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Bamyan’s cave-dwellers don’t have access to basic necessities of life

Bamyan’s cave-dwellers don’t have access to basic necessities of life

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Dec 13, 2016 - 13:50

BAMYAN CITY (Pajhwok): Thousands of cave-dwellers near the Taliban-dynamited Buddha statues in central Bamyan province are suffering from poverty, healthinfo-icon issues and deadly animals such as snicks, scorpions threatens their lives as well.

Around 3,000 caves are dotted around the famous Buddha statues, inhabited by 250 families from Bamyan and other provinces. Caught up in grinding poverty, the people living here do not have other shelters.

The troglodytes have to struggle to keep their bodies and souls together. Their children and family members have to be content with eating breadcrumbs and unhygienic leftover food collected from restaurant rubbish.

Some of the caves at the base of the statues were used by the Talibaninfo-icon for storing weapons. Later on, destitute civilians used the rock structures as their abodes. For nearly, three centuries, the Buddhists lived in the caves.

Looking the excruciating living conditions, one could not escape the feeling that the hapless individuals are stuck in a time warp, isolated from the modern-day world. To them, hand-to-mouth living is more than a luxury.

Braving subzero winter temperatures and other day-to-day privations, the cave residents do not have blankets -- much less other home appliances. Starvation, illiteracy and backwardness appear to be their destiny.

Marzia, a woman living in the cave in Pitab Laghman area of the city, said they lived in bad health conditions and was feeling pain in bones had asthma problems and throat ache. She lived with her husband and eight children in the cave the wetness of which created several health issues for them.

Halema, a widow, who had been living in the Darakht locality of the city, said they were occupied by multiple problems, including the health issues. She said: “My husband came was a sleep and suddenly during the mid night he started shouting and we took him to the hospital but he lost his life before we could take him to the hospital.”

She said her husband  was fine on that night before going to sleep and suddenly started feeling unwell in the night. She said a scorpion was recovered from his clothes when people were washing his body that showed that the insect bitten him.

Hussain Dad Ahmadi, a Bamyan-based civil society leader, acknowledges the situation of cave dwellers is terrible. He wants the government to urgently alleviate their plight on a priority basis.

Unemployment is on the raise in the country, where educated and qualified individuals can hardly find jobs. Subsequently, the population of cave inhabitants is increasing. No one would like to live in a cave, he says.

Mohammad Hassan Asadi, a member of the provincial council, confirms thousands of Bamyan youth have migrated to European countries due to growing unemployment and poverty.

The government’s inability to generate jobs, negligence of the agriculture sector, lack of long-term development projects and insufficient foreign investment are the main reasons behind poverty and migration of youth.

He views life in caves as a last resort or those who are bereft of shelters. Most residents come to the Bamyan City in quest of work, but they return disappointed, the public representative comments.

Mohammad Alim, a father of two sons and a daughter, has built a wood-and-metal door to his subterranean residence. There is an old carpet and some blackened utensils inside his home of sorts.

“I pin no hopes on assistance from a government that itself is reliant on international assistance,” he says stoically. If the government really wants to help them, it should build houses and provide jobs for cave people.

Governor Spokesman Abdul Rahman Ahmadi said over 50 percent Bamyanis lived under the poverty line including the cave-dwellers who had been suffering from poverty and other problems.

He claimed the government provided help to the people living in caves. In 2004 as many as 120 families were provided with shelters and this year 20 families were provided with shelters, he added.

He said the local government tried to coordinate distribution of assistance so that deserving families could get the assistance.

Ahmadi verifies most of these people area jobless. The provincial authorities, having provided the housing facilities for 21 households because, cannot do more than that, the spokesman maintains.

Mohammad Afzal, a resident of Bamyan City, blames the government for failing to create employment opportunities. He said only the well-connected and qualified people could get jobs.

The man alleges the poor, who stand no chance of finding work, are forced at times to sell their belongings to arrange money to feed their families.

Labour and Social Affairs Director Rahmatullah Alawi says only 208 people from Bamyan were employed in provincial government offices this year. He has no statistics on private-sector appointments.

Alawi adds more than 80 people apply for a single vacancy in Bamyan, showing 80 percent of educated people are jobless in the province. The government has no funds to create jobs. Only 20 women living in caves have been selected for tailoring courses.

Based on a survey conducted early this year by the Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission and the provincial government, 146 families are currently living in caves. But the number of cave people has since increased.

Many Bamyan statues are carved into the sides of cliffs facing the provincial capital -- home to the worldinfo-icon's oldest oil paintings. The city, with a population of 39,915, is known for its cave dwellings.

A hub of trade for much of the second millennium CE, it once served as the meeting ground between the East and West. Its remarkable archaeology is a blend of Greek, Turkish, Persian, Chinese and Indian influence.

The city was part of the Buddhist Kushan Empire in the early centuries of the Christian era. The area was conquered by the Ghaznavids in the 11th century. In 1221 the city and its population were completely wiped out by Genghis Khan.

Famous all over the world, the Buddha statues were blown up in March 2001 by the Taliban, who called them un-Islamic. At one point in time, 2,000 monks meditated in caves among the sandstone cliffs -- a huge tourist attraction.

nh/mud

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