Kashmir Earthquake Relief: Need for Long term Rehabilitation Measures

"The tragic reports of people's lives wrecked by the earthquake in Kashmir, especially in Uri and Tanghdhar indicate the need for sustained relief and rehabilitation efforts not only by government agencies, but all sections of society. The extent of the damage is so extensive that the State, the Army, and all organizations will have to coordinate efforts for any impact on the ground. Rehabilitation and reconstruction processes have been set in motion by the Government with the back up provided by the army, and help from voluntary organizations. However, they are being hampered by the inhospitable terrain, and security issues, since militant activity is very high in these regions. However, there is need for vigilance and monitoring so that the money sanctioned does actually reach the people it is meant for."
This was the opinion of a team of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) that visited Kashmir from the 2nd to the 4th of November 2005. AIDWA General Secretary Sudha Sundararaman, Sehba Farooqi, and Shabqat (from Handwara district) carried with them a sum of Rs 2.25 lakhs, the first instalment of funds collected by the organisation for the earthquake stricken people of Kashmir.
The report continues….. "There has been an inrush of aid into Uri and Tangdhar; of course the problems of equitable distribution and the gap between the need and supply are acute and persistent. Some areas beyond Uri are still proving inaccessible as roads have been totally destroyed. The team visited a few villages in Kupwara, Handwara and Dragmullah districts, where they were able to gain first hand information about areas that have not suffered from such devastation as Uri and Tangdhar, but nevertheless where many families have lost their homes and belongings.
In Kupwara, a survey by a fraternal organisation, the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) indicates that there are 20 villages (Radbugha, Ahgam, Khandi, Panjava, Raawatpura,and Rahmahal, to name a few) where the quake has led to house collapses. The appeal from the people of these villages has not yet reached the ears of the administration, whose attention is focused on the badly hit regions. But those families whose houses have collapsed are faced with the grim threat of winter snow, which may fall any moment. In Radbugha, the team saw many houses that had collapsed; others had huge cracks. There were some brick facades that appeared intact from outside, but when we entered the house we found that the inner walls were in ruins. One house had its ground floor intact, but the two upper storeys had completely fallen down. These were very poor families with no refuge. The flimsy makeshift arrangements that they had put up could by no stretch of the imagination have protected them from the cold. No tents, or any other forms of support have reached these villages yet.
The plight of the children and the sick, and older women is particularly pathetic. It has been decided that Shabqat will prepare a full survey report along with the youth group, and submit it to the authorities in charge of the relief efforts. AIDWA will follow up to ensure that relief also reaches these areas."

After the visit and discussions with local AIDWA activists, it was decided that the resources collected by AIDWA would be used for two purposes - an educational fund for children and to create income-generating assets for women whose livelihood has been affected. It was decided to immediately assist one physically challenged woman, who also has a physically challenged child. AIDWA activists are in the process of preparing the list of children and women to whom support will be extended.
Friends, extended and sustained support requires much larger amounts than what AIDWA has already collected and disbursed. For many, this help will make a crucial difference. If we raise more funds, we can concretely assist a number of families. To make this important intervention in Kashmir, plagued as it is by militancy and terrorist activity, is to assure the people of Kashmir that we are in solidarity with them at a moment of distress. This is the significant mission before us.