//Here, riot victims are not fighting for justice, but survival

Here, riot victims are not fighting for justice, but survival

Resettled at Citizen’s Colony, victims living without electricity, water, healthcare facilities

Dhurjoti Bhattacharya, Express India,Oct30, 2006

Ahmedabad, October 29: IF the riots were not bad enough, rehabilitation did the rest for former residents of Naroda Patiya. Resettled at Citizen’s Nagar behind AMC’s Sewage Farm in Danilimda, the riot victims today find it difficult to address even their basic needs. Getting justice is not their foremost thought, survival is.

Their rehabilitation was carried out by the Kerala Muslim League along with other agencies. Prof K T Jaleel, LDF-supported Independent MLA of Kerala Assembly and former member of the League, said the League had collected a huge amount of money from Gulf countries for rehabilitation of the riot victims. The League had donated 40 houses for resettlement of riot victims at Citizen Nagar. Interestingly, while Jaleel was still a Muslim League man, he had publicly insinuated that funds were misappropriated from the money collected by the League for victims of Gujarat riots and the tsunami. This had led to his ouster from the party. Earlier this year, he came back to power as an Independent MLA with LDF support, defeating League heavyweight PK Kunhalikutty.

Meanwhile, the inhuman living conditions at the settlement has already started taking its toll on the riot victims. Mounds of garbage piled high behind Citizen’s Nagar is the first sight that greets a visitor. Next, comes the filthy water stagnating in the backyard. ‘‘The sewage treatment farm periodically releases dirty water, which often enters our houses. Most of us suffer from severe infections on the feet,’’ says Salma, a 23-year-old resident.

There’s no electricity, no school, no drinking water or healthcare facilities here. The only borewell dug within 100 metres of the hillock of filth accumulated over the years, produces yellow water. ‘‘We have no other source of water. Number of children have died of diarrhoea after drinking water over the past few months,’’ she says, adding, ‘‘We do not have a school where we can send our children, not justice no health centre to treat our sick and no midwife to take care of our pregnant women even during an emergency.’’

Their woes do not end here. Dyeing factories nearby regularly release contaminated water in the colony. ‘‘As it is we don’t have any doctors here,’’ says Mumtaz, adding that once a week a municipal mobile dispensary visits the area. ‘‘They don’t even touch us,’’ said an angry resident. ‘‘The visiting doctor only listens to our complains and distributes golis (tablets) and enlist the names,’’ he adds.

Interestingly, AMC has recently started collecting taxes from the area and tax charges include water and sewage as well. But, according to Mohammad Ikbal, nothing has been done in this regard so far.

When contacted, AMC Deputy Commissioner R J Makadia, however, said: ‘‘The AMC periodically carries out cleaning drives in the area. We are trying to construct roads in the area as well. However, unless a draft plan is finalised, AMC cannot do much to develop the area. The problem here is number of unauthorized buildings mushrooming in the area.’’

A highly placed source in the AMC, on conditions on anonymity, said that the rehabilitating agencies had obtained no permission from the AMC while constructing houses for the riot victims. ‘‘AMC was already working on some areas which could have easily been used for resettlement,’’ said the source. ‘‘The cost-effective charity of these agencies has now pushed these riot victims in a situation far worse than they would have ever bargained for,’’ the source added.

Not just for gutter and water, the colony-dwellers had to raise funds for minimal electrification of the area as well. ‘‘No one helped us. We raised the money from each of these houses to install few streetlights,’’ says Mohammed Salim. ‘‘Now that AMC has started collecting taxes, may be something will be done,’’ he adds.

Once they settled here, the riot survivors were also forced to send their children to work in the dyeing units nearby as most of the men are yet to find work for themselves. ‘‘The womenfolk work as maids and go to far off areas like Bapunagar for work,” says Naseembanu, a victim of Naroda Patiya massacre in 2002.

‘‘What we need right now is a primary health care centre and school. A decent source of drinking water, however, is our topmost priority,’’ says Salma. Gradually with some external help, we’ll be able to generate some means of sustenance for ourselves, she adds optimistically.