The region of Tharparkar is spread over 22,000 square kilometres, and has a population of about 1.5 million, residing in 2,300 villages and urban settlements. The area is divided into six talukas – Mithi, Islamkot, Chhachhro, Dihly, Diplo and Nangarparkar – the area receives rainfall in varying degrees and sometimes, none at all.
2014 happened to be an unfortunate year for the people of Tharparkar as this year, the area didn't receive rainfall and this resulted in the onslaught of drought. The scattered, uneven rainfall affected thousands of people and their families as major source of income in these areas, apart from live stock, is farming. The famine had devastating effects on the population and tens of thousands of people became a victim, including innocent children. Driven by desperation, people had to leave their homes in order to look for a place where water was available. Starved children, shortage of water and sick cattle were seen everywhere. Pakistan Army coloured this bleak, dark and gloomy picture by extending their help.
One of these inopportune, yet lucky, families was a Hindu family of Khaita Ram, living in the outskirts of Mithi, in a small dwelling area usually called Goth. The family consists of 12 people, who live in a kacha hut, which is locally known as Jhuggi or Ghopa. “If it was not for Pakistan Army, we would have lost all hope”, said Khaita Ram, the head of the family who was very grateful for the aid that Pakistan Army provided. Ram lives with his wife Gayeti, three daughters; Leela, Saavi, Mukhi and his son Rahul. Rahul's wife Aasha and their kids Nirmal, Komal, Neha, Makhul and Sunny, also live with Kahita Ram. Although Khaita Ram and Rahul get minimal jobs as sanitary workers or crop-harvesters – but they are not enough to feed 12 people in their home. Their major source of income, like other people in Tharparkar, is live-stock but due to the fact that they are poor, they only have a flock of 20 goats. Moreover, because of the drought, even animals got sick, were malnourished and were suffering from several ailments. The family was in dire need of help and their prayers were answered in the form of Pakistan Army's helicopters bringing relief goods. Rahul, Khaita Ram's son, was ecstatic to receive the relief goods and said, “If the soldiers were not here with these goods, I would have lost something very important: my family.” During the relief operations by Pak Army, Khaita Ram's family has been provided with sufficient quantity of flour, rice, ghee and lentils, which are good enough to last a season. They've also been provided with clean drinking bottled water.
Pakistan Army has set up their relief camps at Mithi‚ Chhachhro‚ Nangarparker‚ Islamkot and Diplo to lend a hand to the families in this hour of need. Family of Kahita Ram is not the only one that been helped by the troops of Army. There are hundreds of them who have been provided help at their door steps by soldiers. There has not been any discrimination whatsoever and everyone has been fully helped and assisted. In its relief operation, Pakistan Army has, so far, dished out approximately 110 tons of food supplies to the famished Tharparkar families. Relief camps, food/water supply, provision of basic necessities, medical facilities and what not… The Army did more than it could to lessen the problems of drought-stricken families. Doctors and healthcare specialists from Army Medical Corps have established field hospitals and are aiding people round the clock. Checkups, medicines, consultations; the doctors are doing their best to support the affected people. These medical camps, have provided medical assistance to around 3500 patients in that area during the past few weeks.
Khaita Ram, with tears in his eyes, told an official “I thought I would lose my family; hunger, thirst and sickness would envelope us, but these soldiers saved us…I am grateful for their help”. It is a common misconception that Hindus or other minorities are not considered important in our country but the kind behaviour of Pakistan Army towards Khaita Ram's family has set an example that we all are linked together through the bond of humanity. Race, religion, colour, caste, creed doesn't matter; what matter the most is that they are humans and are in a bad condition. Helping them doesn't give anybody a higher status; it gives a sense of relief and satisfaction. Not only to the soldiers, but to the countrymen, also; they are content that innocent children are safe, they have food, water and clothing and are not going to die. Being tied together by the notion of humanity is like making an unbreakable vow where you have to reach out and help those who are in need. Our religion focuses on this aspect as well. The soldiers of Pakistan Army did what they are taught to do. Pakistan Army trains its men to serve and defend each Pakistani without any discrimination.
The writer is on the faculty of Foundation University, Rawalpindi. [email protected]
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