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Advani calls for political and social solidarity to overcome tsunami

Advani calls for political and social solidarity to overcome tsunami

Publication: Organiser
Date: January 9, 2005
URL: http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=59&page=36

I have just returned from a three-day travel to the areas in southern India which were devastated by the tsunami on December 26. It is a disaster without dimensions; its toll is without precedence in known human history. The entire humanity has been numbed and humbled by the death and destruction it has wrought in over a dozen countries in Asia and Africa. Never before has a natural calamity erased national boundaries in so tragic a manner as we have seen in this case.

National and International Solidarity

As it always happens in an hour of tragedy and crisis, the entire nation is now united in its resolve to reach relief to the deserving people and to share the grief of the bereaved. Therefore, the first point I wish to make is that the BJP extends its shoulder to the Central Government as well as to the governments of the affected states in doing everything necessary for relief and rehabilitation.

I also appeal for the manifestation of the widest possible political and social solidarity, to address the needs of relief and rehabilitation in our own country and, to the maximum extent possible, also in other affected countries. Our countries have been united by this tragedy. Now we should also be united by our determination to overcome it. It is indeed heartening that India has extended generous assistance to other tsunami-affected countries, even as we are busy harnessing our resources to deal with the calamity domestically.

Given the sheer magnitude of the tragedy, I feel that appropriate expression should be given to the grief felt by the entire nation at the death of thousands of our own countrymen and also our sisters and brothers in other countries. The Prime Minister should soon convene an all-party meeting to seek suggestions on how best to deal with the situation. This disaster may be declared as a calamity of the rarest severity, so that all sections of the people can contribute their fullest to the relief and rehabilitation effort.

Recommendations of the National Committee on Disaster Management

Secondly, I would also like to urge the government to take immediate steps to implement the recommendations of the National Committee on Disaster Management (NCDM), which had been constituted by the NDA government in February 2001 under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee. In a conscious attempt to reach across political barriers, the Prime Minister had appointed Shri Sharad Pawar as the vice-chairman of NCDM, with the rank of a cabinet minister. The committee was set up in the wake of the earthquake in Gujarat on January 26, 2001. In its report submitted last year, it has suggested necessary institutional and legislative measures needed for an effective and long-term strategy to deal with major natural calamities in future.

One of the measures suggested is a proposal for raising a Specialised Disaster Response Organisation (SDRO) and Specialised Disaster Response Units (SDRU) to augment/supplement the resources of the states and a nodal ministry at the Centre by providing specialised resources. I would urge the government to give serious consideration to implementing this proposal in the wake of the tsunami-induced disaster. In this context, I would also like to recommend to both the Centre and the calamity-hit states the pioneering work done by the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA), which has statutory powers. Its work in rehabilitation and reconstruction in Kutch and other parts of Gujarat has been praised even by international agencies.

Immediate and Long-term Measures in Tsunami-affected States

The third point I would like to urge upon the government is the need to urgently evolve an immediate-term and a long-term strategy to ensure safety, welfare and all-round development of India's nearly one crore fishermen and members of their families, who are always exposed to the dangers of nature. India has a coastline of nearly 8,000 km covering 11 states, besides the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and the atoll island group of Lakshadweep. We also have 2.2 million square km of exclusive economic zone. Our coastline supports almost 30 per cent of its human population which is dependent on the rich coastal and marine resources. It is therefore necessary to take better care of our human and natural resources in India's coastal areas.

Of immediate significance is the need to put in place reliable early warning communication systems in coastal areas, with attendant facilities for protection and evacuation. The very latest in science and technology should be pressed into service for this purpose, drawing upon the benefits of regional and international cooperation in disaster prevention and mitigation.

Wherever I went during the past three days, the common plea I heard from fishermen was that they would like their boats and nets to be repaired/replaced and their houses to be rebuilt in a pucca manner. This need should be met urgently through the collective efforts of governmental agencies and non-governmental organisations. Immediate steps should be taken to prevent the spread of any epidemic. All the outstanding loans of the people in these areas should be waived; grants, credit and all other forms of assistance should be extended generously for rebuilding their lives. Infrastructure in these areas must be rebuilt on a war footing. To implement these suggestions for relief and rehabilitation in a co-ordinated manner, I strongly urge the government to constitute a broad-based Task Force.

Comprehensive National Coastal Insurance Scheme for Fishermen

Simultaneously, efforts must begin for a long-term action plan for reviving their livelihoods on a safe and sustainable basis. In this context, the BJP demands a Comprehensive National Coastal Insurance Scheme for the welfare of fishermen and others living in coastal areas. The scheme should cover both life and property (such as boats, nets, marketing infrastructure, etc.) with a bulk of the premium amount contributed by the Central and state governments.

Initiatives taken by BJP for Relief and Rehabilitation of Tsunami Victims

In the wake of the grim situation created by the tsunami calamity, the Bharatiya Janata Party has risen to the occasion with alacrity. I have spoken to all the Chief Ministers of the BJP-ruled states to contribute their utmost to the relief and rehabilitation efforts in the affected states. I have also asked my colleague, Shri Jaswant Singh, leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, to visit Andaman & Nicobar Islands, where the devastation has been especially severe.

At a meeting convened in New Delhi by former Prime Minister, Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, the party has set up a BJP Calamity Relief Fund and appealed to the people to contribute generously to the fund. To begin with, all the MPs, MLAs and MLCs have been directed to contribute their one month's salary to the fund. A committee of senior party leaders, headed by Shri Jaswant Singh and Shri Vedprakash Goel as its convenor, has been set up to oversee the distribution of money and material to different parts of the country. The Doctors' Cell of the BJP has started to reach medical assistance to the people in the affected areas. Volunteers are being mobilised in large numbers to work in relief and rehabilitation activities.

Places visited by Shri L.K. Advani, accompanied by Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, former president of the BJP

27th December: Chennai-Marina Beach, Srinivasapuram, Pattinappakkam, relief camp at Mylapore, Kalapatti in Pondicherry and aerial survey of Nagapattinam and Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu.

28th December: Thiruvanantha-puram, Nagarcoil, Kolachel, Karunagapalli, Klappana, Ochira, Kayankulam, a relief camp in Cochin in Kerala and aerial survey of Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari.

29th December: Pallipalem, Krishnapuram and Mypadu in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh.

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