“TSUNAMI” tragedy: the point of view of an Indian social organization

10 January 2005 by Vikas Adhyayan Kendra

Vikas Adhyayan Kendra (India), member of CADTM international network, is keen in joining the campaign for the Cancellation of all Public External Debt of those countries affected by the Tsunami Earthquake.

As the dates go by there is a growing number of people who are finding it difficult to come to terms with their tragedy - the loss of lives and livelihood. Those who have survived have now to face the trauma of everyday life.
There is also discrimination in the distribution of
relief supplies to Dalit and Adivasi communities among whom VAK is also involved with in relief and rehabilitation efforts. Because of the resource crunch we have not been able to reach the needy. Whatever resources we have mobilized is being used for relief and rehabilitation purposes.

The following update will give you an idea about the ground realities of the tragedy:

The majority of the people killed were women and children especially fisher folk. The survivors speak of people, animal, traditional boats, fishing nets, moveable and immovable properties being washed away.

Officials say that it was impossible to state how many people were killed by the Tsunami fury. The disaster ripped away social moorings as harshly as their children were snatched from their mothers hands. For many who survived this fury the emotional battle may have just begun.

According to our initial study 80% to 90% of those affected show symptoms of trauma. From our experience from Gujarat have shown that not much of a technical expertise is required. What is important is the mechanism at this stage of listening to the affected people instead of
probing them that the media and journalists are doing. What VAK on the other hand is initiating are play groups especiall! y among children and also collective support systems for women to listen to their sorrows and sufferings as these are considered easy to handle and will greatly reduced the experience of such trauma.

Establishing social networks and community support systems and rebuilding traditional and emotional ties of community caring and sharing is the need of the hour. The experience
of the earlier calamities is that most children are exposed to vulnerabilities of all types. Women especially of those who lost their husbands are also highly vulnerable, as in the case of a women in her 30s from Nagapattanam and her 10 month old baby in hands shuffles from pillor to post, past the desk at the local government official after seven days waiting (her husband being declared dead) to apply for a death certificate for her husband. Homeless, she can now claim no compensation for dead husband without this document. This case is similar to several other similar c! ases of survivors most of whom are ignorant of the procedures involved in acquiring this necessary document on compensation and other claims. In these cases legal aid is an important component of VAK’s initiative.

At the same time whilst finalizing this small write up, the death toll now stands at over 15,000 (identified bodies). It must be noted that these are assumed figures as many dead bodies were cremated without any investigation as many victims were in a decomposed state. They were all mass buried in to available fields. Several thousands have been injured and rendered homeless. Over one million homes were damaged and destroyed. Small enterprises of collective fisheries by traditional fishing communities - their boats and fishing nets etc. - shopkeepers, rural industries - were also affected. Health and educational institutions were severely damaged. Several village health clinics, power supply lines and infrastructures were also destroyed in several areas.

A major crisis of drinking water sources is also being experienced. Traditional water bodies and water sources in villages are totally unpottable due to sea water entering these water bodies. The social fabric of the earthquake-hit areas has been devastated by the large
number of human deaths and injuries. In addition to the immediate suffering caused, it is likely that an equally large number of families have been torn by the death or serious disability of a member (though family-based data are not yet available). This will have long-term consequences on the well-being of other members, particularly widows, single parent children, orphans, and the elderly. Other social impacts of the earthquake include deep insecurity among those who have lost assets, including property, and increased vulnerability among them to poverty. The livelihoods of many families have been disrupted. The loss of lives, and loss of or damage to homes, productive assets, and workplaces, has caused more severe social disruption.

A major fall out of the “TSUNAMI” tragedy has led to a steep fall in the fish catch in Tamil Nadu. The Annual production now of the order of 4 Lakh Tonnes will plummet by at least 30 percent as fishermens in 591 coastal villages may not venture into sea for 3 months. This in turn fishermen would be deprived of their day to day earning. Fishermens and their fishing have to face the starvation. In addition to the above and also will hit the export of marine products which now account for Rs. 2300 crores a year. Marine products export processing units may not have work for the next 3 months. Consequently employment of thousands of workers (mostly women workers) will be affected. Fishermen yet to recount 7000 mechanised boats including out board and in board motor board, 30000 county craft either fully or partly get it back. Fishermen
may! not venture in to sea for the months. So fishermen and their family to starve for many days.

