Legal Services Authority to take stock of relief work in flood-hit areas

Flood-affected families wait for distribution of food at a rehabilitation centre in Vijayawada. Relief distribution will now be scrutinised by the Legal Services Authority. File photo  

Karnataka Legal Services Authority has suggested that a separate budget and a mechanism be put in place to implement the National Disaster Management Act, 2005, so that states are better prepared for eventualities like the recent floods in north Karnataka.

Justice V. Gopala Gowda said this at a convergence meeting organised by the Authority between Government officials, representatives of non-governmental organisations and activist groups from flood-hit areas to review relief work and debate corrective measures here on Tuesday evening.

Presenting an overview, S.M. Jaamdar, Nodal Officer on Flood Relief, said that work done so far was 85 to 90 per cent satisfactory. He described at length the financial and policy constraints under which relief and rehabilitation work was being undertaken. Any increase in the quantum of relief, Mr. Jaamdar said, could be done only if the existing policy framework and the financial allocation were dramatically altered.

The Centre's team that visited flood-hit areas was in the process of compiling a report and funds from National Calamity Contingency Fund would be released only after it was submitted, he said.

K. Neela, state president of All India Democratic Womens Association, said that the extent of damage would have been lesser if desilting work had been undertaken in tanks, lakes and canals under NREGS. She said that parameters of damage while undertaking survey were faulty, leaving sections like tenant farmers without any compensation.

Ms. Neela said that relief work often failed to take into account the inconveniences of women, resulting in relief camps having no basic amenities like toilets. She said that greater gender sensitivity was called for in relief work.

Basavaraj Kauthal and M. Venkataswamy drew the attention of the Authority to caste discrimination in rehabilitation work, citing cases. Representatives from slum areas in flood-affected areas said that slum dwellers had often kept out of the ambit of surveys conducted to estimate damage and denied relief.

Representatives of farmers organisations, including Kodihalli Chandrasekhar of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, raised issues on inadequate compensation to crop losses. The representatives said that in several places those who had crop insurance too had failed to get compensation.

Many raised questions about non-governmental agencies and companies being given charge of reconstruction of houses.

Meenakshi Bali, from Hampi Kannada University, who is part of a team that looked at the aftermath of flood from women’s perspective cautioned against giving responsibility of rehabilitation work to private agencies and corporates. The Government can take money from private agencies. But it should responsibility for execution of relief work. Otherwise it can be disastrous in a stratified society like ours, she warned.

Follow-up meetings on similar lines will be held in Raichur and Bagalkot districts in the next month.

Justice K.L. Manjunath and Justice Nagamohan Das were also present at the meeting.

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