[Hpn] HOMES NOT POLITICS say Indians made homeless by earthquake & shoddy construction (fwd) shoddy construction (fwd)

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Fri, 9 Feb 2001 10:15:37 -0800 (PST)

Homes Not Politics say quake survivors in Bhuj India (fwd)

FWD - 3 AP stories on India's "earthquake homeless":

FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Feb 06, 2001


     Associated Press Writer

     BHUJ, India (AP) _ About 300 people left homeless by last
month's killer earthquake demonstrated for food and shelter on
Tuesday as the area's chief government administrator admitted there
were still not enough tents.

The demonstrators shouted ``We want shelter and food, not
politics'' during the noisy protest outside the office of Anil
Mukim, the government administrator for the hardest-hit Kutch
district in the western state of Gujarat.

The protesters also accused the state's ruling BJP government of
favoring its supporters in the distribution of relief among
homeless survivors.

Such protests have become common as aid workers struggle to
coordinate local and foreign relief goods pouring into this
devastated region.

``There is a shortage of tents, even though we have more than
enough blankets for the affected people,'' Mukim told reporters.

He denied that any political party has been favored in the
distribution of relief goods, much of which have been brought in by
foreign countries and agencies.

``We, however, understand that there are people still in
difficulty and trauma,'' he said.

The 7.7-magnitude quake on Jan. 26 killed more than 17,000
people, and the toll is expected to rise to 30,000, state Home
Minister Haren Pandya said.

The Kutch district accounted for 14,927 of the deaths, Mukim

In the town of Bhuj, a town of 150,000, some stores opened for
business on Tuesday for the first time since the disaster struck.

Relief workers were attempting to restore power and water
supplies in Kutch's 949 villages.

As of Tuesday, power had been restored to 874 villages, while
piped water was available in 30 percent of the affected areas, said
L. Man Singh, chief relief coordinator for the area.

AP-CS-02-06-01 1056EST
Received  Id AP1010379D484ACD on Feb 06 2001 09:57

FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Feb 08 2001


     Associated Press Writer

LAKHOND, India (AP) _ The streets are strewn with rubble and
house after house is a useless heap of stone. But there's one
structure that can't be shaken in India, even by a killer
earthquake _ the caste system.

The town has six distinct tent camps for the earthquake homeless
_ all separated by caste or religion. When relief groups showed up
to hand out aid, town leaders presented them with six lists of
residents: four different Hindu castes, the untouchables _ lower
even than the formal caste system _ and Muslims. All the camps are

With the pattern repeated across the zone in western India
ravaged by the Jan. 26 quake, relief groups find themselves
wrestling with the country's ingrained social hierarchy to get help
to everybody _ even untouchables.

``The whole issue of making sure all the castes are included has
been a challenge,'' Graham Saunders of Catholic Relief Services
said Wednesday as workers handed out buckets, soap and other aid to
people in the town.

Officially, India's traditional caste system _ a social
hierarchy with Brahmans at the top and the so-called
``untouchables'' at the bottom _ has been illegal for decades, and
discriminating against someone on the basis of caste in employment
and housing, for example, can wind up in court. Unofficially,
however, the social order in the countryside remains strong,
determining how most people live, with whom they marry and

So while modernization and urbanization have blurred the lines
between castes somewhat in the cities, in places like the
quake-damaged villages of Gujarat the divisions are clear, and
greatly complicate the already enormous challenges of getting
relief to victims.

In the aftermath of the disaster, necessities are scarce and
everyone is desperate for help. Those at the top of the pecking
order use their connections and prestige to get the pick of the

``Whatever the distribution of aid, it first goes to the upper
castes,'' said Mayuri Mistry, a Catholic Relief Services worker in

The social hierarchy is only one of the problems with aid
distribution. There have been complaints in the quake zone that
political connections are playing a big role in determining who
gets help.

The needs are overwhelming. The 7.7-magnitude quake killed more
than 17,000 and left behind 1 million homeless, according to a
United Nations estimate. More than 60,000 were injured and
survivors are in need of medical care, food, water and shelter.

The French group Doctors without Borders has a cultural
anthropologist in Bhuj, near the epicenter, to coach workers on how
to navigate the region's social landscape.

``Indian villages look like a mess, but you know by the house
what caste lives there,'' said Pilar Duch. ``You cannot think that
a village is homogeneous. If you don't know that, you can make a

Her colleague Olaf Pots spent the day Wednesday moving from
village to village northeast of Bhuj, assessing needs and handing
out blankets, tarps for tents and water buckets.

But it was more than just a matter of dropping piles of aid off
at each village and moving on. First he met with village leaders
and figured out how many people lived in the town and what castes
were represented.

Then came the hard part: deciding whether to hand over the goods
to the top man in the village, distribute them among the leaders of
the various castes in the town, or simply go door to door to make
sure everyone got their share.

In Gada, a hilltop hamlet, Pots had a lengthy negotiation with
village elders, peppering them with questions about the castes
there and wringing from them guarantees that they would distribute
the aid fairly.

A key to success is making sure there is enough to cover
everyone in a village, so there is no fighting over short supplies.

For example, the sub-chief of Gada, Jiva Manda Rabari, assured
Pots that he would see that the village's four untouchable families
would get their share _ provided supplies were sufficient.

