Even three months after the violence the conditions of thousands of refugees remain abysmal. Such a large number of citizens are forced to subsist in camps, reminiscent of Partition, for extended periods.
The camps are mainly in dargahs, schools and even in graveyards. Majority of the residents have lived for over 10 weeks in open shamianas with tattered canvas covers, often amidst graves. In most camps the facilities are almost negligible. In Shah-e-Alam camp, there are only 10 toilets and baths for over 10,000 people. For women, most of whom are in purdah, the camps are a terrible experience. Disturbing reports that relief camps are already being disbanded in the Gujarat countryside, have created a mood of uncertainity and panic.
State authorities state that it is the culture of Gujarat that NGOs establish and run relief efforts. However, a majority of the mainstream NGOs who were so active in the relief and reconstruction work after the earthquake in 2001, have chosen to distance themselves from in this far more politically volatile human tragedy. The result is that in practice, camps are running substantially on the strength of valiant self help efforts of the affected communities.
The legal battles are tougher. Already the payment of compensation is caught in red tape. A major problem with the payment is that majority of the victims were badly burned and could not be identified.
The underlying principle of rehabilitation must be that it is the state government´s responsibility to ensure that victims of riots are restored to a situation that is a as close as possible to that which obtained prior to the mass violence.
Reconstruction of homes and livelihood will be possible only if there is a massive mobilization of resources of the central and state governments, international and national financial institutions and donor agencies and a single window access to their soft loans organized within the camps. Simultaneously, there is an urgent need to start a social movement for peace and tolerance. Each one of us has to take active participation in the process of rehabilitation. Each one of us has to stand up and care for Gujarat.
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