BACHAU REPORT: Citizens' Initiative (Feb. 6, 2001)
The Citizens' Initiative team in Bhachau is now involved in administering relief measures in 23 villages. They are also carrying out an assessment as to the extent of relief reaching the Dalits in the villages. As reported in the last update the situation on this front is disturbing. The villages that they are operating in are mentioned below. The first four villages are the ones which were initially allotted to us and where the distribution of relief has been completed. Moti Chirai, Nani Chirai, Lunva, Chopadwa
The following five villages are the ones which are in the interior and were subsequently identified by us as very much in need of immediate relief. Bandadi, Nehar, Kadol, Amarsar, Chobari (the Dalit locality comprising 85 families)
Apart from the above there are about 12 villages in which our team is carrying out assessment of needs out of which in 5 - 6 villages tent material will be distributed shortly.
Present situation: The people there have begun to cook their own food and therefore do not require or prefer cooked food items. They have also collected foodgrains which could last them till the end of this week. The volunteers there have made a study of the average amount of foodgrains which would be needed per family per week. On the basis of this, weekly kits are being prepared for distribution to families. The uncooked food items include tea powder, sugar, milk powder, cooking oil, masala items, foodgrains, and jaggery.
Tent material and tarpauline sheets have been distributed to families in the villages who use them as protection against the wind. The work of installing dry toilets in the villages is presently underway. Electricity has not yet been restored to Bhachau (as of 4/02/01)although it has been done in Gandhidham.
Water is being provided by water tankers in 5 villages. It was when one of the volunteers on a visit to a village noticed that they were drinking the dirty water that a water tanker was mobilised for 5 villages. Additionally our volunteers go to the villages with chlorine tablets and ensure that personal and public water sources are properly chlorinated.
A major problem that Kutch will be facing in the near future is that of excess of waste (plastic waste) and the challenge before the relief agencies would be of its disposal. The highways there are reportedly littered with used clothes and plastic pouches and bags. There are experts already there who are working on possible ways of reusing atleast the debris, as construction material, to make stronger foundations.
The schools in Kutch have been demolished and in the absence of anything better to do the children are crowding the highways begging for relief materials. There is an urgent need to devise ways and means of keeping the children involved in certain games and activities so that they do not indulge in begging as a way of passing their time. It is very important to restart schools even in temporary shelters.
In the wake of the calamity, Kutch saw 6000 doctors providing their services in the area. We noticed that no one was visiting the doctors. When the volunteers from the Citizens' Initiative team visited the families they could bring the patients to the medical teams and thus they succeeded in saving at least 20 people from having their limbs amputated. We realised that given the trauma the people were undergoing it was wrong to expect the victims to go to the doctors; they have been so numbed by pain and fear that they do not wish to move from the proximity of their family lest something should happen to them and they lose another family member. In this situation it is for the doctors to seek out the patients and administer the required medication.
There are two medical units at the camp-site. One is a mobile medical unit which treats patients on the site and brings serious patients to the military hospital in Bhachau. The other unit is on the camp-site and is used to treat minor injuries, change dressings and treat various nfections of the eye, ear etc.
Functioning of the camp:
The base-camp of the Bhachau unit is in village Moti Chirai, on the GAIL remises (Indian "wood" Plywood Factory, Aakash Veneer, 12 kms. towards andhidham on the Bhachau - Gandhidham highway). There are 10 tents esides 2 plywood enclosures there to accommodate the volunteers. At any iven time there are 80 - 100 volunteers at the base camp. The positive pint of this camp is that it consists of people from diverse ackgrounds and disciplines. The groups include: students of CEPT, St. vier's college, NID; NGOs such as Behavioural Science Centre, Gantar,ANALA, Janpath; doctors; religious personnel; a group of volunteers from Maharashtra who have the experience of working in Latur; social workers.The identity and character of the camp are dynamic and constantly evolving according to the composition of the group. The discussions therefore are very rich and consequently also the nature of decisions taken and the manner of dispensing relief.
The camp has evolved 3 principles in administering of relief:
* No relief work would be undertaken which violate the self-respect of the victims;
* We would not undertake any activity which the people are capable of carrying out themselves;
* Relief material would be distributed equitably among all communities in the village starting from the most needy and socially weak and then going upwards.
The policy at this camp has been to give to the people what they want /need. (This was following the observation that where relief was being dispensed through kits containing around 20 items, the people retained the 2 or 3 which were useful and discarded the rest). The first task that the camp volunteers undertake is to assess the needs of the village and then decide on the relief. Therefore dispensing relief here takes slightly longer than usual. But the advantage is that people receive what they need and we avoid wastage.
As reported in an earlier update there are various political and social obstacles to relief reaching the Dalit and Muslim communities in the villages. This struck our volunteers very strongly, especially the college students studying in various colleges in Ahmedabad and who had hitherto never had any experience of caste / religion based discrimination. They reported undergoing a fundamental transformation in their thinking about policy of reservation in education (a very sensitive topic for students): "if we require to adopt a policy of reservation in relief supplies then it is certainly needed in education".
There are meetings every morning around 8.30 where planning and allotment of work for the day are done. Each evening around 9.30 there is an evaluation cum reporting meeting to discuss the day's activities and findings.
The major issue which is now coming up before us is that of rehabilitation (short-term and long-term). In this line the CEPT volunteers have undertaken a study to be able to come up with a rehabilitation plan from an architectural point of view. The survey, in 3 villages, comprises the following elements:
* Socio-economic survey of each village;
* Interviews with people to ascertain their rehabilitation needs.
Another group from the camp is undertaking a household survey to ensure that aid, as and when it comes in, reaches where it is needed the most. It would also help us to establish statistics on the most vulnerable groups (the orphans, the widows and the aged) which would be needed when rehabilitation plans start to be drawn up.
The guiding principle behind rehabilitation is to help the community rehabilitate itself. Our experience of relief work has provided us with a rough idea of what the rehabilitation framework should include. The task before us is:
* How to campaign for a rehabilitation policy which includes elements which we think are important
* How do we incorporate our experience of relief work into our rehabilitation package.
The overriding concern with regard to rehabilitation and reconstruction issues is to uphold the secular principle and spirit. Given the communally surcharged atmosphere and a right-wing political dispensation, this is going to be the greatest challenge before the NGOs.
It is equally important to press for a policy of compensation which is equitable. The state has to compensate everyone for the loss equally; therefore the family's economic standard should not be the basis of deciding the compensation amount.
The intervention envisages 3 phases:
* A temporary phase: which consists mainly of an outsider's response (rescue and relief);
* A semi-permanent phase: where the insiders and the outsiders combine their resources and energies, in a participatory and social justice framework, to lead to an empowered community;
* A permanent phase: comprising an empowered community capable of charting the course of its own development.