PUCL Bulletin, February 2005

13 Jan 2005, Kattumaram – Makkal Medai
Policy Statement

Tsunami relief guidelines

We have come together to affirm the dignity and uphold the self-respect of the affected coastal communities, particularly fisher folk, communities dependent on fishing-related livelihoods and others. This effort would entail identifying ways to support their efforts to rebuild their lives and livelihoods, with attention to the long-term implications for the communities and the ecosystem.

This platform consists of, mass organizations, trade unions, citizens’ and civil liberties groups, NGOs, journalist groups, medical associations, professional bodies and individuals.

We are guided by the following priorities:

  • To support and strengthen community structures, including Panchayati Raj Institutions, to articulate needs, access information and claim entitlements related to housing, livelihoods, health, food security, the education of children and the special needs of the differently abled persons.
  • To ensure that information from the Center and State regarding relief and rehabilitation measures reaches people.
  • To ensure transparency of all efforts including those of government, NGOs, INGOs, Corporate bodies, multilateral institutions and others.
  • To ensure the entitlement of affected persons to government relief and rehab schemes, through a participatory process of identification of affected people.
  • To assist local communities to conduct social audit of all relief and rehabilitation measures.
  • To ensure that all rehabilitation schemes, address the health and social security needs of the affected communities.
  • To ensure that all rehabilitation schemes are in consonance with identified needs of the affected communities and sensitive to their social and cultural traditions. It needs to be stressed that inappropriate and uncoordinated aid is damaging.
  • To facilitate ongoing reflection and deliberation and make available key inputs on rehabilitation strategies to participants at all levels, from districts to taluks and villages.
  • To assist in building a database on different dimensions of the situation in order to develop informed interventions.
  • To ensure that all relief interventions by different agencies are undertaken in a coordinated manner and are implemented in a manner respecting the social sensitivities and dignity of affected communities.

Our concerns are that:
a. All government and private relief and rehabilitation efforts are evolved based on full, informed and effective participation of all affected persons and communities, through open forums at village levels. Special attention should be paid to ensure that vulnerable sections have access to and participate in these fora.

b. Fishing communities take immediate possession of their original residential sites. In the interim period, and till such time as appropriate housing is developed, arrangements for temporary shelter should be provided. Only in areas where safety is an issue of concern, alternatives housing sites (with proper pattas) should be provided to affected communities, while ensuring that primary use rights to the lands traditionally occupied by them is retained by them.

c. Until the affected communities can return to their normal lives and livelihoods and regain self-reliance, rehabilitation packages should include employment and resource enhancement programs at village levels, such as:
-- Public Works and/or Food For Work programs to build village-level infrastructure, repair fishing gear and craft, etc.
-- Extending subsidized food and kerosene coverage under PDS to all affected, irrespective of BPL, APL, AAY categories
-- Extending pension schemes to all old persons, single women and disabled in the affected areas.

d. Children are enabled to return to school as soon as possible, and that those that are orphaned receive appropriate care, education and protection.

e. Special focus is paid to children, disabled, the elderly, single women and marginalized groups and other discriminated communities.

f. Sustained efforts are made to reduce vulnerability of affected populations to similar natural disasters along the coast in the future, including through introduction of appropriate social security and insurance schemes, and introducing locally specific land use planning.

g. All portrayals of the disaster-affected people are sensitive to their dignity and privacy.

h. Inappropriate aid can be damaging.

Citizens Platform for Tsunami Affected-Tamil Nadu, ‘Husain House’, 7, Kondi Chetty Street, Chennai 600001, E-mail: rights@vsnl.com

Mr. C.V. Sankar, I.A.S., Officer on Special Duty, (Relief and Rehab) In-charge of NGO and Donor coordination,
Government of Tamil Nadu,
Ezhilagam, Chennai.

Dear Sir,

Sub.: Exclusion of affected Dalits and Dalit Hamlets from Relief provided by TN Government for Tsunami Affected – Dire Circumstances of Dalit families, especially children/women - Need for Immediate Relief and Aid.

