Friday, December 31, 2004

Onsite Update :: from Siddhamma in Pazhaverkadu

31 Dec 04
Dear Friends,

Here is the info I got from Siddhamma today.

Lakshmi got in touch with Siddhamma. Lakshmi and Namita will travel with Siddhamma with food to Pazhaverkadu (around Pulligat lake). [Pls look at yesterday's update for info on status of affected areas.]

She mentioned that Asha Chennai has been able to kick in efforts extremely quickly. Lakshmi has also added additional items to the packet dal+red chili power+salt. The packet contains 1kg ricex7 days/per family.

Q: Why is the amt 1kg/family per day is very different from 5kg/day that was requested.
A: This is the relief that is provided in Chennai and this is what they have right now. The size of the family and the eating habits are quite different since ppl are used to a lot of physical work. Namita and Lakshmi will be travelling with me tomorrow and they should be able to talk to the ppl directly and get an idea of the requirements.

Q: Do you have a info of how many ppl in each family, etc?
A: Yes we have a complete survey. My comuputer disk has been infected. I will mail you the info as soon as it's fixed.

They have worked on projects to rescue bonded laborers and 20 rescued volunteers will be there tomorrow to help with the distribution to each family. Villages from Pettai, Sengaiamna Nagar, Rajaratna Nagar & Kolathumadu have been moved from Punnari City to Rajaratna Nagar & Kolathumadu. They are staying in their homes and are starting to make some temporary acco here. We will know more tomorrow after Siddamma's visit there.


Pitchavaram (Cuddalore): Discussion with Govt. There local govt officials have ignored Kalaingar Nagar (Karunanidhi Nagar). This is a village of almost 150 families. After substantial discussions with the officials they said that they were not aware of the village in their district. It appears the real reason is the actual name of the village (which really isn't the results fault). The eventually agreed to provide some support to them and moved them to a Govt school. However, we just heard from them that they have not received any food for the whole day.

We have contacted the district Cuddalore collector, they had heard of our work with the bonded laborers and has promised to take care of it tomorrow.

Killa Panchayat president said that the Govt wanted to get in touch with us and wanted us and the ppl to give money to the Project Office to reconstruct. However, when we spoke to the PO they said they want to construct plastic sheds for 10 families each. These would be made
of plastic and would cost Rs 380,000 each in an area much further than their original villages.

The village heads of Killanadu said the they will not move in because it will get too hot in a couple of months in summer in the shed and they don't want to be split apart in a different area when they can do with the moral support from one another.

Chinnavoyal will work here with the ppls support. Killai village has come forward to provide their huts and will help the other communities. These ppl have themselves lost over 40 ppl, but are coming fwd to help their community. These are three village Kannaginagar (10 families), Chinnavoyal (50 families), Pillainedu (85 families). They think they can build a hut for under Rs. 3000. They think they can manage with 50 kg rice and share it.

We then also understood some of the reasons for this relief effort. There are two groups around Killai one are the landlords who do prawn farming. They create small ponds to grow prawns. This, however, makes the land too alkaline and difficult to grow anything. The three
villages mentioned have been resisting having their lands bought over by the prawn owners.

The sheds are being proposed in the area that is owned by the prawn farm owners and the sheds will be owned by the landlords and not by the ppl themselves.

There is no trust in the govt officials. They are already made it very difficult to get relief. They need to be paid Rs. 10,000 as bribe to get the 1 lakh for the families they lost. They need need to travel to Cuddalore city and then they receive the checks with photographs from
the politicians there. Many ppl are just too devastated to go anywhere.

Q: Are there specific cases you can tell me that we can specifically take up with the govt?
A: I will send you the case studies. We will also take this up.

In Pillainedu still only 40 bodies have been recovered. The youth have put together some funds and bought a diesel boat and are out in the waters morning to evening looking for the missing 10 bodies. The govt has still not taken the responsibility to find the missing ppl.

We have repeatedly brought this up. But, the govt is just not taking this seriously.

Siddamma said she would be working with the people so they can be on their land instead of having to move out. They will also trace out the land and see how many familes can be accommodated. She will also work with other villages which have not been effected by the tsunami to get rice. The youth will get back to her tomorrow with what is required for the children who need to prepare for their exams.