A Herculean challenge

The process of relief and rehabilitation in the devastated north coastal districts of Visakhapatnam, Srikakulam and Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh has just begun. The challenges seem huge. Even the extent of damage from cyclone ‘Hudhud,’ which knocked out the region two weeks ago has not been fully assessed. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an aerial survey, visited the ravaged port city of Visakhapatnam and announced an interim relief of Rs.1,000 crore. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu camped in Vizag for the first few days to ensure that rescue and relief operations were launched swiftly. He has ensured that within three days, power supply was restored in Vizag city. The neighbouring towns too got back their supply within a week. By October 31, power supply should be fully functional in the affected areas. Temporary shelters have been provided to lakhs of people rendered homeless. Essential commodities were rushed, and free rations distributed. Considering the extent of devastation, caused entirely by nature’s fury, the people have also been very understanding. But their patience cannot be taken for granted. The rehabilitation process has to move forward to tackle the major problems of housing and livelihood, and both these challenges cannot be easily overcome.

Mr. Naidu has appealed to the people, philanthropists and corporate India to contribute generously to this massive exercise to rebuild not just Vizag, but also the entire region that still remains vulnerable to cyclones. Given the fact that Andhra Pradesh faces a huge revenue deficit of about Rs.16,000 crore, and still suffers from the pangs of what he calls “unscientific bifurcation,” rehabilitation has to be a multi-pronged effort. The Centre, State, trade and industry, and philanthropy — including from the expatriate community — should join hands to make this happen. Rehabilitation should look at housing, infrastructure, restoration of livelihood, attending to the damage to industrial infrastructure — especially the major public sector undertakings in and around Vizag — and create durable assets. The funds will have to be used to create infrastructure that can stand up to such severe cyclones so that these exercises do not become a recurring feature. The assessment of damage to the PSUs such as the steel plant, and to the naval facilities has been completed, and the Central and State authorities are taking up the unenviable task of evaluating the devastation caused to the agriculture sector. Compensation to farmers and a time-bound plan to restore the livelihood of both farmers and fisher folk demand priority. The Northeast monsoon has just begun and the government has to be watchful to prevent any further calamity in this region.

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 11:08:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-a-herculean-challenge/article6535465.ece

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