After the quake


Context

Article provides the flaws of the Gujarat model of reconstruction and development in the wake of the 16th anniversary of Bhuj earthquake

Bhuj Quake

As the nation celebrated its 68th Republic Day, Gujarat mourned the 16th anniversary of the worst disaster that struck the state on January 26, 2001. Gujarat’s historic earthquake killed over 20,000 people, injuring 1, 66, 000, destroying nearly 4,00,000 homes

  • While many believed that Gujarat would take years to get back to normal, the massive rehabilitation and reconstruction undertaken brought a resilient Gujarat back from the rubble. Bhuj, epicentre of the earthquake, managed to emerge strong after the disaster

Unprecedented pace of development

Author states that the pace of development in Bhuj following the disaster has been unprecedented.

  • The town is now spread over 56 sq km — almost four times its size in 2001. It boasts high-rise apartments, sprawling supermarkets, beauty salons, recreation centres, wide four-lane highways, a modern earthquake-resistant hospital and an operational airport
  • Land has become an attractive investment. It is now common to hear Hindi spoken in Bhuj and hotels and cyber cafes complete to win the business of immigrants.

 Gujarat model of reconstruction

In Bhuj’s rebuilding, the Gujarat approach is widely looked at as a model for reconstruction. The Gujarat model has been replicated in the post-earthquake reconstruction in Nepal in 2015 and in Kashmir Quake of 2005

Issues with the Gujarat model

  • A biased model:Any relief programme needs to be based on proper assessments of needy and vulnerable groups. But the rehabilitation packages announced soon after the Bhuj disaster offered unequal treatment to various categories of earthquake-affected people
    • Unequal aid: Those who’d suffered equally in terms of damages were given unequal amounts of aid
    • Higher assistance to places near the epicenter: The size of agricultural lands was also adopted as one of the criteria for assistance given. Places nearer the epicentre received higher assistance
    • More relief to urban areas:Relief provisions also accorded more assistance for completely collapsed houses in urban areas than rural locations
    • Disproportionate benefits to the rich:Pre-earthquake house sizes were taken into consideration; that meant richer people were likely to derive larger benefits
    • The pro-rich, anti-poor bias of development plans in terms of land use: Expensive public land in Bhuj has been given to better-off residents; land inhabited by the poor in Rabari was acquired for government offices
    • Informal sector affected: Widening of roads for public transport adversely affected hawkers and other occupiers of public space, who were evicted
    • No compensation without entitilement: The 60 per cent population of Bhuj town, who lived in 32 unauthorised pockets outside Kotvistar for over 25 years, did not receive any compensation from the government as they didn’t possess requisite land entitlement (legal claim on the land)
      • Dismantling of Bheer Bazaar: Bheer Bazar, earlier the centre of all commercial activities where artisans and hawkers worked, was dismantled
      • Waghri community driven out: The Waghri community (mainly comprising of Muslim labourers) residing near Dadupeer Road for generations was also driven out, on the pretext of encroachment
      • Flawed relocation: Most relocation has been done on agricultural land acquired from other villages. Some villagers either lost land or were relocated far away
        • Lack of financial resources to maintain expensive infrastructure: The new villages are also larger; this meant expensive infrastructure, again “provided” by the government. But what wasn’t thought of was the lack of village committees’ financial resources to maintain this infrastructure; local village committees had to increase taxes, which many villagers can’t afford
      • Lack of sufficient empowerment of local bodies: Author points out that while NGOs emerged as a significant stakeholder in rehabilitation, local self-governing bodies like panchayats and municipalities were not sufficiently empowered.

 Addressing marginalization of poor

As Bhuj shows, the current model does not have any effective policy framework to address social exclusion and the marginalisation of the poor. But any discussion on disaster management must address the proper assessment and identification of vulnerable groups

Conclusion

Author concludes by stating that reconstruction doesn’t mean only rebuilding houses but rebuilding lives, particularly of the weak. That alone leads to real development


 

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