Prompt compensation often eludes people worst-hit by natural disasters

Thiruvananthapuram: Most families who lost near and dear ones as well as property in the recent rain havoc in Kerala are set to face a harrowing time especially as they try to secure compensation.

Be it the emergency financial assistance of Rs 10,000 or lakhs of rupees of compensation given to the next of  kin of the dead, many families have to run from pillar to post to get their due.

Even though ministers while visiting the site of natural calamities often promise to grant the compensation to the affected families within six months, it goes without saying that most people have to wait for two years or more to receive their solatium. 

On August 6, 2020, 66 people died in the Pettimudi landslide tragedy in Idukki district. Four people were missing. Of the 66 families, 46 families received compensation of Rs 5 lakh each. The compensation is yet to be paid to the remaining 20 families. 

Of these 18 families had to wait for months together as their heir-ship certificates could not be included in the government gazette. Two families from Tamil Nadu could not furnish the required documents. 

The rehabilitation of the affected families is yet to be completed after the 2019 Kavalappara landslide which claimed lives of  59 people and Puthumala tragedy in which 12 lives were lost. Of the affected, 32 families belonging to the Scheduled Caste category lived in relief camps for two years.

Bottlenecks all along

The Centre has announced a compensation of Rs 1,01,900 for each house damaged in the hill areas. In the coastal area the compensation for damage to houses is Rs 95,100. To ensure distribution of Rs 4 lakh each, the government takes money from the state exchequer.

However, the government usually fails to distribute the amount to the affected person in time.

The government’s attempt to route the compensation through bank accounts fearing pilferage by local  authorities and politicians, has not met with success.  The money that was transferred to the affected people returned from the accounts of 38,000 persons. Also Rs 49,000 each given to families for damage to houses also returned from the accounts of 18,000 persons.

Lucky ones too

There are many who received compensation twice!  Though the government tried to take back the money, it could not succeed. The compensation which was sanctioned for the families affected in 2018 floods was cornered by politicians who were not eligible  to receive it.  

Official stand

Though the government announces the  first instalment of financial assistance within days of the natural calamity, the speed of disbursement is not upto the mark. The officials usually  take a stand that instead of identifying the affected families and taking the compensation to their door steps, the affected people should come to them with the required documents. This is one of the major factors behind the delay in disbursement of compensation. This year 60 people have died in natural calamities in Kerala so far. The kin of none of the victims have received Rs 4 lakh which they are legally entitled to get as compensation.

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