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The Rediff Special/George Iype
The tsunami: Putting the record straight
December 19, 2005
One of the aftermaths of last year's tsunami, one of the greatest tragedies mankind has ever witnessed, was one of the greatest shows of human solidarity.
People across the globe came together with international agencies to provide food, shelter and medicine to the people affected by the waves of death and destruction.
Almost a year later, efforts continue to provide housing, livelihood support, education and socio-psychological support to the affected people.
For the Government of India and a number of voluntary groups involved in the relief and reconstruction operations, it is stocktaking time.
Just how much damage did the waves cause? Just how much is the cost of rebuilding? Exactly how many people died?
In case any of these questions has crossed your mind, read on:
How many Indians did the tsunami kill?
The Government of India says the tsunami killed a total of 12,405 people in the country. Hundred and seven of them were in Andhra Pradesh, 177 in Kerala, 599 in Pondicherry, 3,513 in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and 8,009 in Tamil Nadu.
But, unofficially, non-governmental organisations say the death toll was much higher, and there is no clear proof of the exact number of deaths.
How many people were affected by the disaster?
Official estimates say the tragedy affected 27,92,000 people in 1,089 villages: 43,000 people in Pondicherry; 196,000 in Andhra Pradesh; 13,00,000 in Kerala; 356,000 in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and 897,000 in Tamil Nadu.
The tsunami destroyed over 235,000 homes, damaged 83,788 boats and rendered 39,035 hectares of cropped area unusable. The social infrastructure -- schools, primary health centres, drinking water supply, anganwadis and other community assets -- in these areas was totally destroyed.
What was the total cost of damages?
The government assessed the total damage cost to be Rs.115.45 billion: Rs 3.42 billion in Andhra Pradesh, Rs 4.66 billion in Pondicherry, Rs 23.7 billion in Kerala, Rs 38.36 billion in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Rs 45.28 billion in Tamil Nadu.
How much money did the government collect as donations from the people?
The Prime Minister's National Relief Fund -- that calls in for donations from citizens in the wake of any national tragedy -- collected Rs 8.29 billion. According to the Prime Minister's Office, over 91,000 contributions -- from organisations and individuals -- came in for tsunami relief.
Was that money enough for relief and reconstruction?
As the deficit between estimated damages and the contributions money tells you, the answer is a big 'No'. Immediately after the disaster, the government released Rs 7 billion as immediate relief to the affected state governments.
What else did the Government of India do?
The government decided to channel the funding of tsunami reconstruction projects in two unique ways.
First, it set up a special fund scheme -- called the Rajiv Gandhi Rehabilitation Package -- for tsunami-affected areas. The package, of Rs 36.44 billion, was to provide assistance for immediate relief and response, revival of fishery and agriculture sectors, immediate construction of temporary shelters and infrastructure repairs.
The state-wise break up of the package was: Rs 7 million for Andhra Pradesh, Rs 1.55 billion for Pondicherry, Rs 2.49 billion for Kerala, Rs 8.21 billion for Andaman and Nicobar, and Rs 23.47 billion for Tamil Nadu.
Second, in the Planning Commission, the government set up a Core Group on Reconstruction, Management and Monitoring for tsunami affected areas. The Core Group has prepared a comprehensive plan for rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected states, with a financial outlay of Rs 98.7 billion. It includes Rs 1.38 billion for Andhra Pradesh, Rs 4.87 billion for Pondicherry, Rs 7.75 billion for the shipping sector, Rs 14.7 billion for Kerala, Rs 26.14 billion for Andaman and Nicobar and Rs 40.84 billion for Tamil Nadu.
What is the total money the government is spending on tsunami reconstruction?
The total outlay for the ongoing projects is Rs 135.13 billion.
Has the government set a timeframe for executing the rehabilitation projects?
Not really, and that is the biggest drawback of the government efforts. The Planning Commission is coordinating with the state governments on executing the various livelihood projects for tsunami victims. But almost a year after the disaster, various government agencies are yet to set a timeframe for building houses and revamping the infrastructure in tsunami-hit areas.
What about the NGO sector?
To be fair, some of the NGOs/charity organisations have done better than the government in executing tsunami projects. For instance, Caritas India, the social service arm of the Catholic Church in India, has built and handed over hundreds of houses to tsunami victims across the states. Caritas has embarked on tsunami rehabilitation projects worth Rs 5 billion. So have other NGOs.
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