Gujarat beat Bhuj quake blues back, brick by brick
What the earthquake flattened in minutes that winter morning took years and years to rebuild. Bachau, the epicentre of the deadly earthquake, Bhuj, Anjar and most other stretches across Kutch have, literally risen from the rubble.
After the quake, massive relief and reconstruction exercise was undertaken by the government authorities with the help of hundreds of NGOs and international agencies like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, which had offered huge financial assistance to rehabilitate the affected people.
Besides, business associations like Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), industry associations such as FICCI and ASSOCHAM, a number of heavy-weight corporates and major Public Sector Units took advantage of the tax concessions announced at that time and adopted large clusters of villages for relief and reconstruction.
Town planners and government authorities turned the large scale of devastation into an advantage by using it to start approach reconstruction in an organised manner.
“A striking feature of 2001 earthquake relief in Gujarat was the involvement of private sector, large and small, local and international, in partnership with state authorities and civil society organizations,” said Mihir Bhatt, director of Gujarat-based All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (ALDMI), which has worked in relief and rehabilitation programmes of all major disasters like 2001 earthquake, 2004 tsunami, 2005 Kashmir earthquake, Assam floods.
Though there were loopholes in the rehabilitation exercise with many deserving families not getting adequate help and issues of corruption by local bureaucracy but overall the exercise has led to rehabilitation of the victims.
“Initially, there were many issues like petty corruption, delay in distribution of relief materials and carrying out the proper assessment of the loss of human lives, damages to the properties. Several thousand families had to live in tents for almost two years,” said a government official, who had worked as collector, Kutch following the quake.
The Gujarat government immediately set up Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) and also created local area urban authorities to rebuild Bhuj, Bhachau and Anjar, which had reduced to rubbles, in a planned and systemic way.
Moreover, a slew of measures announced by the Union and state governments to offer tax holidays to set up industry in disaster-hit areas also helped backward areas like Kutch, which has emerged as a rapidly industrialised district in the state.