Special Correspondent

Administration committed to providing all possible relief to Barmer flood-hit, says Rajasthan official

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan Government on Monday claimed that it had taken special measures to rehabilitate Dalit families affected by recent floods in Barmer district and refuted allegations that Dalits were being thrown out of rehabilitation camps and there was widespread discrimination against them in relief and resettlement.

Reacting to a news report, "Floods fail to wash away hatred against Dalits'', published in these columns on Sunday, Director Information and Public Relations Amar Singh Rathore said the accusations were "completely baseless and factually incorrect''. He asserted that the State administration was committed to providing all possible relief to all affected citizens.

The news item had quoted the fact-finding report of a monitoring committee appointed by the Dalit groups of the State that visited the flood-affected areas in Barmer recently. The Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR) and other Dalit bodies had charged that there was an all-pervading prejudice against Dalits and they were being excluded from the Government survey to assess the damage.

Mr. Rathore in a communique to The Hindu said the district administration and State Government had been sincerely working to provide relief to the affected citizens ever since large parts of Barmer and Jaisalmer districts bore the brunt of 600 mm of rainfall for three days in August.

As soon as the district administration issued warning about heavy rains in Barmer, including the villages mentioned in the news report, Dalits were shifted to relief camps along with other affected villagers. "Initially, all marooned people were evacuated by the Army and put up in temporary camps. Any allegation of discrimination is tantamount to casting aspersions even on the Army, which is unthinkable.''

Mr. Rathore said the CDR office-bearers did not contact Barmer Collector Subir Kumar, who is overall in charge of relief operations; Divisional Commissioner B.L.Arya; Principal Secretary Urban Development, Lalit Panwar, who was sent to Barmer to supervise relief works; Relief Secretary R.K.Meena, or any other senior officer having responsibility of monitoring relief operations.

As per the survey reports of damaged houses in Mundho Ki Dhani, a total of 112 houses, including 17 belonging to Scheduled Castes, were damaged and a payment of Rs. 29,200 was immediately made to these families in accordance with the Central Government's norms. In Chokhla village, 134 houses belonging to SC families were damaged and an assistance of Rs. 2.29 lakhs was given to them. Similarly, 523 houses in Dunda, near Kavas, were damaged, out of which 86 belonged to SC families and an assistance of Rs. 6.04 lakhs was disbursed to them.

Mr. Rathore said all affected families were provided assistance as per the Calamities Relief Fund (CRF) norms and the allegations of non-inclusion in survey and discrimination in providing assistance to Dalits were without any factual basis.

As far as lodging the affected people in temporary shelters was concerned, the DPR said that 18 camps were established at which 2,000 tents provided by Army were erected and the SC families were provided shelter in as many as 10 camps. "In these camps, all kinds of relief material was provided and there was no question of discrimination in providing basic amenities."

While the CRF norms permit only 15 days' relief, the State Government is continuing with these camps till date. They have been provided with utensils, clothes and food material such as wheat flour, rice, dal, potato, etc., through donor agencies. "Where is the question of any discrimination?'' said Mr. Rathore.

Mr. Rathore said the families shifted to new locations due to submergence had been identified and a special package had been worked out to rehabilitate them. In this package, a residential plot of 150-sq.-yard size will be provided free of cost to each affected family and the State Government will spend Rs. 1.25 lakhs on the construction of pucca house for each household.

For permanent rehabilitation, the pockets inhabited by Dalits have been taken on priority. In the first phase, the Awas Vikas Sansthan will construct about 1,500 houses in 16 habitations out of which nine are dominated by the Dalit population. Mr. Rathore said Dalits would be provided these houses free of cost.

Dhunda village, situated near the Uttarlai air strip of defence forces specially mentioned in the monitoring committee's report, is covered in this package, while Dalits living in Chokhla village have been adopted by Mahaveer International for construction of pucca houses for them. Mr. Rathore said Mundho Ki Dhani had been adopted by Lions' Club at the behest of the district administration.