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August 21, 2001 - August 21, 2001

Panel slams Gujarat quake rehabilitation efforts Tuesday, August 21, 2001

AHMEDABAD (Reuters) - Rehabilitation efforts since a devastating earthquake hit Gujarat have been "grossly inadequate and discriminatory", a panel of social activists and retired judges said on Monday.

More than 30,000 people were killed and thousands left homeless in the January 26 quake which measured 7.7 on the Richter scale.

"Rehabilitation measures and compensation disbursement remain grossly inadequate, leaving huge backlogs," Sukumaran, a member of the Indian People's Tribunal, told reporters.

The panel reached its conclusions after hearing from 150 survivors, members of non-governmental organisations and journalists.

It said victims' relatives found it difficult to get compensation due to the lack of documentation.

"It's absurd to insist on legal documents when a large number of people have not only lost their near and dear ones but all their belongings are buried under rubble," Sukumaran said.

The panel said the poor and minority communities were worst hit.

"Minority communities with less voice in public affairs find the rehabilitation and compensation distribution outright discriminatory," it said.

Inadequate medical facilities in quake-hit areas were aggravating the psychological trauma of survivors, especially the disabled, the panel said.

Government officials said non-governmental organisations and various wings of the administration were actively involved in rehabilitation efforts.

"In the event of a calamity of great magnitude, it's always easy to find faults with rehabilitation initiatives," said an official with the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority.

Source - Yahoo! India
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Panel slams Gujarat quake rehabilitation efforts Tuesday, August 21, 2001

AHMEDABAD (Reuters) - Rehabilitation efforts since a devastating earthquake hit Gujarat have been "grossly inadequate and discriminatory", a panel of social activists and retired judges said on Monday.

More than 30,000 people were killed and thousands left homeless in the January 26 quake which measured 7.7 on the Richter scale.

"Rehabilitation measures and compensation disbursement remain grossly inadequate, leaving huge backlogs," Sukumaran, a member of the Indian People's Tribunal, told reporters.

The panel reached its conclusions after hearing from 150 survivors, members of non-governmental organisations and journalists.

It said victims' relatives found it difficult to get compensation due to the lack of documentation.

"It's absurd to insist on legal documents when a large number of people have not only lost their near and dear ones but all their belongings are buried under rubble," Sukumaran said.

The panel said the poor and minority communities were worst hit.

"Minority communities with less voice in public affairs find the rehabilitation and compensation distribution outright discriminatory," it said.

Inadequate medical facilities in quake-hit areas were aggravating the psychological trauma of survivors, especially the disabled, the panel said.

Government officials said non-governmental organisations and various wings of the administration were actively involved in rehabilitation efforts.

"In the event of a calamity of great magnitude, it's always easy to find faults with rehabilitation initiatives," said an official with the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority.

Source - Yahoo! India

Want some ethnic chic? Cash in on Gujarat’s dead and debris Tuesday, August 21, 2001

From ravaged Kutch, priceless artefacts are carted away thanks to a nexus of traders and officials—to meet the demands of the rich and powerful

BY JANYALA SREENIVAS, INDIAN EXPRESS

AHMEDABAD:
FOR over six months now, residents in the villages of Kutch and Surendranagar have been picking up the pieces of their lives shattered by the quake. There are others as well who have joined them — not to help, but to loot.

All this and more is being plundered. Photo by Javed Raja

For, among these pieces are thousands of priceless artefacts — exquisite jharokhas, jaalis, murals, carved glass, arches, wooden and iron frames, some over a century old. These adorned houses in the villages and after the quake are now up for grabs, being carted away by the truckload to be sold, for a song, to interior designers, businessmen and art collectors.

Helping this plunder is an organised nexus of agents, land developers and builders, who are eyeing prime land on which these houses stand, together with officials of the State Road and Building Department who are clearing the debris.

Curators at the Kutch Museum admit that these artefacts are hot items because ‘‘with a fresh coat of paint and polish, they are as good as new.’’ For example, in Limbdi, the erstwhile princely state in Surendranagar district, businessmen and art collectors are taking away century-old intricately carved arches. Window and door frames are being auctioned at throwaway prices.

‘‘Many rich people building their own houses elsewhere made inquiries whether these artefacts are available. That is how the trade began,’’ says Haribhai Chavda, an ‘‘agent’’ in Anjar. ‘‘In the first few days, no one realised their value and took away invaluable art. By the time people realised what was happening, much of it was gone,’’ Chavda says, admitting that he made Rs 3,000 by helping auction three chakdas of iron and wood.


“I was given the impression that it (the artefacts) was useless,” says Urban Development Minister, “but later I found that the artwork was priceless”

Urban Development Minister Parmanand Khattar has been accused of giving the go-ahead to builders in his home constituency Jamnagar to dismantle and sell off the artefacts. ‘‘I was first given the impression that it was useless but later I learnt that there was priceless artwork inside. We are trying to restore whatever is remaining,’’ Khattar told The Indian Express. By the time the minister backtracked, however, hundreds of such artworks were removed from collapsed and damaged structures and sold off.

At whatever price they fetch—small balconies with wooden flooring surrounded by intricately carved iron railings have been sold for as little as Rs 500. Murals go for Rs 2,500, jharokhas and jaalis for a little over Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,500.

‘‘Most of the old damaged mansions have to be pulled down and obviously the owners are all too willing to dispose of the delicate jaali and jharokha work,’’ says Dharmendraji Pragji, sarpanch of Sinogra village in Anjar taluka of Kutch.

This village had nearly 100 houses which were built between 1890 and 1910, each with several examples of exquisite architecture.

There were rare paintings of Queen Victoria, Lord Krishna with gopis, floral murals, intricate carving in iron grills and wooden jaalis.

