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February 3, 2001
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Insurance companies refuse compensation to quake-hit; hide behind clauses

Dhanajay Mahapatra in Wankaner

The business community of the old Wankaner town, famous for its pottery, are enraged with the government after insurance companies have refused to compensate them for their quake-damaged shops.

As the insurance companies take shelter behind the clause, "earthquake and other acts of nature" for not paying compensation, the business community who had availed insurance cover for their shops, fail to digest the legalities.

"The surveyors are saying that we will get a maximum of Rs 30,000 for a totally damaged house and even less for partially damaged ones," says Bharat Shah. "Can the government build us houses in Rs 30,000. If so, we do not want the money," he says.

The residents of old Wankaner town, where 17 people died, wears a dusty look as the rubble clearance began only on Saturday, eight days after the quake. Asked why the delay in removing the rubble, Tehsildar P J Garchar says, "No rubble can be removed unless the preliminary survey of damaged property is complete".

Garchar says the preliminary survey indicated that over 5,000 houses and shops were completely damaged. He estimated the total damage in the town to be around Rs 230 million.

The intensity of the quake in the area can be well gauged from the words of Ajay Solani. He says, "First I thought that a tractor was passing on the road. Then I thought probably Chief Minister Keshubhai is taking a helicopter ride."

Perished among the buildings were the over 100-year-old Pul Darwaja, Vora Masjid and a 200-year-old Jain temple.

Raju Shah, a trader, says that government authorities have totally failed to ameliorate the sufferings of affected people in Wankaner. "For the first two days, we got free food organised by two big businessmen. From then onwards we are staying with our relatives," he said, adding, "How long can one stay with relatives?"

Garchar says that they have an enormous task on hand and the government would take some time to reach out to each and every affected person.

The Complete Coverage | List of earthquake sites

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