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Quake victims brave Capital's cold for justice Thursday, December 6, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Can you imagine what it would be like to spend a night out in the open when the mercury has dipped to 10 degree Celcius?

Ask the residents of Maliya-Miyana in Rajkot district or the hapless lot in Anjar of Kutch district.

After spending nights in tents and braving the vagaries of nature, a small group of people, hailing from poor localities of the taluka that is virtually the gateway to Kutch, has set up camp in Gandhinagar for a "fight to the finish".

After three days of token hunger strike at C H Square the 25-odd Maliya-Miyana residents will begin an indefinite hunger strike from Thursday.

Perennial drought, diseases caused by salinity ingress and now government apathy in wake of the quake have pushed these villagers, most of them salt workers and daily-wage earners, to the edge and they have begun to fight back.

"We are prey to discrimination in disbursement of monetary relief given by the state government. Those who are influential, belong to a particular vote bank or have nuisance value have got hefty sums between Rs 80,000 to Rs 90,000 for repair of damaged houses while we were handed paltry amounts less than Rs 10,000," said Sant Dayalnam Motiram who is leading the anti-government agitation.

With their average earnings not more than Rs 50, the representatives of Maliya-Miyana had to borrow Rs 1,000 each from money lenders for making the trip to Gandhinagar.

In a year, salt workers get to work for eight months in the nearby salt factories. The rest of the year they are left to fend for themselves doing odd jobs.

"This is the third time we have come to the state Capital to demand what is rightfully ours. The first couple of visits went in vain as we returned with false promises and assurances. This time we are committed," averred Dallabhai Barot, who with his six family members, including three children, has been forced to live out in the open ever since the quake.

The group claims that the state government has discriminated against the Dalits of Maliya-Miyana on quake relief. Armed with a list of 31 names they claim, "With a sum of Rs 10,000 one cannot build a bathroom, what to say of our houses, however modest they were. This is the fourth year we have gone without rainfall and to top it all the year began with the quake. The BJP government has done nothing to bring us out of our compounding miseries."

As Janjhibhai Chawda took out warm clothes to prepare for a night under a thin plastic sheet said, "We think that the mamlatdars who conducted a damage-survey were biased. Many of us refused to take the paltry sums and now we won't budge from Gandhinagar till something concrete is done in this regard. Till date we have got only assurances from local MLAs and senior politicians. Apparently, the well being of Dalits is not on their agenda..."

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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