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3 years after killer quake, Gujarat emerges stronger

January 25, 2004 18:24 IST
Last Updated: January 25, 2004 18:24 IST

Though images of the devastating quake of 2001 are fresh in the minds of the people, Gujarat has emerged stronger and more resurgent, with the help of NGOs and private organisations that came forward with funds and other assistance for its reconstruction.

Kutch district, which was almost flattened by the quake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale, is today self-sufficient and now boasts of an Rs 130 crore hospital dedicated to the people by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

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The massive earthquake that had reduced houses in Bhuj and Ahmedabad to rubble has taught important lessons to the people and prompted the government to draft a Disaster Management Policy, which was passed by the assembly and converted into an Act on May 13, 2003.

The Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) was made the nodal agency to monitor all quake-related reconstruction work. It ensured that hospitals across the state were rebuilt with better facilities, prompting the Prime Minister's Office to fund the Rs 130 crore hospital.

The mud and cement houses that collapsed during the quake were replaced by quake and cyclone-resistant houses, which were also insured.

The Gujarat Emergency Earthquake Reconstruction Project (GEERP) claims that the state government undertook the world's biggest house reconstruction project in which over 900,000 houses were repaired and close to 200,000 houses were reconstructed.

However, in Ahmedabad city where several high-rise buildings and even a school building collapsed, the pace of reconstruction has not been at par with that in Bhuj.

Barring the Mansi Complex in Satellite area that has been reconstructed due to the efforts of the survivors, other sites just bear plaques in memory of those who perished. Rubble may have been cleared from several quake-hit sites in the city but not much effort has gone into replacing them with stronger structure as is the case of Shikhar Apartments in Satellite area and the Swaminarayan School in Maninagar area where children participating in the Republic Day parade were crushed under concrete.

For people like Manish Joshi, the quake changed their lives forever. Joshi lost his entire family, including children, and now avoids staying at home in the daytime.

To compound their misery, the government is yet to take action against erring builders, engineers and civic officers who allegedly compromised on the quality of the building material. More than 70 builders, engineers and civic officials were arrested in the aftermath of the quake but are yet to face trial.

About 121 children orphaned by the quake recently spent time with Gujarat governor and later with Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the run up to the third anniversary of the earthquake.

Meanwhile, the Centre has extended excise duty exemption for new industrial units in Kutch for another three months.

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