With tears in their eyes, family members on Saturday remembered those swallowed by the deadly tsunami on the Tamil Nadu coast five years ago that left over 8,000 dead. For many, life has moved on

Candlelight processions and ceremonies to offer prayers to the deceased were held all over Tamil Nadu.

The giant waves triggered by undersea tremors in Indonesia had caused the tsunami, one of independent India's biggest natural calamities, both in terms of the number of lives lost, and the magnitude of the disaster.

Even before the fisher folk residing along the sea and morning walkers on the black Sunday in Chennai could realise what was happening, the gushing sea had turned the beach into a watery grave.

The government has pumped in crores of rupees towards rehabilitation of the affected, with many not-for-profit organisations also doing their bit.

Painful memories linger, but people have moved on

In Nagapattinam district, one of the worst-hit by the killer waves which claimed over 6,000 lives and rendered about a lakh homeless, painful memories of the tsunami still linger, but people have moved on.

The district now is bustling with activity and the economy is thriving with gainful employment for the youth in both organised and unorganised sectors.

There is a sea change in the livelihood, as well as lifestyle of the people. Large-scale employment opportunities have been generated for the youth of the district in both organised and unorganised sectors.

Children of tsunami-hit areas now have access to high quality English medium education, which was absent earlier, while the youth have taken up entrepreneurial ventures.

The fishing community, the worst-hit, are a happy lot having fibreglass boats and other fishing equipment. More than 19,000 families have been provided with permanent houses.

Remarkable improvement in learning skills

According to NGO volunteers engaged in rehabilitation of the affected, the people of the area did not attach much importance to education earlier. Most children dropped out from schools to take up fishing, but post-tsunami the situation has changed. Lured by the facilities provided by the schools, the children are happily attending schools, they said.

Top multinational companies have started English medium schools. Consumer electronics giant Samsung India has opened a school at Chinnangudi village near Tarangmabadi.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s International Association for Human Values (IAHV) has opened an integrated education complex at Anaikoil village near Porayar.

The Mata Amirtanandamayee Math is providing free computer training for youths and children and free hostel accommodation for college students in various parts of the district.

The St Joseph’s Development Trust (SJDT), a Karur-based NGO, with the help of NGOs in Germany and Denmark, has revolutionized the concept of evening classes for tsunami hit children. SOS Children’s Villages of India and UNICEF have contributed substantially for improving facilities in the schools of tsunami-hit villages, the volunteers said.

A study conducted by Rejuvenate India Movement (RIM), an NGO, in over eight tsunami-hit villages in Tarangambadi taluk of Nagapattinam district has revealed a remarkable improvement in the learning skills of tsunami-hit students.

NGO volunteer, Chandrasekaran of Hope Foundation, which conducts free vocational training for the tsunami-hit youth at Nagapattinam and Tarangambadi, said a large number of youngsters had taken up alternative employment and many have already found employment in MNCs.

Women entrepreneurs

About 40 per cent of the women of tsunami-hit areas have become entrepreneurs and are making products like footwear, leather articles, pickles and coir products.

Many other women have embarked on modern fish marketing activities, tailoring, mobile canteens, handicrafts making and even driving and masonry, NGO sources said.

Besides formation of self-help groups have also helped the district’s economy to grow.