While there has been considerable progress made in the distribution of relief material to the Tsunami affected fishing community we would like to bring to your kind attention some issues, which need serious attention and merit immediate intervention.

1) Affected Dalit Communities and Inadequate Relief:

In the coastal districts, apart from the fishing community, the Dalit (Scheduled Caste) community also exists either in clusters within the village or in hamlets, which are located just outside the village. The occupation, which the Dalit community is engaged in, is in activities subsidiary to the main fishing operations in the form of lifting, sorting and transporting fish to the centres for export/sale. Some are also engaged as agricultural labourers in fields close to the fishing hamlets. The dalits, by and large, do not own land or fishing gear and depend on other communities for economic survival.
Both the above occupations have been rendered completely non-viable due to the suspension of all fishing activities in the affected areas and also due to the salination of land.

This has resulted in these communities being forced to completely rely on relief material for their survival.

However what is emerging as a pattern across many of the affected coastal regions is the fact that Dalit communities are not being provided relief material. Even when the material (dry rations, clothes, utensils, etc.) are supplied to the affected villages, they are not shared with the dalit families within the village. In some cases these families do not even have the tokens issued by the Panchayat to access relief material. In other cases, though there might be a token given they are not allowed to stand in the queue to collect relief material, which is their right. Not only does these cause hardships leading to starvation of the affected dalit families but also creates the basis for avoidable caste based hostilities to be generated.
Unless we meet the needs of all excluded and affected communities for relief, it would be impossible to declare the relief stage of the operations as over.

This urgent need of Dalit families located in villages and hamlets across the coastal region needs to be tackled on an immediate basis. There is a necessity of undertaking a proper survey to identify all hamlets/villages, which have been left out of the initial relief operations.

Please refer to Annexure 1 for the preliminary list of affected Dalit hamlets/villages in Nagapattinam district prepared by the Human Rights Forum for Dalit Liberation-Tamilnadu. Please refer to Annexure 2 for a brief account on how relief has eluded most of these villages based on field visits by members of PUCL (K).

2) Non-Clearance of Debris of Dalit Affected Buildings:
It is reported that in many dalit settlements, most of the debris caused by the Tsunami has not yet been cleared and that the areas requires cleaning before any of the dalit families can return. However while the clearance work in the fishing community hamlets have been carried out, no similar effort was initiated in the dalit hamlets. This issue once again requires immediate action.

3) Hasty Closure of Relief Camps:
The other issue that will worsen the situation is the closure of camps. Camps in which Dalits have been living have till now had some access to relief material. However once the camps close, the Dalits will be forced to return to their villages. It is learnt that in many cases, even if the fishing community portion of the affected villages have been cleared, the Dalit hamlets/parts of the village have not yet been cleared or provided with any facilities. Reports point out that there has been no cleaning of affected portions of the Dalit hamlets and little/no access to drinking water. Enumeration of loss of personal belongings and death of cattle and livestock of dalits is yet to be satisfactorily completed. Among such camps are TELC Camp at Porayar and the Ganapati Cinema at Tarangampadi which are presently in operation (8.1.2005) and which should not close until basic supplies are restored. The hamlets/parts of the village which have been identified are:
a) TELC Camp at Porayar
Kesavanpalyam; Karantar; Pudupalyam; Velepalyam (Mission Thiru); Kaluvanthiti; Chindatharipatai; Sindhatharipatai
b) Ganapati Cinema at Tarangampadi
Sutagudi; Samayan Street; Kuttiyandiyur

4) Provision of Temporary Shelters:
The provision of temporary shelters by the government and the NGOs has also not yet fully taken into account the existence of the dalit community as one affected by the tsunami.

5) Including Non-fishing Villages as Affected Villages:
A number of critical issues arise in the context of the affected dalit sections, which need immediate attention. The extreme impact of the tsunami is also being deeply felt by the communities whose agricultural lands have been salinated and standing crops of paddy and groundnuts destroyed. There is neither talk of organized relief reaching them nor any move towards compensating them for the crop loss. Further the need for conducting soil tests and coming up with methods to render the soil cultivable are yet to receive due attention.

