Uttarakhand Disasters: 'I want my children to become doctors or engineers'

KedarnathDhanita Arya with daughter Sonakshi, born after her husband’s death. (IE photo)

For six months, Dhanita Arya would not get to hear her husband Sunil's voice as he would leave their village Sirvani in Deoli-Bhaligram gram panchayat, and set out for Kedarnath with his mules. He would ferry the pilgrims around the temple town and return home with an average earning of Rs 2.5 lakh. This year, Sunil had promised her that she would be able to hear his voice every day during the six-month yatra. He had gifted her a mobile phone before he left for Kedarnath in April. He would call Dhanita at the end of the day and tell her what he had earned, what he had eaten, whom he had ferried. But on June 16, Sunil didn't call. Dhanita called him several times but there was no response. For four days, Dhanita waited. Then on June 20, her brother-in-law Shankar, who had accompanied Sunil, returned and told her that her husband had been washed away by the floods.

A 23-year-old Dalit, Dhanita is the youngest among the 35 women of Deoli Bhaligram who were widowed by the Uttarakhand floods and landslides this year that left 5,000 people dead.

Three months after Sunil went missing —his body was never recovered — Dhanita delivered their third child. Now Dhanita's life revolves around planning for the future of her children — four-year-old Ruchita, three-year-old Sudhanshu and the three-month-old Sonakshi. "My children are my only inspiration to live," she says. She also takes care of her 65-year-old mother-in-law Shyama Devi.

Dhanita received compensation of Rs 5 lakh from the state government, and another Rs 1 lakh for two of her husband's four mules. He did not have a licence for the other two mules he had purchased for Rs 1.1 lakh on credit. He had also borrowed Rs 40,000 from a trader for purchasing ration during the non-yatra season. Dhanita decided to repay Sunil's debts first before planning her own purchases. "I wanted to bear all of my husband's responsibilities," she says.

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