Even as biting cold has made worse the deplorable conditions in which communal-riot victims in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli are staying, a political row has erupted over relief measures.
AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi during a visit to a relief camp for the victims of the Uttar Pradesh riots in Shamli. (PTI)
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s tour of the affected areas on Sunday has once again brought the situation to light.
While Gandhi was concerned at the state of these camps, UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav was quick to rebut charges of negligence. Adequate measures had been taken to provide succour to the people, Yadav said.
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The chief minister told newsmen in Meerut on Monday that NGOs and other organisations working in relief camps could submit suggestions on how to send people home.
He said district magistrates had been asked to talk to social organisations.
Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav strongly refuted opposition charges on inadequate relief. He said cash compensation had been given to the victims.
“No other state took such quick relief measures in the past,” Yadav said.
Read: Ready to act on suggestions on rehabilitation of riots victims, says Akhilesh
Union steel minister Beni Prasad Verma, who announced union steel ministry-sponsored relief measures in Lucknow, also assailed the state government for “poor relief measures”.
However, a visit to some camps in Budhana and Loi in Muzaffarnagar presented a frightening picture. With mercury fast dipping in the area, people could be seen shivering, without blankets or woollens to cover themselves.
Chief secretary Jawed Usmani said there were around 5,000 people at the four camps in Shamli and Muzaffarnagar. Arrangements had also been made to provide relief from the cold. After the breakout of communal violence in September, around 50,000 people had taken shelter in 41 camps in two districts.
However, talking to HT, Nadeem, which is from village Kharad and is now in the Loi camp, said there was hardly any governmental assistance, adding, “social organisations have come to our rescue”.
She said, “Nobody from the government came to take care of our urgent requirements.”
Hameeda of Phugana village, another victim at the same camp, said, “We are spending sleepless nights in the biting cold.”
In most of these camps, people had the same tale to tell. “There was no way to save our children,” Hameeda said.
After the deaths of 40 children due to cold and other ailments were reported, the state government constituted a committee headed by the Meerut divisional commissioner to probe the matter.
“The committee will soon submit the report,” Usmani said.
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Murshida Khatoon, 25, lost her 20-day-old boy to the biting cold. Mursheeda says that they didn’t have money or means to protect the child from the cold in their tent. (HT Photo/Raj K Raj)
A row has erupted even among Muslim clerics over running the relief camps. While Jamiat Ulema Hind (JUH) general secretary Maulana Mahmood Madni was critical of the state government, the president of the rival JUH faction, Maulana Arshad Madni, said there was no need for camps and they should go back.
On the initiative of Arshad Madni, the government had sanctioned Rs. 10 lakh to each victim and for this Rs. 90 crore had been released so far. But one-time payment will be made to those unwilling to go back.
A ministerial committee headed by PWD minister Shivpal Yadav too in its report in October had laid stress on quickly winding up the camps. The committee had even accused the private relief camps at madarsas of running their own businesses in the name of relief.
Read: Muzaffarnagar village opposes rehabilitation of riot victims
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Watch a victim at one such relief camp talk: