Relief And Rehabilitation
Taking into consideration the extent of violence and arson in the night of the 31st October it would be reasonable to expect that the Delhi Administration would have anticipated the need to set up relief camps. Neither the Government nor the Administration seemed to be concerned with the problem and their attitude of deliberate inaction seems to be a continuation of their stance during the carnage.
The authorities have refused to make realistic estimates of the number of people killed, the injured, the number of widows and orphans, or the extent of damage to property. Further, the Administration to date refuses to recognise most of the people who have taken refuge in the Gurudwaras as displaced persons entitled to relief and compensation. The Administration recognises only ten camps whereas a voluntary organisation, Nagrik-Ekta Manch has identified at least 18 others within Delhi and several on the outskirts. The list of these camps is given in Annexure V. According to the Government there are about 20,000 displaced persons. In fact there are at least 50,000.
The Administration has tried to manipulate figures and thus gloss over the enormity of the problem. For instance the former Police Commissioner, Shri Subhash Tandon, at a Press Conference on November 2nd said that the number of dead was between 15 and 20. To this the then Lt. Governor Gavai added “things are under control” (Indian Express November 3, 1984). The official death toll is now 613 when eye witness accounts speak of hundreds of bodies lying at Trilokpuri alone.
There was no attempt to do any relief work till November 2nd. On that day for the first time the Administration with the help of the Army evacuated people to the police thana or to school buildings. After that there was no sign of the Administration despite various pious announcements in the media, by the new Lt. Governor Mr. Wali about giving blankets and mattresses to the refugees for comfort.
Thousands went hungry and had to urinate and defecate in the corridors of the school building. The injured lay in the rooms without any medical treatment. There was no one to share the horror or the anguish of widows, to say a word to them. The first initiative for relief came from local communities, mostly Hindus and from Gurudwaras who brought the first meal and organised langars. For instance at Farash Bazaar the people from Jhilmil colony brought their own utensils and organised a langar in the face of threats from the mobs.
The local initiative was followed by the efforts of the voluntary groups and individuals. Hundreds of students, housewifes, teachers, doctors and many prominent citizens organised relief camps and collected supplies. The Administration was nowhere to be seen.
The Delhi Administration appointed a Relief Commissioner to deal with the crisis on November 4, 1984. On November 6, the Delhi Administration announced a scheme for rehabilitation and Joint Secretaries from various Ministries were put in charge of various camps in which a compensation of Rs. 10,000 was to be given to the next of kin for each dead. Five thousand was to be given to each seriously injured and a thousand for those who sustained minor injuries. The same amounts were to be given to those who had suffered damage to their property. On November 7 the Prime Minister announced that he was releasing a sum of Rs. 40 lakhs for relief work for the Union Territory of Delhi from the Prime Minister’s Relief fund.
The question that arises is where did the money go, for it has not reached the people at the camps. There is no scheme made for the implementation of the relief scheme and no agency has been created for this purpose. The joint control room at Raj Nivas for relief does not seem to have even got information about the number of camps in the city.
When the government did move in, they were met with hostility from the people and atleast on one occasion the people refused to accept the food brought by a M.P. because the people felt that he was involved in the carnage. In fact the arrival of the VIPs was often a hinderance to the relief work being carried out.
The plight of the displaced persons was pathetic. The army had clear instructions not to allow anyone to photograph the camps. A member of our team was roughed up by the army and his film snatched away at the Shakurpur camp when he took a photograph of the people in the camp.
No attempt has been made to take a census of the people at the camps and estimate the number of men, women and children. None of these people have been given identify cards on which basis they could claim the compensation and now they will get entangled in red tapes and possible litigation.
According to Press reports more than two crores of looted property has been recovered but no attempt has been made to arrest the looters who if arrested are released on the intervention of the local leaders.
Further there is no system worked out by which the recovered property will be returned to us rightful owners. Already VCRs are finding their way to the market at a ridiculous price.
Within a week the Administration started to forcibly evacuate the displaced persons and sending them back to what used to be their homes, which are now cinders and ashes. Their houses destroyed, their property looted, and the murderers and looters wandering free the people are terrified of returning to the areas which are full of memories of murder and arson. Officially there have been 2,960 arrests but hundreds of these people have been released either on intervention of local politicians or are on ball.
The Government and the Administration have in a ruthless manner got DTC buses to pack off the people, given them Rs. 50 per family and some times a bundle of bedding and sent them back without making appropriate arrangements for their security. No attempt has been made to create an atmosphere of trust and security. Despite the presence of the army it was reported to us that stray incidents of looting and murder continue.
The Government did not mobilise all the resources at its command (e.g. the army) to provide medical care and sanitation, nor did it print enough forms for compensation claims. A voluntary agency had to have thousands of forms printed for the camps in their care. The government’s callousness towards the problem of relief and rehabilitation is in consonance with its earlier policy of calculated inaction during the carnage. How could the government not have anticipated the need for an effective machine for relief and rehabilitation ? Further, how was it that just at the time the government was announcing the setting up of a Relief Commissioner the forcible evacuations of the people started without any assurance to them of their future security?