Last Updated: Friday 10 July 2015

Show more concern please

A whole year has passed since a severe earthquake hit Killari and the surrounding villages in Latur and Osmanabad, killing 8,000 people. A long-term relief and rehabilitation programme was initiated to help the affected people rebuild their ravaged homes and lives. However, we are deeply concerned about the situation in the entire area and the progress of relief and rehabilitation. Our apprehensions are based on studies and reports conducted on these programmes by various NGOS and a team from Bombay on behalf of the Committee of Concerned Citizens.

The fact that even after a year of the disaster, the Aurangabad High Court had to issue a directive to the state government on September 15, to provide water and temporary shelters to the affected families, speaks volumes for the relief and rehabilitation measures undertaken. According to a recent study, about 40,000 temporary sheds are still needed. The government has sanctioned a mere 15,000 shed, but has actually set up only 12,000.

Besides, living conditions in the temporary tin sheds are not at all satisfactory. Congested rows of sheds, lack of water and adequate sanitation, and lack of privacy are some of the glaring problems. The sheds need upgrading as the families may have to live in them for at least another 2-3 years, until permanent houses are provided.

The state chief minister's assurance that the government would complete the building of permanent houses before the 1994 monsoon, has remained a hollow promise. Only 3,000 houses have been built so far, mostly by NGOS and industrial houses, of which only 1,600 have been handed over to the affected. The government has sought a loan of Rs 800 crore from the World Bank, but has yet failed to finalise its house-building programme.

Many influential "joint families" have allegedly grabbed more than I unit in the new settlements, while the poorer families have to make do with only one. The land on which the new settlements have been built have an unproductive rocky substrata. This practice of unfair land allotments I've cut off marginal and small farmers from their livelihood. Besides, the government's claims on "voluntary" land transfers at "generous prices" need to be probed. There have been several, complaints of harassment and coercion and of underpayment. These settlements, moreover, are modelled on the "box-like" urban structures totally unsuited to the countryside. They lack cooking facilities, space for cattlesheds and storing grains and fodder.

We demand that the 250,000 damaged houses be repaired and rebuilt before the next monsoon, temporary shelters provided on a priority, compensations settled, entitlements to widowed and deserted women hastened, and the cultural patterns of the local communities taken into account while building new settlements.


SOS from Kanyakumari

The rich biodiversity of Kanyakumari is in danger. Recently, the wildlife in the district has been drastically depleted due to deforestation, poaching, pollution and other human interferences in the ecosystem of the area. Many species like the Nilgiri tahr, the liontailed macaque, the slender loris and the Malabar civet, once abundant in the district, have become rare. Often, the government's development plans destroy natural habitats. Unless quick action is taken to protect these species, an irreparable loss is imminent.

R S LAL MOHAN, Conservation of Nature Trust, Calicut 673 005 ...

Traditions of birth

I.The rebirth of ancient wisdom (September 15, 1994) was a very interesting account of the traditions of midwifery and breastfeeding. I run a database of traditions relating to pregnancy and birth, called the Birth Traditions Survival Bank. As I am studying the traditional use of herbs used during pregnancy and childbirth. I found your article very informative. It will certainly help to know more about these traditions and their relevance to modern health practices.

PRIYA VINCENT, Kodaikanal 624 101

II. Thank you for the nice write-up, The rebirth of ancient wisdom. One may take up more such aspects of traditional medicine and document the centres studying medicinal plants. The trade in medicinal herbs and the production of Ayurvedic drugs is still new and relevant.

ARUN CHANDAN, New Delhi 110022 ...

Slaughterhouse children

The article All work,no play (August 31, 1994), is an eye opner. Most discussions on child labour concentrate on children in tea shops and dhabas or those involved in making locks, fireworks and beedis. There is usually no mention of childern working in slaughterhouses.

Children in abattoirs slaughter animals, flay hides and remove intenstines. Such work can cause serious diseases. Children labour should be completely eliminated from all abttoirs in the country.

LAXMI NARAIN MODI, Bharatiya Cattle Resource Development Foundation, New Delhi ...

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