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Rebuilding home proving tough

A month after the tsunamis, returning to normalcy is a challenge for the affected people.
PTI | By Indo-Asian News Service, Puthinemilikuppam (tamil Nadu)
PUBLISHED ON JAN 28, 2005 11:17 AM IST

Yaadamma, a 60-year-old woman in this village who lost her entire family in the Dec 26 killer waves, refuses to move into temporary shelters erected by the government nearby.

"How can one live in houses that are unfit even for cattle?" asks the elderly woman, who is staying in someone else's house as she waits for moving into a permanent home.

A month after the tsunamis, a visit to the affected fishermen's villages in and around Chennai reveals varied problems, and the solutions are not easy to find.

Some complain that the temporary shelters erected for them are unfit for habitation, others say their new houses are far from the sea and they cannot carry out their daily work.

Those who have built their own houses through loans and other assistance complain about the authorities not letting them live in peace. Some talk of irregularities in disbursement of relief, others say they got more than they expected.

The fishermen of Kasimedu village in north Chennai, where about 200 hutments were washed away in the tidal surge, are upset over the new shelters provided to them. They have refused to occupy the new houses at Sathangadu near Tiruvottiyur, some eight kilometres from Kasimedu.

"We agreed to move away from the sea to anywhere near our place, but not as far as away as Sathangadu," says Thambi Durai. He added it would be impossible to carry out fishing activities from such a place, which is far away from the sea.

Fishermen of Chalankuppam village on the east coast road who had built shelters for themselves through the initial aid they received are not being allowed to remain in those houses.

Every now and then government officials are coming along, asking them to vacate the place and move to temporary shelters erected far away from the sea, complains Duraimurugan, adding: "Our efforts to rebuild our lives are coming to a nought by such interference".

Inhabitants of Aalikuppam village complain about irregularities in the disbursement of relief material.

"The officials had regulated the disbursal of aid by first identifying those who lost their fishing gear and compensating them - only to distribute the remaining amount among themselves," alleges fisherman Kanddasamy.

However, there are some fishing communities, for instance those living in Srinivaspuram, that are happy about the disbursal of relief and say they received more than what they expected.

"Initially the government distributed Rs.15,000 for repairing boats and procuring nets, subsequently more money was made available by NGOs and other aid agencies. There has been a constant flow of food articles and other supplies," Banumathi, a young woman, says.

"The worst is over. The desire to get back to work has been rekindled, life is getting back to normal," she adds.

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