Of carcasses and compensation

Print edition : January 08, 2016

Anjalakshi (centre) of Pudupettai, in front of the pen where her four goats were drowned. She was asked to produce the carcasses a month later to get a certificate, which would enable her to get the government compensation. Photo: T.Singaravelou

ON December 7, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa announced that those who had lost their livestock or crops would get compensation. It would be Rs.30,000 for a dead cow, bull or buffalo; Rs.3,000 for a goat or a pig; and Rs.100 each for poultry (for a bird). Farmers would get Rs.13,500 for a hectare of paddy and other irrigated crops that were damaged, Rs.7,410 for a hectare of rain-fed crops and Rs.18,000 for a hectare of long-term crops. In addition to the compensation announced for damaged huts, she said they would be paid an extra “relief” of 10 kg of rice, Rs.5,000, a dhoti and a sari.

But what awaited Anjalakshi, a young widow of Pudupettai-Aykuppam in Kurinchipadi panchayat union in Cuddalore district, was disappointment. Her hut, situated on the edge of a big pond at Pudupettai, was damaged, and when the water rose, the four goats she raised in a thatched-roof shed were drowned.

When Anjalakshi approached the Village Administrative Officer (VAO) for compensation, she was asked to produce a certificate from the local government veterinary doctor that the goats were dead. And the veterinary doctor at Appiyampettai, near Kullanchavadi, wanted her to produce the carcass of the goats to do so. A distraught Anjalakshi asked: “The goats died on November 9, and we buried them the next day. How can we produce the carcasses a month later?” Anusuya Balamurugan of the same village had a similar experience when she went to claim compensation for her six goats that drowned.

Daily-wage farm labourers whose huts were fully damaged by the floods faced a different kind of problem. The compensation amount they got was hardly enough to build a new hut, they said. K. Balamurugan at Pudupettai said: “We need Rs.30,000 to pay for the material and labour.”

“On what basis does this government estimate the compensation to be paid?” asked K. Balakrishnan, Communist Party of India (Marxist) legislator, who represents the Chidambaram Assembly constituency. “To raise paddy on one acre, it costs a farmer Rs.23,000. But the government says it will provide only Rs.13,100 for one hectare of paddy lost. Besides, relief does not reach all the affected people. Only 15 per cent of them get relief,” Balakrishnan said.

The Tamil Nadu State committee of the All-India Kisan Sabha, affiliated to the CPI(M), wanted the State government to do a proper survey of the damage sustained in the floods. Their demand is Rs.25,000 for an acre (one acre is 0.4 hectare) for paddy and other irrigated crops, and Rs.15,000 for an acre for sugarcane and banana. They also demand a compensation of Rs.25,000 for the huts damaged.

S. Uthandi, secretary of the Pattali Makkal Katchi, Ammapuram panchayat union, Cuddalore, was upset that officials were doing only surveys in some villages and not in all the affected villages. Indeed, political parties have demanded that the State government set up a monitoring committee to ensure that the Centre’s relief amount of Rs.1,940 crore provided to the State was being utilised properly and that it reached the vulnerable sections of the population. This demand gained strength after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Chennai on December 3 that the Centre would release Rs.1,000 crore to the State government to carry out relief works “in addition to the Rs.940 crore which was released earlier”.

Former Chief Minister and president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam M. Karunanidhi said on December 3 that the setting up of an all-party committee alone “can ensure that the entire relief amount given by the Centre reached the people who have sustained losses” in the unprecedented rains and the resultant floods. “The Centre and the State government should, therefore, set up an all-party committee to monitor the distribution of relief,” he said.

Vaiko, general secretary, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, said only the setting up of a committee by the Centre to ensure proper distribution of compensation to people can “thwart the possibility of irregularities”.

D. Ravikumar of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, the former legislator who represented Kattumannarkovil in Cuddalore district, made a strong pitch for an “independent committee to monitor the flood relief work”. He said there had been complaints of discrimination in the distribution of the relief amount to affected people after the tsunami struck the Tamil Nadu coast in December 2004.

Apparently, certain villages and ruling party supporters were given preferential treatment then.

T.S. Subramanian

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