``You have to give us enough if you want them to get
something,'' he said, adding that he would turn away deliveries
that could not provide everyone with some relief.

In some towns, international organizations rely on local groups
to police distribution. In nearby Traya, Pots struck a deal with
the village elders to let a member of a local women's development
group supervise the handing out of blankets, tarps and water

In Lakhond, the leader of the untouchables there, Ramesh Kumar
Hamirbhai, said he had no major problems with the distribution of
aid so far, though he said the tradition of separating aid
deliveries by caste caused unnecessary complications.

He said he preferred the way some international groups were
operating, by gathering everybody in one place and handing out
relief one person at a time.

``This is the best system,'' he said. ``This way, each and every
person gets help.''

AP-CS-02-08-01 0059EST
Received  Id AP1010395260A79F on Feb 08 2001 00:00

FWD  Associated Press - Sunday February 4 11:29 AM ET

     By NEELESH MISRA, Associated Press Writer


     AHMADABAD, India (AP) - When they churned out dreams for the
middle class, India's real estate czars were king: They drove fancy
cars, lived in posh penthouses and made millions.

Then, many of their new buildings in the western Indian state of
Gujarat turned into rubble in the devastating Jan. 26 earthquake,
while other much older houses were shaken but not damaged.

Within hours, the people who transformed the state's commercial
capital of Ahmadabad into a throbbing metropolis went into hiding
as residents accused them of shoddy construction and criminal
complaints were filed against them.

By Sunday, the toll stood at 16,435 dead and 66,758 injured. But
the number of deaths was expected to jump dramatically Monday when
the ruins of the four- and five-story apartment complexes are
cleared away. Thousands remain buried in three larger towns - Bhuj,
Anjar and Bhachau - and authorities estimate the number of dead
could eventually reach 35,000.

An unidentified teen-ager was pulled from a well Sunday in
Siherawadi, a village near Bhachau, said relief worker B.
Chakravorthy. But it was not immediately clear whether the boy had
fallen into the well during the quake or more recently. State
officials knew nothing about the case.

Criminal complaints have been lodged in Ahmadabad against 21
construction companies. Experts said builders used poor material
and flouted architectural standards as part of a cycle of
corruption that also involves government officials.

``The real estate sector is the largest cesspool of corruption
in India,'' architect Ravindra Vasavada said.

Ahmadabad's story is one shared by nearly every booming city in
India, where millions of walls are high on sand and low on cement.

To meet demand, some builders reclaim land from the sea and from
village ponds, snuffing out crucial water resources. Bribing
officials to overlook poor workmanship or code violations is not
uncommon, and officials often are unqualified to carry out

To earn more money, the builders often sell parking lots in the
ground floor of the buildings - meaning the buildings rest on weak
pillars. A survey by engineers after the earthquake showed that in
many cases, the pillars were not secured to foundations with steel
reinforcements as the national code requires.

When the earthquake struck, many such buildings swayed and
collapsed under their own weight or because walls made of
adulterated cement buckled. Many tilted to one side and crumbled.

``People don't care. They compromise on building norms to cut
costs, as the Ahmadabad experience shows,'' Urban Development
Minister Jagmohan, who uses only one name, told The Times of India

In the collapsed Mansi Apartments in Ahmadabad, a swimming pool
in a 10th-floor penthouse sent 50 tons of water hurtling down,
causing much of the damage.

Gujarat state Home Minister Haren Pandya said 80 percent of the
buildings in Ahmadabad violated construction codes.

Even the Indian Meteorological Society, which helps set
standards for quake-proofing, said those rules have been ignored.

Builders do not need licenses to start up businesses in India,
and quality checks are rare.

``When the quake came, the kind of buildings which started
toppling were those with illegal and poor quality of
construction,'' Vasavada said. His 250-year-old house stood cracked
but intact while brand-new buildings nearby were destroyed.

On Sunday, army engineers used hydraulic cranes with wrecking
balls, forklifts and cranes to punch and claw into buildings deemed

At one building marked for demolition, hundreds of former
residents scrounged for belongings Sunday before the wreckers came.

Amid mountains of twisted motorcycles, crumpled car chassis,
computer disks, wrecked home appliances and toys, Sudhakar Kamath,
60, looked for the owner of the construction company that sold him
his apartment late last year. His family survived, but he lost his

``I have been cheated,'' Kamath said. ``I gave him my lifelong
savings. Will he be punished?''

Meanwhile, as health worries loomed - more than 600,000 people
are now homeless - aid continued to pour into western India.
Ninety-seven countries have donated supplies, Pandya said.

``We have experienced a borderless world. Everybody has helped
us,'' he said.

A British Airways plane - flown by a pilot with eight relatives
missing in the quake - landed in Bombay early Sunday with 36 tons
of blankets, tents, clothing and medicine donated by Hindu temples
in Britain.

The goods were taken by truck to Bhuj, one of the worst-hit

``For every seat's that taken on an aircraft to get out to
Gujarat, it's one less space for a relief worker, one less space
for cargo and medical supplies,'' said the pilot, Capt. Minesh
Patel. ``We need to make sure first that the most needy people are
dealt with.''


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