ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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More on Tsunami Relief

Authors of a report (April 19) on post-tsunami shelter and settlement strategy of the Tamil Nadu government respond to a rejoinder by C V Sankar (May 17), officer on special duty for relief and rehabilitation.

ananthi Vembulu (pavananthi@ and R John Suresh Kumar ( are with CNI SBSS and C Sathyamala ( is an epidemiologist.

DISCUSSIONEconomic & Political Weekly EPW june 21, 2008137started occupying the houses, the govern-ment took a policy decision of arranging funds for infrastructure development from the Rajiv Gandhi rehabilitation pack-age. It is this policy confusion over the provision of infrastructure and not “the 1,200 acres in more than 200 locations” that contributed to the misery of people. The unutilised/underutilised fund under ETRP has been rooted to thenewlyconcep-tualised project of “reconstructing all the vulnerable houses up to 1,000 metres from the coast”. We appreciate the govern-ment’s intention to eliminate vulnerability in coastal areas. But does that mean that when we describe their legitimate angst and frustrations at having to live in habi-tations without proper infrastructure amenities we are agreeing with “a few narrow-minded fisherfolk”? It is in this context that we highlighted the lack of electricity in few places. Sankar has stated that people themselves decided to move into houses with inadequate infrastruc-tures for various reasons, but he has not revealed as to what could those reasons be. The fatigue in staying in temporary shelters for such a prolonged period, and in worn-out dilapidated shelters without any basic amenities and in some cases the compulsion of terminating leasing of land meant for temporary shelters, all have forced the community to opt for houses without toilets and electricity. For them it is not a choice between the good and the best; but between the bad and the worst.Sankar’s rejoinder once again posits the usual government stand on the issue of dislocation: that no family was asked to vacate against its will; housing title is given to the beneficiary; and the vacated space will be vested with the community. But he has left much unsaid, for instance, the terms and conditions linked to the issue of titles. The possession of the house is subjected to some stringent conditions and stipulations; even the surrendering of their earlier house does not ensure guar-antee of security of their new possession. Moreover, the government may revoke their possession rights at any time by stat-ing any reasons. While the government considers the incorporation of such strin-gent terms and conditions necessary before handing over the houses, it should have seen to it that clear terms and conditions are laid out on paper with regard to the spaces that have been vacated and handed over to the government. Mere verbal assur-ance like “the vacated space will be vested with the community” is not sufficient to generate confidence, particularly when the Coastal Zone Management Notification, 2007 has no such stated guarantees.The rejoinder echoes the palpable distrust based on the notion of “fisher exceptionalism” that was observed among government officials. Attitudes expressed such as in “few narrow-minded fisher- folk”, “refusal to assist in building the houses better”, “the fisherfolk are not like agricultural labourers”, we feel, are noth-ing but a reflection of the strategy of essen-tialising fishers and an instrument of governmentality to divide the victims further (stereotyping some and creating a binary category of fishers and non-fishers). On the contrary, we believe, the fishers, armed with the strength of their tradi-tional guild-system, were able to resist, protest, and in some cases instigate insurgency against the developmental model that both the state and NGOs tried to promote. There were indeed some positive devel-opments in tsunami rehabilitation such as the massive response from the govern-ment machinery (though it came late), committed involvement of government officials particularly in Cuddalore district, and transparency in information sharing. We wish to state that our study was carried out with the singular purpose of addressing problems related to transitional shelter, disaster-induced displacement, and the nature and scope of partnership between government andNGOs, in order to reorient policy imperatives and certainly not for sensationalism. SAMEEKSHA TRUST BOOKSInclusive GrowthK N Raj on Economic DevelopmentEssays from The Economic Weekly and Economic & Political WeeklyEdited by ASHOKA MODYThe essays in the book reflect Professor K N Raj’s abiding interest in economic growth as a fundamental mechanism for lifting the poor and disadvantaged out of poverty. He has also been concerned that the political bargaining process may end up undermining growth and not provide support to those who were excluded from access to economic opportunities. 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