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Society
Last Updated: February 20, 2007
Riot-displaced in Gujarat await Centre’s special package
By Syed Khalique Ahmed

Although more than two months have passed since the Union Home Ministry announced it would send a Central team to study the condition of riot-displaced people living in resettlement colonies to be able to come up with a special package for them, no step has been taken so far.

To add to the predicament of those living in such colonies, the state government has said there are no “displaced persons” in Gujarat, and that those staying in makeshift colonies are doing so “voluntarily”.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had announced a compensation package for the 2002 riot victims, on the lines of the compensation for survivors of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The MHA announcement had come after the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) had submitted a report in November 2006.

Now, those living in makeshift houses have decided to campaign for their cause. They want to be recognised as “internally displaced persons” as recommended by the NCM, so that they would be entitled to a compensation package. The displaced families have been living in sub-human conditions in various resettlement colonies built by Muslim organisations and NGOs on the outskirts of Ahmedabad and other towns.

There are over 5,000 displaced families living in 66 resettlement colonies across Gujarat. They had been forced to leave their homes and live in makeshift houses in resettlement camps. They had also been denied compensation apart from the meagre Rs 1,200 as “ghar vakhari”. These people have formed a state-level Aantarik Visthapit Hak Rashak Samiti (Committee for Protection of Rights of Internally Displaced) to fight for their cause. They also plan to hold a state-level convention in Ahmedabad on February 1, to highlight the Centre’s “inaction” and the state government’s “apathy”.

At the meet, Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed, film-maker and director Mahesh Bhatt, Justice(retd) RA Mehta, National Integration Council member Shabnam Hashmi and members of NHRC would be present to hear the grievances of the displaced.

According to social activist Gagan Sethi, it is the duty of the Gujarat government to rehabilitate the displaced as per the Constitution and the United Nations Guiding Principles of Internally Displaced. “But the government, instead of compensating and rehabilitating the displaced persons, returned Rs 19.1 crore out of the money it received from the Central government for the purpose,’’ remarked Sethi.

Sethi is one of the two social activists — the other being Farah Naqvi — on whose complaint the NCM had visited the displaced families and submitted a report to the Centre. In its report, the NCM had recommended that a national policy on “internally displaced due to violence” be framed and a fair compensation be paid to them.

Sethi and his colleagues — Mukhtiar Sheikh and Yusuf Sheikh — working for the rehabilitation of displaced persons are demanding a compensation of Rs 4 lakh per “internally displaced family”. They say, of this Rs 4 lakh, Rs 2 lakh will be deposited in fixed deposit for a permanent monthly income, Rs 1 lakh to be spent on improving the existing infrastructure of the colonies, and the balance to be used for generating a source of livelihood for the family.

According to Sethi, the total cost of the package would not amount to more than Rs 250 crore for covering about 6,250 families in 66 colonies. “But it requires a political will to do it,’’ said Sethi.

Yusuf Sheikh said if the displaced did not get justice after the February 1 meeting in Ahmedabad, they would hold a convention in New Delhi to draw the nation’s attention to the plight for the displaced.

(Courtesy: Indian Express, January 27, 2007)

 


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