Kutch Navnirman Abhiyan
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EARRS Documentation Reports February 26a  (26th Feb 2001)

Relief Camp For the Earthquake Affected by The Narmada Bachao Andolan, at Balasar, Taluka Rapar, District Kutch
 February 16, 2001

The Situation in the Area

Before coming to the area, we did not have any clear idea about the situation in this area about the impact of the earthquake, the loss of lives, the situation of the relief and rescue operations, needs of the area etc. In fact, proper information about all these about any area was difficult to come by. We only had some broad idea about these things. Hence, the first activity that was initiated by the Balasar Camp was a preliminary and elementary survey of the area to collect information about the villages, impact of the earthquake and so on.

The whole area has been a victim of a terrible natural calamity of unimaginable proportions. The destruction is immeasurable. Though the loss of life is comparatively small in this area, almost all the houses have been completely destroyed. All the houses have either fallen down, or have been damaged so badly that they are totally unsafe to live in. People are being forced to live, sleep out in the open in the middle of bitter cold with temperatures going down to 2oC. This is also because powerful aftershocks and tremors are being felt to this day and the population is living is constant fear.

Before the establishment of Balasar Camp, very little relief had reached the area. Whatever little had reached too had reached only the villages on the main road. Even with this relief, the problem was that essential relief material was not reaching (for e.g. tents), while heaps of unnecessary and unwanted things were piling up (for e.g. clothes).

The other major problem with the relief was of distribution. There was no system or arrangement for an equitable and impartial distribution of the relief material. Because of this, the whatever little relief material was reaching the villages on the road was not even reaching all the families in the village, let alone reaching the villages and wandhs in the interior. The socially-economically backward sections of the villages and the more needy people were most deprived even in the relief. The groups coming in with relief material were also mostly those who wanted to come in with the relief, dump it and leave immediately. Because of this, they were either distributing the relief material in an ad hoc manner, or worse, simply dumping it in the village and leaving. Some groups were even just throwing the material from the trucks and people were forced to run after the trucks to get some bits of the relief. Self respecting families therefore kept away from such "distribution" of relief, and hence remained deprived of support. In any case, the distribution of relief is a very sensitive and delicate issue, and it is critical that the process be carried out in a way that the self-respect and dignity of people is maintained.

There was also almost total absence of any coordination in the distribution of relief.

After the establishment of the Balasar Camp, relief material started coming in and this is still going on. However, there is still a shortage of critical things like tents.

The Balasar Camp started with two lorry full of relief material collected from the Nimad area of the Narmada Valley and about 50 volunteers. Afterwards, more relief material, volunteers also came in from the Valley. Relief material and volunteers from other parts of the country also joined this. Particularly important was the contribution of Harayana Government which has adopted several villages in this area.