ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A New Deal Relief

Floods in Uttarakhand

While cash transfer has worked in disaster situations it does not figure on the relief agenda. The All India Disaster Mitigation Institute has made cash transfers to disaster victims since the 2001 Gujarat earthquake covering over nine disasters in the last 12 years and reaching up to 26,000 families. This decade-long experience shows that if planned well and independently monitored, relief as cash transfer is time- and cost-effective.

Nearly 16 lakh people in four districts of Uttarakhand (Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Garhwal) were affected by the rains and floods that ravaged the state on 16 June.1 The death toll according to official estimates is over 5,000, thousands of people have lost their homes and livelihood2 while the losses are estimated to be above Rs 3,000 crore.3 With potable water almost non-existent, hundreds of people from neighbouring villages have complained of fever and diarrhoea4 and despite the heroic efforts of the armed forces and members of the National Disaster Management Force, rescue work was inadequate to cover the huge disaster. It is not too early to start thinking about the nature and extent of relief and the political economy around it.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Rs 1,000 crore relief package to Uttarakhand is indeed timely and decisive: gone are the days when the central team from Delhi would visit the site to assess the loss and damage over weeks and the concerned state’s team would repeatedly approach Delhi with revised demands for relief. Negotiations and party politics around the subject would go on for months embroiled in political and economic interests delaying the supply of relief and causing even more misery to the victims of the disaster. However, the Uttarakhand flood relief announcement seems to have broken this pattern. If that is so, it is now possible to think of a new deal in terms of relief packages though it has opened another area for political action around media visibility. Disasters attract the media, and the media attracts politicians. What can be the key features of a new deal? Let us draw from India’s own experience.

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