Orissa: Long walk to normalcy

  • Soumyajit Pattnaik, Hindustan Times, Tikabali/Phiringia
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  • Updated: Aug 31, 2008 01:28 IST

Riot victims have started moving to relief camps set up by the government in Kandhamal district, but the trek to safety is yet to gather momentum.

As relief camps have come up mostly in block headquarters, only those hiding in nearby forests have been able to move into these temporary shelters.

Several victims, hiding more than 10 km from block headquarters, are yet to get into these islands of safety protected by security personnel.

Sarbeswar Diggal of Karandagada village, who reached a relief camp at Phiringia on Friday, told HT: “We were staying in the forests. On Friday afternoon, we went to Sarangagada police station and the cops brought us here.”

The camp is already bursting at the seams with 63 people living in three tiny rooms in a school.

Southern Range Divisional Commissioner Satyabrata Sahu has issued an appeal to riot victims, asking them to come to relief camps.

It is safety that comes first at these centres, far above conditions of health and hygiene that remain woeful.

But some camps, like the one at Tikabali High School, have been spruced up in view of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s visit to the school on Saturday.
On Friday, when an HT team visited the Tikabali centre, the picture was very different. There were no government officials apart from armed security personnel.

Mikhala Nayak, a woman at the camp,  said: “We did not get anything to eat till late morning. At 11 a.m., they gave us 50 kg of rice and started a community kitchen. The children are starving...”

And when victims at the camp asked for firewood, they were reportedly told to arrange for it on their own.

But on Saturday, the place was swarming with senior government officials and new utensils and clothes were being distributed.

Meanwhile, bus services to Kandhamal district have resumed. In Phulbani, the district headquarters of Kandhamal, curfew was relaxed for 12 hours on Saturday.


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