PUCL Bulletin, March 2001

Reconstruction of earthquake affected areas of Gujarat

Dear friends, A leading Gandhian Sarvodaya worker (actually a leader but the language of the alternative politics does not like to use the word leader) Shri Jyoti Bhai Desai based in Gujarat has written an appeal to some of the friends with a request that I forward it to all my contacts. This appeal displays his supreme confidence in the people and the civil society actors rather than the work done by the government bureaucracy with the loans from BRETENWOOD institutions. If you have any lobbying capacity than I would like you to help Jyoti Bhai in this campaign. I am forwarding the text of his letter along with his postal address to you.

Several opinion leaders of Gujarat and some movement leaders like Medha Patkar have drafted "Principles and Provisions suggested for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction policy in Earthquake affected areas of Gujarat". I think Jyoti Bhai's letter must be read along with these principles. The campaign against World Bank loan would also require some of us to initiate a debate on alternative modes of rehabilitation and sources of funding as well. I share Jyoti Bhai's view that funding for the reconstruction of Gujarat could be mobilised from the people of the Family Earth and not from BRETENWOOD institutions because it will be very destructive to the fragile ecology of Kutch and Saurashtra region. Irrespective of the earthquake the ecology of this region is very fragile and any conventional bureaucratic development/rehabilitation plan for the region will do irreversible damage to the region. -- In solidarity, Vijay Pratap, 23 Feb 2001.

Message from Jyotibhai Desai
Dear Vijay Pratap, Smitu Kothari, & Colleagues

This is an SOS !

Could there be some way to prevent the state and the Central Governments from taking loans from BRETENWOOD institution or from any foreign agencies ?

KUTCH is a strong and very self reliant place. KUTCHIS of Bombay have been those who have had a major role in creating the Business capital of India-Bombay. Our feedback from NGO groups is that people in Kutch want work and not doles.

The failure of the government is a matter well realized by the common man. Bureaucracy has never cared for the poor. So all loans will surely be misused.

I think Gujarat and its people with the assistance of all NGOs from everywhere will overcome this crisis if the government and authorities do not interfere.

Hence it is that I am seeking ways, a forum or some higher level group which will raise this voice and the issue that the nation should not be burdened by any new loans, least of it from World Bank or IMF.

"Lets be self reliant".

Do spread the message give me tips to carry out this proposal. -- Sincerely, Jyoti Bhai Desai
Principles and provisions suggested for rehabilitation and reconstruction policy in earthquake affected areas of Gujarat:

1. Now that the emergency and the first phase of rescue and relief is almost over, we urge that all the governmental and non governmental agencies must urgently shift to the employment generation plans and programs with food-for work arrangements, ensuring livelihood opportunities for the earthquake affected.

2. Every group involved in the social, economic, & physical reconstruction of Kutch and Saurashtra-the earthquake affected region must grant and respect people's right to information and right to participate in the planning process, with full freedom of statement at every stage of planning and execution. There should be complete transparency and accountability on the part of the State and the donor agencies.

3. Community participation must be sought through representatives of various socio economic sections within as a precondition for design, planning, site and material selection, material procurement, construction, and utilization of resources.

4. The earthquake-affected members of the community should be given the top priority in skilled and unskilled livelihood opportunities arising during the reconstruction and rehabilitation process.

5. Whether for cities, towns, or villages, relocation should as far as possible, be avoided.

6. New community location should be planned with clear consent from each mohallas/falia [vaas] and as far as possible, the village commune.

7. Where there is even partial, minimum relocation of a community, forcible, unjust land acquisition should be avoided. The scheduled castes, schedules and nomadic tribes, other socially and economically backward class communities, should be especially protected against land alienation.

8. No urban relocation, if any, should be at the displacement or deprivation cost of the rural communities.

9. Reconstruction planning should include apart from housing, community amenities [health, education, water supply, grazing ground, etc], all of which can be part of the final village resettlement plan.

10. New housing and community reconstruction should have facilities for land conservation, maximum rainwater harvesting, soak pits & drainage, along with other appropriate technology measures to fill water and energy requirements.

11. It is not the choice of material but choice of house-building technology that is one of the main factors determining the scale and nature of earthquake impact. In reconstruction, therefore, the choice of technology should necessarily be based on multiple criteria, including self-reliance of the community, availability of the material, and earth-quake proofing technology.

12. There should be no forcible, stereotype housing imposed on people, killing or rejecting their diversity of type of technology, and cultural aspects.

13. Wherever possible, such as in the villages of Saurashtra, retrofitting should be a priority over new construction.

14. Not big companies or builders, but the representatives of affected communities, people's organizations, NGOs, and the local government should form a body for decision making at every level of planning and execution of a project, where funds and inputs are to come from outside the community.

15. All funds received from any agency, national or international, including the collection of surcharge, must be deposited into a separate fund / account related to the earthquake disaster and must be utilized only for the purpose for which it is assigned.

16. An independent high power committee with eminent persons from various walks of life should be immediately constituted to monitor the planning and execution, including expenditure at each - national, state and local - stage.

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