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Home > News > Report

Tsunami funds send locals on spending spree

Sovi Vidyadharan | December 25, 2005 16:12 IST

Kuppuraj, a tsunami survivor, can be sighted at Nagapattinam town everyday waiting for a bus to the nearby Karaikal part of the Union Territory of Pondicherry to buy liquor and other articles at reduced rates.

The 32-year-old fisherman of Akkaraipettai village in this district had lost his five children and his grandmother in the December 26 tsunami, for which he has received Rs 12 lakh as compensation from the government at both Centre and
the state.

Instead of using the compensation money to set up his livelihood, he is wasting it on liquor and costly goods. Most
of the time he is intoxicated and does not give any money to his wife for running the household, says Pandian, his

There are many Kuppurajs in this tsunami-ravaged district, who, without any proper directive to utilise the money they receive as compensation, are wasting it on liquor and frivolous activities. This is evident from the long queues witnessed in front of wine shops in Karaikal and heavy booking for brand new two wheelers.

Though the administration may be waxing eloquently about its timely disbursement of relief - especially the death solatium to tsunami victims - the absence of any concrete monitoring mechanism has led to its widespread misuse by

Complete Coverage: Tsunami

While the Tamil Nadu government distributed Rs1 lakh as relief for loss of life, the Centre also distributed an equal amount to around 4,810 people in this district - both totalling to Rs 96.2 crore. In addition to it, the state government has disbursed Rs 76.75 crore for physical losses and Rs 52.41 crore for restoration of livelihood.

However, many survivors in this coastal district, which accounted for nearly half of the 12, 405 deaths all over India
in the Decmeber 26 tsunami, are spending the money on large quantities of liquor and expensive items, instead of using it
to revive their livelihood, according to social workers active here for many years.

"We have got reports of such misuse of compensation amount by survivors. But the administration is helpless as it can only put informal pressure on them to invest it in productive enterprises," Nagapattinam District Collector J Radhakrishnan told PTI.

"The village panchayat heads have been asked to sensitise the people about the importance of saving the money and using it effectively for the restoration of their livelihood. We have tried to convince the people about the fixed deposit
option, but many, it seems, are not willing for it," Radhakrishnan says.

Liquor shops and business establishments in Karaikal are witnessing a boom after the tsunami. Many people from
Nagapattinam come here to shop for liquor, electronic goods, two wheelers and dress materials," says Kumaraswamy, a textile shop owner in Karaikal.

"In recent months, there has been a sharp increase of customers from Nagapattinam and Cuddalore, especially the
fishermen, with many of them making purchases worth thousands of rupees," Kumaraswamy says.

Karaikal is the preferred destination for such tsunami survivors because of two reasons - reduced prices at the Union
Territory and anonymity from the prying eyes of local residents in Nagapattinam.

"We have been monitoring such cases and have advised such people to desist from these practices. Though the trend of
spending money recklessly is prevalent among our community, we are convincing them to investin fixed deposit and in
co-operative welfare schemes," says Mathiyazhakan, head of the fishermen's village panchayat in Akkarapettai - one of the worst-hit hamlets in this district.

On the other hand, the tsunami has revived the business of local traders, taxi operators and hotel owners in Nagapattinam and adjoining areas, as the tragedy has brought in a number of NGOs, volunteers and media persons to the town. Most of the hotels here have been booked to near-full capacity ever since the tsunami.

"Earlier, we used to get only ten to fifteen trips per month. But with a lot of foreign NGOs and others visiting the affected areas regularly, we have been getting trips throughout the month," says Dehambaram, a taxi driver at Nagapattinam town.

"The adverse effects of these outsiders' influx can be seen in the spiraling taxi and auto fares in the town, says
Babu, a resident of the town.

Many local residentshave expressed displeasure at the NGOs giving "too much of unwanted attention" to even the
minute needs of the survivors, making them totally reliant on outside help.

"Loss of life and property is synonymous with the life of a fisherman. The tragedy has got worldwide attention this time
due to its sheer magnitude. By giving them assistance in all forms for almost a year, the NGOs, are depriving them of their self reliance," said a local social worker who didn't want to be named.

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Sub: Tsunami funds cause spoil locals

The monies should not have been given out in cash lump-sum, but put into a bank account, with limited draws for either building a home ...

Posted by labrea



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