A detailed survey of the affected lands, number of people whose livelihood has been affected, the standing crops destroyed (e.g. groundnut, coconut etc) needs to be carried out. The soil has to be tested to assess the levels of salinity and the possibility of carrying out agricultural operations in the immediate future. On the basis of all these factors a new compensation package needs to be worked out for all those who are working on the land in whatever capacity. On this basis the extent of damage needs to be assessed and a compensation package worked out.

6) Need for a Comprehensive and Inclusive Relief and Rehabilitation Package:
In terms of rehabilitation, there is a need for a more inclusive approach, which takes into account the fact that the labour provided by the Dalit community is an integral part of the economy of the fishing villages. It must be pointed out that the tsunami in destroying the livelihoods of the fishing and farming communities has also equally affected those who depend on these communities for their livelihoods i.e. the dalits providing to the fishing community and dalit agricultural labourers. This point needs to be taken serious note off by the government and the NGO sector in the form of framing of an inclusive relief and rehabilitation policy for those affected by the tsunami.

We request you to personally intervene and ensure that remedial action is initiated at a war footing in all affected dalit habitations. We stress once again that the list of villages in this representation covers only Nagapattinam district. However the information received by us is that similar exclusion of dalits is occurring in other districts too.

In particular we request that the following course of action be considered and initiated in all the affected districts of Tamil Nadu.
1) Prepare a comprehensive list of villages affected by the tsunami to include all excluded dalit hamlets / villages in all the affected districts of the state.
2) Take immediate steps to ensure supply of the much needed relief material to the listed villages/hamlets (Annexure 1 and 2) In particular and other affected dalit settlements/hamlets in other districts.
3) Ensure that camps are not closed till all facilities including temporary shelters, water, electricity, etc. are restored in the affected villages.
4) Survey affected lands and crops and work out a compensation package.
5) Declare a special relief and rehabilitation package for the dalit communities also taking into account the interests of those who are property-less i.e. without boats or land.
6) Involve the affected communities in all rehabilitation efforts right from the planning stage.

Once again it is important to reiterate that supply of material to the caste panchayat in the fishing villages will not ensure access of relief material to the Dalit communities. The only way in which one can ensure relief material supply to Dalit hamlets and areas is by identifying contact people in each village/hamlet and ensuring that the relief material reaches the affected dalit community also. – Yours faithfully, Dr. V. Suresh, for Citizens Platform for Tsunami Affected-Tamil Nadu, 10 January, 2005

Annexure 1:
Human Rights Forum for Dalit Liberation – Tamilnadu 203/1 Venkateswara Nagar, Mayiladuthurai – 609 118. Nagai District.

§ Most of Dalit huts in the near seashore are fully destroyed.
§ Dalit hamlets are surrounded with stagnant water.
§ Most of the houses about to submerged due to the non-drainage system.
§ People are not able to go to daily work, which is the main source of their bread and butter.
§ The govt. officials did not list most of Dalits deaths out.
§ Govt. relief goods are not reaching properly to the Dalit camps.

Affected dalit villages/ hamlets in Nagai & Karaikkal - table

We give below the list of such excluded Dalit hamlets in Nagapattinam District. It needs to be pointed out here that the list is not a comprehensive one and is merely indicative of what has been observed at the field levels in some of the villages where volunteers have been working for the last week, including a team of advocates and activists from PUCL-Karnataka. On the basis of field visits, this preliminary list of villages and hamlets, which are not receiving necessary relief material, has been drawn up.

Tharangampadi Taluk
Chandrapadi Nalu Theru (four streets); Kuttiyandiyur (Chinnamanikapangu).

Sirkali Taluk
Vanagiri (Adi Dravida Theru - street); Konayampattinam; Thenampattinam; 81 Keelazhaiour (Adi Dravida theru);

Neidavasil (Adi dravida Theru); Poompuhar village (Vadapadi and Thenpadi); Marundhampallam (Adi Dravida Theru); Mundhirithoppu (Adi Dravida Theru) – 13 January, 2005

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