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April 18, 2001 - April 18, 2001

Quake-drought combine takes its toll Wednesday, April 18, 2001

AHMEDABAD: If anybody had any doubts on the intensity of drought 2001 compared to the one last year, the figures given below should put all speculation to rest.

With summer still in its early stages, the Gujarat government is already spending Rs 6 crore each day on payment of wages to 15 lakh persons employed at 2734 drought relief works throughout the state.

The figure could go up to Rs 8 crore or more in the coming days as employment opportunities in the countryside dry up. Besides, nearly 1.18 lakh persons, mainly destitutes and pregnant women, are being given cash doles of Rs 10 to Rs 20 per day.

Last year, during the peak of drought, only 84,000 persons were being given cash doles. By the time summer ends (officials hope monsoon would set in by June 20), the state may end up spending well above Rs 500 crore, just to ward off starvation.

More than two-third of the state is currently in the grip of scarcity conditions. Many of the 13133 villages declared 'drought affected' also figure in the list of 7688 villages declared 'quake affected'.

Government estimates say almost 75 per cent of the 16.4 million quake-affected persons in the state are now facing the prospect of another drought. Nearly 30 million people in Gujarat, out of its total population of 50 million, are facing drought and drinking water-related problems. Last year, 20 million persons had been declared 'drought affected' in 9449 villages.

The situation is particularly bad in districts like the Panchmahals and Dahod which together account for nearly 4.5 lakh persons, most of them tribals employed at drought relief works. The two districts have nothing to look forward to - neither the Narmada canal network or the Saurashtra pipeline - which have brought some relief to several other districts.

Says Director of Relief B R Patel, "In mid-April this year we have as many people working at drought relief sites as we had in middle of May last year. Our projections say that the number of workers at these sites may go up to 2 million by next month."

He says nearly 2146 villages are being supplied water through tankers and the government has pressed into service nearly 1648 tankers for this purpose.

Water trains are being run to many areas of Saurashtra. Last week, the state government started running water trains to Rajula and Jaffrabad in Amreli district to tackle the acute drinking water shortage.

According to water supply minister Narottam Patel, "Many more water trains will be run throughout summer. This is just the begining."

His ministry has initiated a dialogue with the Railways to procure wagons for running more water trains in the coming months when the supply position is likely to worsen in the region where almost all dams have dried up. As many as 12 water trains were run between Ahmedabad and various destinations of Saurashtra last year.

Significantly, the districts worst affected by the drought are also the ones rocked by the quake -Kutch, Surendranagar, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Junagadh, Amreli, Patan, Sabarkantha, Banaskantha and Porbander.

Though the state government claims to have solved the drinking water problem in 1,000 villages and 25 towns and cities of Bhavnagar, Amreli, Rajkot and Junagadh districts by laying the pipeline from Pariyej carrying the Narmada waters, there are complaints from many of these villages that the water is actually not reaching them.

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Childless parents make a beeline to adopt quake orphans Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Gandhinagar, Apr 17: Gujarat Directorate of Social Defence has received hundreds of applications seeking adoption of about 300 children, orphaned in the January 26 earthquake in Kutch and other parts of the western Indian state.
However, no decision has been taken on the issue yet and the state government is still considering the system as per the law to give responsibility to the people interested in adopting such children, secretary of the directorate R M Patel told PTI here Monday.

Meanwhile, relatives of such children have been allowed to take care of them, Patel said.

All the applications seeking adoption have been registered with the directorate and the decision on the issue would be taken by the government as per the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, the new act of the Government of India, 2001 and Hindu Wards and Guardian Adoption policy of 1995.

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Childless parents make a beeline to adopt quake orphans Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Gandhinagar, Apr 17: Gujarat Directorate of Social Defence has received hundreds of applications seeking adoption of about 300 children, orphaned in the January 26 earthquake in Kutch and other parts of the western Indian state.
However, no decision has been taken on the issue yet and the state government is still considering the system as per the law to give responsibility to the people interested in adopting such children, secretary of the directorate R M Patel told PTI here Monday.

Meanwhile, relatives of such children have been allowed to take care of them, Patel said.

All the applications seeking adoption have been registered with the directorate and the decision on the issue would be taken by the government as per the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, the new act of the Government of India, 2001 and Hindu Wards and Guardian Adoption policy of 1995.

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Govt gives foreign expert the cold shoulder Wednesday, April 18, 2001

AHMEDABAD: A few days after the quake, in early February, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Los Angeles chairman Dr S Balasubramaniyam met home minister L K Advani and offered assistance for setting up a central agency with quick response capabilities in disaster situation in Gujarat.

