Bhubaneswar, May 21 (LocalWire): A fortnight after Cyclone Fani lashed the coast, affected people continue to struggle as the ‘no ration card, no relief’ continues and they are forced to repay a loan from the relief money handed over to them.
The Civil Society Responds to Fani, a group of civil society organisations and concerned citizens, who have come together to accelerate relief and rehabilitation efforts and have been closely observing the situation and assessment process in almost all the affected villages, held a press meet today.
Even as both the government and the civil society organisations are on their toes to accelerate the relief and rehabilitation process, there are a number of lacunae which need to be addressed, said Manas Ranjan Mishra, a member of the CSRF, told reporters.
Pointing out the lacunae in the relief distribution, Mishra, also the executive director of Vasundhara, a Bhubaneswar-based organisation that works for tribal rights and environment, said the affected people who do not possess ration cards have not received any support yet despite the government’s announcement that all affected families will be given Rs 2000 and 50 kg rice irrespective of their possession of ration cards.
It is also unfortunate that many agents of banks and microfinance companies have been attempting to collect their EMIs from cyclone affected people, Mishra said.
‘In Brahmania village of Brahamgiri, people have been forced to repay up to Rs 1700 and even more from the 2000 rupees that they had received as relief from the government’, he said.
Reserve Bank of India should quickly announce a moratorium on loan repayments by affected households and the state government must take a clear stand on this immediately, said NGO activists, while narrating their experiences.
While the government claims it has ordered that MGNREGA should start for restoration work and clear debris, there is no work order in the affected areas.
In the most affected blocks of Krushnaprasad, Brahmagiri, Puri Sadar, Satyabadi, Delang and Pipili, there has been zero days of employment in the month of May.
Mishra further maintained that the government so far has failed to procure paddy and other Rabi crops from the affected areas and distress sale has already begun. Farmers have already sold six truck-loads of paddy in a village in Puri district at a distress rate of about Rs 1355/- per quintal against the minimum support price of Rs 1750/- per quintal.
The NGOs said compensation is inadequate. For instance, a damaged coconut tree is compensated at Rs 102 per tree whereas the Central government guideline is Rs 500 per tree.
Besides, the limit of 25 trees must be increased to at least 100 trees. The compensation for the death of poultry birds continues to be as low as Rs 50 per bird for 100 birds.
They claimed the subsidy for boats should also be increased. The new inclusion of betel vines and mushroom cultivation is a welcome measure as is the Rs 10,000 compensation for street and small vendors, they said.
Mishra lamented that there has been no proper awareness drive informing affected people about their entitlements for relief and compensation.
‘Government officials seem to be misleading people about compensation norms,’ said Sneha Mishra, secretary, Aaina.
She said as all public places with proper roofs (such as community halls, mandaps, temples etc.) are occupied by men, women have to spend the daytime under the scorching sun or under makeshift shelters in several villages of Brahmagiri block.
Cooked food supply is insufficient and women have been deprived of community lunch/dinner. Besides, there are apprehensions of increased child trafficking and trafficking of young girls.
The government’s initiative of distribution of sanitary napkins in affected areas is a welcome move, but it hasn’t reached all areas and especially to Dalit habitations, Sneha added.
She further said Dalit and lower caste members are facing discrimination in cyclone shelters, relief, water sources and cooked food in several areas. She said disabled people and uncared-for-elderly have been failing to access relief.
Co-founder of CYSD, Jagadananda, underlined the need to reopen schools on time in all the affected areas. Even if the school buildings are not repaired, the teaching-learning process should continue in cyclone shelters or any other buildings.
Rajesh Mohapatra, former Editor at Large, Hindustan Times, shed light on the responsibility of media in disseminating information regarding relief norms and compensation packages of the government to the affected people and bringing up issues from grassroot people before the government.
Madhusudan Das, state coordinator of National Youth Project, shared his experience of speeding up the relief and rehabilitation process by mobilizing volunteerism in the affected areas.