entire Phyan ravaged Konkan district. Six men from the village died while they were out in the sea fending for their families. The fisherfolk say that though the government was aware about the Phyan warning, it was not communicated to them.

“Normally when a storm is expected, we are informed either by customs or fisheries department. But this time we did not get any warning from the authorities,” said Shankar Katnak, chairman of Machchimar Sanghatan in Asgholi.

Sarpanch Sridhar Natekar explained that the fishermen left the village on November 11 like any other day, not anticipating any trouble. While six never returned, 17 somehow managed to swim back. “Had we received any warning, we would have stepped out at all that day. So many people wouldn’t have died and we would have had our boats too today,” said Vishnu Palshetkar, a fisherman who is now bedridden after he hurt his back in the storm.

When officials from fisheries department and customs were confronted, both of whom have offices at stone’s throws distance from Asgholi, the officials refused to comment. “We did have the warning but due to some communication error failed to communicate it,” admitted a fisheries official.

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Heroes of Asgholi

Cousins Ritesh Lakde (14) and Nikesh Lakde (17) have been declared heroes of Guhaghar Taluka by the locals. The duo saved a fisherman who had severely hurt his right hand and brought him to safety after Phyan struck the region on Novemeber 11, 2009. Both the cousins are too shy and humble to speak about their experience that day.  

“They had gone fishing like any other day early in the morning. There four of them in the boat, on which they are all employed. When the boat capsized, one of them, Padwal Waghivre, went down with it, while three of them somehow managed to swim out from under the boat,” said Vimal Lakde, Nikesh’s mother. While Nikesh and Ritesh were fit to swim, their companion Santosh Jhakkar had broken his right hand while trying to swim out from the capsized boat.

 “Santosh kept saying that he would die soon as he was unable to swim with one hand. Moreover, it was too windy for us to be able to see the shore,” said Nikesh. The two boys held Santosh by his arms and kept swimming in rough waters. For the next eight hours the boys held onto Santosh who was in lot of pain. At around 3.30 pm on November 11 the trio swam to safety.

The two boys have termed heroes by the locals. “Had it not been for them, Santosh would have died. At such a tender age they have displayed a lot of courage and valour,” said Yaswant Waijivaingankar, member of the panchayat samiti in Asgholi.

 Santosh, who is recuperating at his native village Katali Navanagar, located 100 kms away, said that he had given up that day. “I knew my hand was useless and that I would not survive even 10 minutes in the wild sea. But the two boys just held on to me and gave me hope all through,” he said.

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Orphaned by Phyan

Yogesh Sadhwani

Sunaina Dophavkar (17) eyes are completely expressionless. Her tears have dried up and she seems completely at loss of words to explain her grief. The fifth standard pass has no clue what is to happen of her and her five siblings who have just been orphaned.

The Dophavkar family residing at Asgholi village in Guhaghar Taluka are talk of the entire district. Once an eight member family is now reduced to six, with the eldest living member being 17 years old. The lady of the house died a year ago due to cancer, while head of the family Bharat Ganu Dhopavkar died due to Phyan while he was fishing to fend his family. The six kids – Sunaina, Samiksha (16), Suraksha (12), Suchit (10), Sushmita (7) and Sadiksha (3) – are now orphaned and completely clueless about their future.

“My son left on November 11 morning. By 8 am some fishermen came back and told us that boat in which he was had overturned and he had gone down with it. The next day we found his body near Ranvi village located a little away from here,” explains Vijaya Dhopavkar, the kid’s grandmother. Their old grandmother is all the kids are left with now.

 Neighbours explain that after their mother died, the kids somehow managed to stay afloat and pieced their life together. “They were very close to their father. Bharat would do almost anything for them. In fact he always wanted all his kids to go to school but because all but one refused to go, he did not push them,” said a neighbour. Except for seven year old Sushmita, none of the kids go to school. Sumit did go to school a couple of years ago but dropped out and now refuses to go anywhere near the school building.

“Had we been educated, life would not have been as tough. But in our village though there is a school till seventh grade, education is not a priority with most kids,” regrets Sunaina. She adds that government has given them a large chunk of the Rs 3 lakh compensation package and many others have helped them financially. “What is the point of getting the money when we have no clue as to what to do with it. We girls cannot go on a boat and Suchit is too young to go fishing. Most importantly, we do not have anybody we can look up to anymore,” said a sobbing Sunaina, while three year old Sadiksha stares at her eldest sister with a puzzled look. 

Their grandmother says that some people have come forward to adopt the kids but she is no mood to give them away.

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