Given the enormous scale of loss of lives and livelihood of the fisher
folk plus the massive destruction to their properties - resulting in
mass employment and misery - it will take a massive effort for those
effected to recover from the tragedy in terms of their daily livelihood.
This recovery will involve massive effort in terms of financial and
non-financial resources covering a minimum 6 to 9 months.

Some of the other major highlights are the following:

1. The scale of devastation is vast and people including those in the
local administration appear shell-shocked. They are unable to organize
themselves quickly. The assistance is flowing in too fast for the
government or the people to cope up. Moreover assistance is focused on
major towns which have therefore become distribution bottlenecks and the
supplies are not being evenly dis! tributed to the towns and villages and
certainly not with the required speed. In the absence of any inventory
system, critical supplies do not reach where they ought to though
available in plenty. The distribution, such as it is, is haphazard
resulting in overstocking at some places and scarcity at others. There
is an urgent need for volunteers groups to channelise the collection and
distribution of supplies/ assistance to ensure that they reach where
required the most.

2. In village after ravaged village; lower castes are kept out of tents
and pushed to margins of relief because of caste discrimination.
Therefore there is a need for volunteers who can mingle with the
marginalized groups and villages and organize a task force of the people
to act as an interface between the resources and the village community.

3. The rescue work is now over. The next phase requires medical
intervention, temporary shelters, and trauma counseling.

4. Aid, wh! ich is pouring in needs to be properly collected, accounted
and distributed to the most needy. This too is being done and systems
are being put in place so that the community will run these operations
at all times for the next two months.

5. Any disaster destroys family with heartbreaking results. Aged parents
are deprived of support, little children are orphaned, and individuals
are crippled. One should identify such groups and assure long term
assistance to them.

6. Compensation for loss of life and property needs to be accessed from
the government. As large numbers of victims have lost all their
belongings, including their documents (like ration card, proof of
property, etc), the government has to be pursued to adopt a meaningful
compensation policy, so that all earthquake affected people avail
compensation to rebuild their homes.

VAK’s approach and principles

VAK has always been responsive to the external realities. Even in these times VAK seeks to intervene in the best way possible in terms of relief, rehabilitation and long sustainable development. Provision of livelihood focused support turned out to be the best strategy to speed up the community journey to well being. This is especially so with the fishing communities who are very proud of their self worth and self reliance. Begging for food and other essentials are not part of their culture. They also have a special relationship with the sea, as their mother, as one who gives and takes away”. Therefore, it is very important to enable them to recover their traditional occupation of
fishing in providing them all the means and assistance to resume their traditional occupations - who take care Care Le concept de « care work » (travail de soin) fait référence à un ensemble de pratiques matérielles et psychologiques destinées à apporter une réponse concrète aux besoins des autres et d’une communauté (dont des écosystèmes). On préfère le concept de care à celui de travail « domestique » ou de « reproduction » car il intègre les dimensions émotionnelles et psychologiques (charge mentale, affection, soutien), et il ne se limite pas aux aspects « privés » et gratuit en englobant également les activités rémunérées nécessaires à la reproduction de la vie humaine. of their long term resources and needs.

The Principles

1. Whatever is done should be done through the people themselves: that is the quickest route to their getting back dignity and self confidence.

2. Whatever is done should lead to the transformation of the community: leading to responsible participation and effective democracy.

3. Whatever is done should involve total transparency and accountability that will enable the community to demand the same from the system and the rulers.

Immediate needs to be taken up

1. Health, Education, Water Supply, Prevent Health Care from the spread of epidemics.
2. Food supply at least for sixty days till they come to normalcy of
making a livelihood
3. Utensils and vessels for cooking along stoves
4. Lighting - solar or Carrying lanterns and restoring of power supply
5. Temporary shelter
6. Supply of fishing boats and nets and transport boats
7. Confidence building
8. Repairing and building of new boats of the fisher folk
9. Fishing nets and related equipments
10. Repairs and rebuilding of those huts that have been totally destroyed
11. Treatment and hospitalisation of those physically injured and mentally traumatised persons including women’s and children’s
12. Food and clothing of for the fisher folk
13. Relocating the villages to a higher places
14. Reissuing of Land Pattas, Bank Pass Books and Ration Cards
15. School Books and note books for children

Source: Vikas Adhyayan Kendra (http://www.vakindia.org/). Email: vak at bom3.vsnl.net.in.



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