Advani hasn't given any response till now. So, this time round, Balasubramaniyam has come to the state government. But here again he has not been able to whip up any sort of response. The non-responsiveness of both the governments, notwithstanding, medical associations and various other organisation in the state have given a good ear. And they are ready to do anything in their capacity to realise his disaster management plan for the state.

If his disaster management plan takes off, help would reach the disaster site in minutes and with the well-orchestrated machinery of all the agencies in place -- air force, fire brigade, doctors, municipal corporation, the state would have preparedness to deal with any kind of disaster more efficiently.

Balasubramaniyam says the personnel from all these department would be trained to respond swiftly to the crisis. This, he says, would bring down the casualty and loss drastically during any natural calamity.

He says preparedness for any kind of disaster requires support of the government. "It has to be public-private partnership to draw out disaster management plan and the state can take the precedence in this. For this, all the state government needs to do is put in request to the US Federal government," says Balasubramiyam.

But that request is not coming. This was evident at the meeting organised by the Academy of Traumatology (India), where the government officials and bureaucrats invitees, which included the director of health and medical education, municipal commissioner, CEO Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, minister of health and others, were conspicuous by their absence.

But if the public support is missing, enthusiasm at the private is very much there. And they are ready to go all the way to rope in the government to set a disaster management for the state.

Balasubramaniyam says if that happens then a tent of the size of 40 ft x 20 ft could be put up in 5 minutes, sniffer dogs would detect the bodies from under the debris and they could be removed in a jiffy, all the rescue equipment's would be ready to reach the sites in time, "The FEMA would train personnel for all these task. It would be done under simulated conditions, where they would be trained to enter the smallest hole and remove bodies. So when the disaster happen, it would be a spinal response and not one through brain," says the FEMA chief.

Now that we have a recent history of the quake and the large scale losses, in terms lives and properties, such a preparedness seems to make sense. But even if the private sector may have willingness to do it, unless the government comes forward, it would not be possible as the involvement of the government agencies such the air force, the municipal corporation, railways, fire department and others is very important.

And unless the government takes up the issue, history will repeat itself in the event of another calamity.

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Govt gives foreign expert the cold shoulder Wednesday, April 18, 2001

AHMEDABAD: A few days after the quake, in early February, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Los Angeles chairman Dr S Balasubramaniyam met home minister L K Advani and offered assistance for setting up a central agency with quick response capabilities in disaster situation in Gujarat.

Advani hasn't given any response till now. So, this time round, Balasubramaniyam has come to the state government. But here again he has not been able to whip up any sort of response. The non-responsiveness of both the governments, notwithstanding, medical associations and various other organisation in the state have given a good ear. And they are ready to do anything in their capacity to realise his disaster management plan for the state.

If his disaster management plan takes off, help would reach the disaster site in minutes and with the well-orchestrated machinery of all the agencies in place -- air force, fire brigade, doctors, municipal corporation, the state would have preparedness to deal with any kind of disaster more efficiently.

Balasubramaniyam says the personnel from all these department would be trained to respond swiftly to the crisis. This, he says, would bring down the casualty and loss drastically during any natural calamity.

He says preparedness for any kind of disaster requires support of the government. "It has to be public-private partnership to draw out disaster management plan and the state can take the precedence in this. For this, all the state government needs to do is put in request to the US Federal government," says Balasubramiyam.

But that request is not coming. This was evident at the meeting organised by the Academy of Traumatology (India), where the government officials and bureaucrats invitees, which included the director of health and medical education, municipal commissioner, CEO Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, minister of health and others, were conspicuous by their absence.

But if the public support is missing, enthusiasm at the private is very much there. And they are ready to go all the way to rope in the government to set a disaster management for the state.

Balasubramaniyam says if that happens then a tent of the size of 40 ft x 20 ft could be put up in 5 minutes, sniffer dogs would detect the bodies from under the debris and they could be removed in a jiffy, all the rescue equipment's would be ready to reach the sites in time, "The FEMA would train personnel for all these task. It would be done under simulated conditions, where they would be trained to enter the smallest hole and remove bodies. So when the disaster happen, it would be a spinal response and not one through brain," says the FEMA chief.

Now that we have a recent history of the quake and the large scale losses, in terms lives and properties, such a preparedness seems to make sense. But even if the private sector may have willingness to do it, unless the government comes forward, it would not be possible as the involvement of the government agencies such the air force, the municipal corporation, railways, fire department and others is very important.

And unless the government takes up the issue, history will repeat itself in the event of another calamity.

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