Most organizations intervene in cases of emergencies, disasters, and natural calamities only after the event has taken place. This post-disaster response is usually through partnerships with the governments of affected states. This often compromises an organization’s ability to question the state on its post-disaster response. HRLN’s Emergency and Disaster Response Initiative is unique in the sense that it is not bound any such limitation. As an independent organization, which takes a rights-based approach to post disaster relief and rehabilitation, this Initiative has the advantage of being able to ensure transparency and accountability in all relief work.
What We Do?
Over the years HRLN has responded in times of disasters such as during the 2006 Jammu and Kashmir earthquake; the 2005 Mumbai floods; the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami; the 2001 Gujarat Earthquake; and the 1993 Maharashtra Latur Earthquake by providing direct legal assistance for obtaining relief and rehabilitation, organizing legal awareness camps, and conducting fact findings.
During the 26 January 2001 Gujarat earthquake, we responded by establishing a temporary unit in Adipur town (Anjar district) for one year to help the victims process their claims for compensation and rehabilitation. The team also organized Lok Adalats (people’s courts) in Bhuj, Gujarat, through which 20, 000 claims for relief were settled over four days. Our lawyers ensured that minorities who are generally excluded from government schemes, such as schedule caste and tribes, poor muslims, etc., were able to get compensation.
In 2004, members of our team visited all the Tsunami affected areas in Tamil Nadu, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, focusing on three aspects of post disaster relief and rehabilitation: i) Monitoring the formulation of reformation and rehabilitation packages and their equitable disbursement ii) Providing direct legal assistance to affected people iii) Disseminating information regarding government relief packages through training and community level interactions. During the 2005 Mumbai floods our team successfully got relief material for affected people with special focus on disabled persons living in slums and low lying areas. During 2006 Kashmir earthquake, our team responded by assisting victims to file applications for relief and ensuring their rehabilitation.
Issues Of Concern
- The Indian Government has no long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction strategies for people affected by disasters.
- Corruption and misuse of aid money.
- The unpreparedness of the Central and State Governments for disaster management.
- The exclusion of affected communities and the lack of emphasis on the basic principles of sustainable development.
- The government’s slow and discriminatory practices in providing compensation, housing, or relocation for victims.
- Lack of awareness amongst affected populations of the relief/ rehabilitation schemes to which they are entitled.
- The frequently changing nature of relief/ rehabilitation schemes and short notice periods for making claims.
In the wake of the 2004 Tsunami, our team filed a PIL in the High Court at Port Blair as well as in the Supreme Court, which resulted in orders to effectively provide food security to over one thousand families, restore the livelihoods of fishermen, shopkeepers and farmers, and ensure the distribution of free ration for years. (See: Kranti vs Union of India)
During the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, our team provided legal aid to widowed women, schedule castes, tribes, and Muslims, through which thousands of people overcame discriminatory filing procedures and received rehabilitation packages. The volunteers in this region helped the Ombudsman appointed by the High Court in following up with the local authorities to expedite claims throughout the Kutch District of Gujarat.
In the wake of the 1993 Maharashtra Latur Earthquake, the Bomby High Court passed a landmark judgment on disaster relief where the government was asked to rebuild houses on a priority basis. It was also asked to restart medical centers, upgrade sanitation facilities and pay compensation, make available resources for rehabilitation, and secure compensation for the dead and missing. (See: S. Krishna Das Vs. Secretary (Rehabilitation), Government of Maharashtra).
Tel:+91 11 24374501
“While the overwhelming initial responses to natural calamities, emergencies, and disaster situations is undoubtedly heartening, the challenge lies in ensuring the implementation of successful long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction strategies”