Kachchh-Mitra a local newspaper played a significant role in providing awareness among communities including accountability and rights of the people. There are some organizations which are still supporting in improving life of the people and Abhiyan is one of them. They are mainly supporting in livelihood, awareness and community development area. Today there are many people from Gujarat working nationally or internationally on disaster management field. Past one decade, Kachchh’s image has been overhauled. In spite of several miss-happenings and challenges it has been moving towards achieving fast development. (The information in this blogs is mainly from several documents and discussions with the Kachchh-Mitra, Bidada Survodaya Trust, Abhiyan and interviewed with affected people. I am really thankful to them for providing the data and sharing their experiences)
It was Friday, 26th January, 2001, the country started celebrating the Indian Republic Day. No one knew what will happen in the next moment. At 8:46hrs (Indian time) the earthquake of magnitude 7.9 struck Gujarat which was for almost two minutes and was worse in India. The epicentre was just north of the city of Bhuj which is in Kachchh district.
On that day I was in Mandvi, my hometown, and was about to leave for Bhuj to my office. Suddenly I felt shaking and heard a terrible noise. Slowly it started increasing and I could not understand what was happening. Then my mother said it is an earthquake and advised all of us to come below the “Umbhro”, a place just below a door. After this scary experience when everything becomes normal, my legs were feeling the shake for sometime. This was the first time, I experienced an earthquake. Fortunately there were very few buildings, which collapsed in my hometown Mandvi but we never thought what would be the situation in neighbouring towns. I went to Bhuj (60km from Mandvi), and shocked to see the damaged buildings, dust, people running here and there, some were crying in pain and some in the loss of their loved ones, some were still thinking what to do, some were sitting on the streets, some were trying to help others etc etc.. It was a painful sight. Most of the houses were collapsed and we tried to help whom all we can. Suddenly I saw one my uncle (Mama), and I asked him about everyone and he gave me a shocking news about my aunt (mother’s sister, her name was Jaya) who passed away. I don’t know how to react? Her loss added more to my pain. When earthquake happened, she came out of the house and asked everyone in the neighbourhood to come out, during this, a building collapsed on her and she died.
We went to get information about other friend’s relatives. That four stories building was completely destroyed and a rescue operation was going on. His sister’s family was in the building and we have to wait there till we get some information. His sister’s husband died in that building. While I was standing there, one woman came crying and asked me that whether I have seen her 12 year son who went to town in the morning? When I said no I haven’t then she cried more and started asking few more people. Similarly many deaths happen and many of you must know about the 200 school children in Anjar died during a Republic Day rally.
Disaster sees no borders. The earthquake affected everyone, poor, rich, men, women, children, old people and people with disability. The people who were rich, they were in strange situation. The previous day they were very rich and the next day they were on the road. They also lost their loved one not only the wealth. People, who saved their life, were having immediate needs such as first-aid, shelter, food, Psychological support, etc.
Emergency situation and recovery
Rescue operation was started. Mainly it was done by the neighbouring people, Indian Military and some international organization (equipped with the best of modern equipments). However, the, Indian Military played the major role in saving the life of people. Police has looked after security and safety of the people.
After the rescue there was an immediate need for First-Aid, Medical, food, shelter and psychological support. The government has immediately deputed the medical doctors and nurses to the affected area. Temporary hospital was also established by the government. Government, many local and international humanitarian organizations started providing medical facilities including shifting critical cases to the hospitals in metro cities. Within 24 hours, Indian Red Cross Society with the support of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescents Societies and its partners established an earthquake operation camp at Lalan College compound where temporary hospital was established with the support of national and international doctors and nurses. Many volunteers supported in taking care of the patients coming to the camp. Including many, a hospital by Bidada Survodaya Trust whom I had recently discussed about how they supported during earthquake victims have also played important role. Victims who had injuries, amputated, etc. were given treatment from the Trust, free of charge. Approximately, 30,000 patients were treated by them including food and shelter was provided to 200,000 earthquake affected people. The Trust members and Trusty Mr. Bachubhai Rambhiya, Dr. Mukesh Doshi (Mumbai), Dr. Samuel, Mr. Kubal and other staff and doctors have many stories to share that how they had worked day and night in treating the earthquake victims. They made the life of many injured victims by providing them with artificial legs and a long. They also have Jaya Rehabilitation Institute and Research and Centre where they have complete rehabilitation programme for the community. Similarly there were many existing Trusts, local charity organizations and Clubs in Kachchh who committed in treating victims of the earthquake immediately.
Experience of losing the loved ones leaves the rest of family members devastated and in this everything including the food takes a backseat. But the food arrangement was one of necessity to make others survive. Keeping this in mind many local and religious organizations started community kitchen in two hours of time only and took the responsibility to provide the immediate food. In Bhuj, Aksharpursotam Swaminarayan Temple approximately 12,500 people had food in the morning. After that nearly 27,000 people were taking lunch and dinner from the temple and the kitchen was open for almost two and half month’s continuously. They also started kitchen in Anjar, Rapar and Khavada and run them for 45 days. Sarvajanic Kitchen started by the Indian government for Anjar, Bhachau, Bhuj and Rapar and was continued for approximately three months and on average everyday, more than 1,00,000 people had food. A group of Sikh religion from Haryana also came with 700 people, 70 trucks, 70 cooking oven, 40 cook and one lack litre cooking oil and started “Langar” – i.e. food for everyone. They also started Tiffin services for the needy people. People or the organization staff who used to come for help also had food from this arrangement. Similarly many other local organizations were involved in providing food for the people.
Relief was provided by many religious, charities, governmental and non- governmental and international organizations. People also received temporary shelter, tents, kitchen equipments, dry food items from them. The government announced many packages related to cash, houses, livelihood and others, which benefited many affected communities. Some of them also had taken benefit from the temporary houses and different housing schemes also. The government announced tax free holidays and hence many industries and new business slowly established which has increased business and job opportunities. New town planning has completely changed the town and villages. As of today, because of new town planning new rules for the constructing houses announced, roads become wider and improvement in infrastructures, etc. The new town planning also had some reverse impact on few people as their houses have become small, etc. Kachchh University was established after the earthquake and new colleges such as medical, engineering, etc. were started. A state of art government medical hospital was built which is one of the best well designed and constructed hospital in India. The hospital is earthquake resistance. Today there are many industries and improvement of sea port can be seen in Kachchh. Many communities migrated from the remote places towards the town and now improved quality of life and better livelihood.
There is also a case where an organization constructed a colony with many row houses for affected communities in a village but no one moved in to that house as those houses were not accommodating their needs. They were not according to their culture and custom. The main reason was they have not consulted them while constructing the houses. They had not studies what they need and the community involvement was not there. These houses are still vacant today.
This can be rosy picture but there are still many families living in very bad conditions and still need some support so that they can live their life. Even some miss management also happen. The phases from relief to development were not at all easy for the affected communities. Their struggled cannot be described, but they only know it.
For more information about:
Bidada Survodaya Trust: http://www.bidada.org/
Indian Red Cross Society: http://www.indianredcross.org/
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies: http://www.ifrc.org/