Bhubaneswar: The devastation is colossal, the damage is extensive in the affected areas of cyclone Fani that wreaked havoc in Puri, Cuttack, Nayagarh, Jagatsinghpur and the twin cities of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, said the members of ‘Civil Society Responds to Fani (CSRF)’ which is a group of civil society organisations and concerned citizens who have come together to strengthen and accelerate the relief and rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of the cyclone.
Addressing a media interaction programme conducted on Friday, former Information Commissioner and Co-founder, CYSD, Jagadananda said in a large number of villages belonging to Puri Sadar, Brahmagiri, Krushnaprasad, Gop, Pipili, Satyabadi, Delang, Nimapada, Kakatpur blocks, cooked food was not available and even the distribution of dry food was inadequate. In spite of such a major disaster, it is unfortunate that toll tax has not been waived off on the National Highway from Bhubaneswar to Puri which hampers the movement of vehicles laden with relief material. People transporting relief material are being stopped on the way by looters and agitating people installing road blocks is another problem. Many of the volunteers worked for relief distribution are roughed up by anti-social elements, he lamented. He said the CSRF has sent a set of recommendations to the Chief Minister of Odisha to speed up the relief and rehabilitation process.
Scheduled Caste people sheltered in the Satapada Degree and +2 Colleges had received only 200 grams of Chuda and no cooked food till the afternoon of 6th May, said Manas Ranjan Mishra, a member of the CSRF. Distribution of Interim Relief of Rs 2000/- and 50 kilos of rice per family is being done only for ration card holders leaving out a large number of affected people who do not have ration cards, added Manas, who is also the Executive Director of Vasundhara, an action research and policy advocacy organisation that works for democratisation of natural resources.
While there has been power disruption everywhere, people suffer a lot as kerosene is not a part of relief material and they have to pay 35 rupees per litre of kerosene from fair price shops and much higher in the black market, he added further.
It is heartening that harvested and ready-to-harvest summer paddy on vast swathes of agricultural land has been badly affected and there is deterioration in quality and threats of distress sale.
Manas further added that people are staying away from cleaning debris and carcasses due to the fear that doing so before the government assessment will make them ineligible for compensation. The strike by Revenue Inspectors in Nimapara and reluctance of the officials to go to the field in other blocks are leading to a crisis in damage assessment. Sharing the plight of domestic animals, he said there is shortage of fodder for cattle. Besides, they are also showing signs of sunstroke as there is no roof over their heads and there is no shade due to uprooting of huge number of trees.
“Tarpaulins, which are the second most important need after food, are not being distributed and often being given in ridiculously small sizes such as 8 feet X 9 feet,” said Sneha Mishra, a member of CSRF and the Secretary, Aaina. Water of ponds and other water bodies have been contaminated by fallen trees and leaves and more importantly by poultry carcasses and dead fishes and the fear of spread of epidemic looms large.
Sandip Patnaik of NCAS mentioned that dalits are being denied access to Cyclone Shelters, Water Sources and facing discrimination in access to cooked food.
Odisha Head of Water Aid India Bisakha Bhanja, who is also a member of the CSRF said while the government is claiming that it has achieved success in providing drinking water, the reality is not the same. While the affected people of twin cities of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar have received some amount of drinking water, distribution of the same in rural areas has been almost non-existent.
It is high time, the spirit of volunteerism be instilled among the villagers to speed up their own rehabilitation process, said Kailas Dandapat, who heads Antaranga, a huge chain of volunteers based at Kandhamal and now is currently working in the slums of Bhubaneswar post cyclone to assist people in debris clearing and other rehabilitation process. He lamented that NDRF Teams are not receiving support from affected communities.
The CSRF came up with some recommendations for the government regarding Debris Clearing through Volunteerism, Water Supply, Health Interventions, Awareness and Action on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and urged the government to include these in their policy action to speed up the relief and rehabilitation process.
Principal recommendations for immediate relief response:
- Supply of at least 1litre of kerosene free of cost as relief in addition to PDS quota.
- Use of Army in restoration of power infrastructure and other suitable programmes.
- Temporary shelter materials for both human as well as livestock and grains. All households must get adequate Tarpaulin sheets as polythene sheets are not suitable to withstand the coming monsoon rains.
- Provision of Fodder as per NDRF Norms.
- Cleaning and Disinfection of Water Bodies should be done on an urgent basis. Carcass disposal should be facilitated by exempting mandatory damage assessment.
- Protection of relief teams through both police as well as promoting community policing.
- Placing Civil Society Volunteers along with NDRF teams to facilitate community involvement in and support to the work of NDRF.
- Ensuring that Women (especially single women), uncared for elderly people, persons with disability and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities are not discriminated in provision of relief and rehabilitation help. One action towards this should be to ensure Gender and Caste based disaggregation of information collected on damage assessment as well as on provision of relief and rehabilitation.
Policy Actions for Effective Relief and Rehabilitation
- Those who do not have ration cards should get relief on the basis of Voter Lists.
- Procurement of Rabi crop; relaxation of FAQ norms; and ensuring procurement and compensation for sharecroppers
- Relaxation of MGNREGA rules to include debris clearing and wages to be paid in cash
- Microfinance organisations and other lenders should not collect loan EMIs at this time of distress and offer at least three months of EMI holiday to borrowers – mostly women.
- To ensure timely removal of debris and carcass and prevent outbreak of any epidemics, the government should explore an easier community based certification for damage assessment and compensation for damage below Rs 20,000 per household. Additional government officials can be trained and deployed for damage assessment.
- Providing Relief to all affected people irrespective of their place of origin based on one or the other identification (e.g. Voter ID Card, MGNREGA Card, Adhaar Card etc.)
- NHAI should declare exemption from toll on tollgates in disaster affected areas.
- Temporary Shelter material attract a very high GST of 18% and there should be complete exemption from this.
- Declaration of extent of damage (severely/moderately affected) should be done at block level rather than in district level.
Civil Society Responds to Fani (CSRF) is a group of civil society organisations and concerned citizens who have come together to strengthen and accelerate the relief and rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of the cyclone. It seeks to contribute both in terms of augmenting material and human resource support and providing feedback on the impact and the state of response in the most severely affected areas. It reckons that the next few weeks will be very crucial for setting the overall direction and agenda of the response program. CSRF’s senior and experienced volunteers visit the affected areas and bring to the government’s notice the issues and concerns of immediate relief as well as policy issues that can reduce distress and enhance the impact of the response program.