KOLKATA, 22 APRIL: Tsunami devastated their lives eight years ago, but they are yet to get compensation announced by the Centre. And now the administration tells the 321 tsunami-hit families of South Andaman and Nicobar Islands not to be swayed by “rumours” that the compensation money ~ Rs 130 crore~ has been diverted, assuring them that it would be distributed soon.
The affected people became restive after they didn’t get a single paise even after Union home minister P Chidambaram assured them during his visit to the islands that the money would reach them by 31 March.
In protest against the repeated failures to honour the commitment, the agitated islanders organised a demonstration on 19 April. They got “information” that the Centre did release the money, but it was diverted. About 200 farmers were detained. The 2004-tsunami had killed about 7,000 people in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the seawater had eaten up around 343.80 hectares of land, on which 321 families depended for their livelihood, in South Andaman. About 1,149.89 hectares of land in Ferrar Ganj tehsil remains submerged.
The Centre as a relief package to the affected farmers soon announced a compensation package. However, even after eight years have passed, the farmers still await the money. During his recent visit to the Islands, the Union home minister had announced that an amount of Rs 130 crore has been sanctioned for the compensation and it would be distributed among farmers by 31 March 2012.
Mr AP Mohammed, president of Gram Sudhar Sangham (GSS), said that the organisation had warned the administration that if the relief were not given to the farmers by 19 April, they would stage a protest with the aggrieved farmers. They started the protest with hundreds of farmers and leaders in front of the Secretariat on 19 April.
“A delegation was allowed to meet the chief secretary and the revenue secretary on the day of protest. The revenue secretary told us that the amount has been diverted and there is no funds to compensate the farmers,” he said. The farmers then demanded to meet the Lt Governor, Lt Gen (Rtd) Bhopinder Singh, and tried to break the barricade erected in front of Raj Niwas, resulting in confrontation with police.
In a communiqué, the administration stated that some people are deliberately misleading the public that funds earmarked for compensation have been diverted by the administration. “This is totally false and tantamount to create confusion, chaos and unrest amongst public knowing well that the sanction to disburse the financial compensation is expected from the Centre shortly. The affected people are informed that such false rumours should not sway them,” it reads.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands administration clarified that the Lt Governor has asked the chief secretary, Mr Shakti Sinha, to meet officials at all levels in the ministry of finance for early clearance of the proposal to disburse financial compensation to the farmers.