I along with some friends, who happen to be the resident of Rajkanika, visited the tornado affected villages on 11th and 12th April 2009. During our visit we met the affected families, discussed with the villagers, civil society organisations and volunteers working with the affected people regarding the situation, the damage/loss caused by the tornado, supports provided by Govt. and other agencies/ people, etc. We tried to meet Government officials, particularly the BDO and Tahasildar, but failed due to holidays and election duty. We also met and discussed with the members of Rajkanika Citizens' Forum and issues raised in course of our discussion with different sections of people are given as under.
House damage assessment has not been done properly. The names of most of the affected families are not in the compensation list. It was also reported during the discussion that the District Collector deployed two more Tohasildars I,e. Tohasildar of Aul and Rajnagar, to help the local team in assessing the damage situation and expedite the compensation process. But the Tohasildar Rajkanika and his team did not cooperate them, as the local team was indulged in manipulating the whole thing. Finally, due to non-cooperation of the local team, the other two Tohasildars could not do anything, but left.
Initially, just after tornado, the Government declared to provide Rs.25000/- for damage of pucca house and Rs.10000/- for kucha house, the same provision is their in the relief code. But there is gross irregularity in damage assessment and instead of providing proper compensation to the affected families. Except a few, most of the families are paid Rs.1500/- to Rs.2500/-, even though their houses are completely damaged.
Most of the families of Baghabuda, Bada Taila and Sebasahi villages of Baghabuda Gram Panchayat and Ganja village of Jagulaipada Gram Panchayat, who had received cheques of Rs.1500/- to Rs.2500/- as house damage compensation, have returned their cheques to Tohasildar demanding full compensation of Rs.10000/-.
The villagers of Maneidiha and Mangalpur of Bharigada Gram Panchayat have refused to receive the compensation and they have submitted their concerns to the Tohasildar. There are two reasons for their refusal, a) all the affected families are not in the compensation list and b) the compensation amount is too less I,e. Rs.1500/- to 2500/-.
So far 16 cases of casualty have been identified and compensation of Rs.1 lakh each has been provided to the family members of deceased. But the seriously injured people are yet to get any compensation as per the provision. Some are still struggling for their lives at SCB medical college, Cuttack.
Few minutes of tornado followed by hail storm has largely affected the standing rabi crop of the region. Crop damage is not only in 11 tornado affected villages, rather it has more or less affected the crops in more than 50 villages. No initiative is taken till date to assess the extent of crop damage and compensating the farmers for the same.
Women, particularly pregnant women, and the children are the worst victim due to tornado. Out of 16 death cases, 5 are children and 7 women.
Although preliminary survey has been conducted by the local VS, no compensation has been paid as per the Relief Code to the families who lost their cattles due to tornado.
The water bodies like ponds, wells, nallas, etc. , which are basically used for domestic purpose and drinking water for cattles, are full of debris and not yet been disinfected or cleaned.
The sanitation condition is getting worse day by day.
It was further reported by the affected people that there is gross manipulation of relief materials received from various sources by the Govt. officials.
Some of the genuine and vulnerable families are not getting compensation due to political influence,
Most of the affected families are scheduled castes and OBCs, who basically depend either on farming, daily wage or fishing for their livelihood. They have become more vulnerable and not able to erect their houses even in next one year. The compensation amount being provided by Govt. is insufficient to clear the debris or preparing for construction of new houses.
Since the tornado has affected limited villages, the Govt. officials declare that the situation is under control and that's the reason no international agencies are coming forward to support the people.
In this critical situation, on the basis of our observation and discussion with different sections of people, the following issues/ demands of the affected people need to be addressed on priority basis.
There should re-assessment of affected families and proper compensation as per the Relief Code should be provided to them on urgent basis.
Compensation for injured people should be released by the Govt.
Damage of crops/ cattles/ boats and nets should be properly assessed and the affected farming community should be properly compensated.
Concerned government department should take necessary step to clean and disinfect the water bodies and improve the sanitary condition of the affected villages.
Regular treatment of the injured cattles is required, as there are cases of cattle death after 2-3 days of tornado
There should be a proper rehabilitation plan addressing the livelihood restoration of the most vulnerable families.
The situation demands for intervention of international agencies for supporting the most vulnerable families for permanent shelter and improving their livelihood condition. There is also need to provide information support to the local youths to help the communities to demand for their rights and entitlements.
The local NGOs are supporting the people and informing them about their rights and entitlements.
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