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State govt's response inadequate; hosting distressed people in camps biggest challenge: report
Terming Assam government's response to the recent riots as 'complete disregard of the serious situation of the people who have suffered losses', a recently released report has said that the state government is still following the age-old criteria of relief distribution.

A REPORT released on the Assam situation has severely criticized the state government for its grossly inadequate response to the violence and its aftermath. Titled "The Ashes Continue to Simmer", the report, prepared by Rehnuma details the ground situation in Assam following the violence in July-August earlier this year that left at least 77 people dead and about five hundred thousand homeless.

“The most striking discrimination that has been observed in this man-made calamity in lower Assam is how the State has responded in terms of providing rehabilitation package to the affected. The Government of Assam is still following an age old criteria of relief that is provided after any disaster, the gross inadequacy speaks of complete disregard of the serious situation of the people who have suffered losses,” the report states.

Rehnuma is a project of the National Foundation of India, Planning Commission of India, and Centre for Social Justice.

According to the report, hosting the distressed in camps is one of the biggest challenges to the local administration. All the affected people have been moved to government buildings like schools and colleges. This space is not enough. The supplies fall short; there is lack of water and sanitation facilities. This has led to illness and infections. Young kids have no clothes to wear; women have to make do with unhygienic conditions. Pregnant women are also suffering because of lack of facilities. Thankfully some respite was offered by the intervention of Dr Syeda Hameed where some pregnant women were provided with nutrition supplements.

Though the officially reported death toll is 77, volunteers have informed about deaths due to shock in the camps. The National Rural Health Mission para medics are stationed at all the camps, but there is meager provision for trauma counselling, which is needed for children and adults alike.

Loss of employment for a prolonged period is an obvious outcome. It is important to mention here that a large part of labour in these districts consists of Muslim labourers. These laborers are not able to move back to their workplace due to fear. Their cattle and livestock is lost or dead and the camp inmates have no means to find the livestock back.

Some inmates visit the village in the hope of finding some of their belongings, but return with shattered expectations as the villages are reduced to burnt ashes and appear like a huge cluttered dump yard of tinned roof.

The report lamented that the most striking discrimination that has been observed in this man-made calamity in lower Assam is how the State has responded in terms of providing rehabilitation package to the affected. It said that the Government of Assam is still following an age old criteria of relief that is provided after any disaster, the gross inadequacy speaks of complete disregard of the serious situation of the people who have suffered losses.

With regard to the Future Plan of Action, the report suggested to identify and train local volunteers to carry out damage assessment, help people, file FIRs, their entitlement claims, etc. Each volunteer would collect information/data of households and monitor them throughout the year or till they receive their entitlements declared by government.

It also asked to lead national and state level advocacy and lobbying through data compilation and action research on the basis of ground situation and administered different packages by state and central governments. “In addition to this we would also focus on lobbying with National Commission for Minorities and central government on the disparity of relief packages in comparison to other states,” the report added.

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