‘‘More than 500 jharokhas and iron and wooden frames are up for sale now,’’ says school teacher Umakant Vadher.

Sources in the Indian National Trust for Architectural and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) say that delicate woodwork and entire balconies belonging to forts and darbargadhs of the Jhallas and Rajputs in Surendranagar district have been plundered. ‘‘Whatever has remained is being sold off,’’ an official said.

The INTACH has, incidentally, identified 500 buildings across the quake-affected areas, which are neither protected by the Archaeological Survey of India nor by the State Archaeological Department.

‘‘Priceless art and architecture is in danger of being plundered,’’ said INTACH co-convenor and Baroda-based architect Karan Grover.

Officials in the State Archaeological Department said builders and agents had formed a nexus in places like Jamnagar, Morbi and Surendranagar.

‘‘The builders are eyeing prime property and once the existing structures are demolished, they will bid for the land. They cannot do so till jaalis and jharokhas are dismantled because that makes the buildings protected. So the agents move in and coerce owners to sell them off,’’ an official of the department says.

According to Digvijaysinh, erstwhile prince of Wankaner and former Union Environment Minister, very few artefacts are finding their way to bazaars.

‘‘Most of them are being sold off at the site where they are dismantled. Those who don’t have enough money to restore them are simply waiting to sell them off,’’ he says.

Youth Services and Cultural Affairs secretary Sudha Aachalia says the Government cannot prevent this because ‘‘it is all private property.’’ ‘‘We are taking care of protected buildings,’’ is all she said.

Source - Expressindia.com

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Wide variation in Gujarat quake death toll Tuesday, August 21, 2001

By Harsha Kumari Singh, NDTV.COM
Ahmedabad: Nearly seven months after the devastating earthquake in Gujarat, there is still no accurate picture as to how many people died. Initially, politicians visiting the area had said that the death toll could be as high as a lakh, now the government claims that the figure is much lower.

P K Laheri, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister remarked, "In the aftermath of the earthquake all of us knew that there were wide variations in the death toll ranging from 20,000 to 1 lakh."

About 20,082 deaths were reported till April in police stations across Gujarat. After the identities of the dead were double checked, it was found that almost 3,000 duplications had taken place and the toll came down to 17,143 by August 10. Now, the final applications for death compensation show a tally of 13,905.

However, the obsession with figures is seen by some to be misleading. Digandh Oza, Janpath Citizen's Initiative pointed out, "Whether the figures is high or low the magnitude of the problem does not change. People are suffering, they are still on roads or in tents."

As the government works to put together an accurate picture of those who died, it is the problems of those living without their homes and jobs after the earthquake that perhaps needs more attention.

News Source : NTDV.COM [ Fast online news ]


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Rain is good news for Mehsana Tuesday, August 21, 2001

BY KIRAN MATHUR, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
MEHSANA: The palls of drought which hovered over the district two months ago have been dispelled by the 5505 mm rainfall. The district administration is jubilant over the prospects of good crop and easing of the problem of drinking water and irrigation.

Last year the total rainfall was only 2704 mm whereas in 1999 it was 4020 mm. This means that the current monsoon has already brought 51 per cent more rain than the previous one with 906 mm of rainfall. Mehsana has recorded the highest rain this year as compared to 413 mm last year and 613 mm in 1999. Unjha on the other hand, with 419 mm this year continues to be the recipient of the lowest rainfall in the district. It has received 294 mm and 150 mm in 2000 and 1999 respectively.

Good rains after three year long spell of semi scarcity has brought a long awaited respite for farmers who are now busy with farming. According to sources in the agriculture department of district panchayat 1,85,447 hectares of land is under various crops and the over all picture is quite satisfactory.

But with rains having washed away its cosmetic layers, Mehsana glorified as oil city and milk city reveals its real ugly face. Roads in and around Mehsana have simply disappeared. The one known as the highway that passes through the new Mehsana lay bare with grit showing itself and the dry sand raised by the vehicles creating veil of dust that blinds the eyes and fill the mouth.

The GIDC occupied by the affluent class is a spectacle of water logged roads, filth and poorly maintained public amenities. The road just off the highway having the GIDC post office and small and big units remains water-logged for days on with water entering the post office and other buildings. Though water is pumped out from time to time and there is a recharging well to receive the overflow from the highway, the measures have proved inadequate and tentative. And owner of a unit said the level of the highway goes up by about six inches in every five years since it was not scrapped before resurfacing after rains. This, he said, has increased the overflow into the low lying GIDC.

The Gayatri Mandir Road just off the highway which was turned into a CC road a few months before rains disappeared with the first showers and the half a kilometre stretch remains what the people call it the Vaitarni (the river of the hell). The overflowing gutters add stink to the water-logged post hold roads and threaten to be a major health hazard.

The new ex tension of the Bhammariya underbridge is congenitally gutter afflicted. One cannot pass through it without splashing the dirty stinking water even on sunny days. This and the Gopinala, the other underbridge which connects the old city with new soon get flooded cutting off the link between two Mehsanas. The stranded people have to wait for hours before crossing over. People wonder at the incompetence of the engineers to keep the underbridges free from flooding in this age of technology.

The nagarpalika spent Rs 10 lakh to provide the divider to ease the traffic on the B K road and raised poles for sodium lamps to illuminate the busy road. Now the road does not exist and lamps which had stopped shining before the rains bears testimony to this apathy and to the insensitivity of the nagarpalika authorities. The dividers here and on the highway are proving to be a tool of comfort for the cattle to recline on. The stray cattle on the highway and elsewhere often outnumber the pedestrians and one would be compelled to think that the city had been turned into a panjra pole with the elected executives turning a Nelson's eye to the people's woes.

News Source : Times Of India News Service [ Lightning News ]


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