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From the Field
Relief Workers' Report

UNITED SIKHS, an international non-profit human development NGO, is currently working to provide humanitarian aid to victims of the Asian tsunami disaster. Current UNITED SIKHS projects include relief efforts in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nicobar Islands, South India, and Aceh, Indonesia.

Situation and Rehabilitation Efforts needed for People in Great Nicobar
(Jan 17/18)
By Esher Singh, Project Leader, UNITED SIKHS GHANAIA Tsunami Relief in South India

CAMPBELL BAY (Great Nicobar Island, Indian Ocean):  We (UNITED SIKHS Project Leader Esher Singh and Kulwant Singh of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle from Bombay) reached Joginder Nagar which is 13 kms on the coastal roads of Campbell bay. Most of the Sikh families who lived here were well to do and had a decent life with good transportation like trucks, cars and jeeps. Many had their fabrication industries which are completely destroyed and lost. Now these families have nothing except clothes on themselves. They are under shock and distress. They need proper counseling. The roads here are totally broken and some of the local people have started looting and gathering articles from houses which were abandoned after the flood. Almost all the people from the area are living in relief camps.

Governor of Tamil Nadu, Mr. Barnala had arranged for UNITED SIKHS volunteer’s flight along with Minister of social justice Mrs. Subalakshmi and Union Minister for home Mr. Raghupathi. We reached Nicobar at 4:30 am after visiting an island at Nanco wrie which was also affected by tsunami waves. We met relief camp inmates at government model secondary school Kamorta, and others at executive engineer electrical office. About 5000 Nicobari casualties have been reported and about 1000 are still in the two relief camps. Many island inhabitants were washed away by the waves.

There were 2 groups in the island - tribal and non tribal. The non tribal group has submitted a memorandum to Minister of Social Justice on issue of Rehabilitation demanding opening of schools, maintaining roads and community halls. Desalting wells and bore wells as salt water has mixed with drinking water is also required. They also requested that non tribals should be evacuated from the island under Andaman and Nicobar protection of aboriginal tribe regulation act 1956.

On 17th January the team will be leaving with the order of Uddidpa Ray, Deputy Commissioner Nicobar district who has given a special permission to the team to be air lifted by air force courier from Car Nicobar to Port Blair. I also had a meeting with relief inmates at Campbell bay where it was decided that a memo should be prepared by the 2 diff groups. Group one would comprise of people who wanted to shift after getting compensation from Nicobar to native Punjab and other group would comprise of people who wanted to get compensation and resettle.

Immediate relief needed at this place should be procured within 2 months otherwise nothing can reach the island specially Campbell bay. This is the only land where Sikhs were settled. A common langar should be organized which needs proper utensils which are lost or are in the camps. The relief camps organized by the administration are congested which will amount to ill health very soon. There are hygiene problems making the situation worst. Different tents should be arranged to reduce the loads of the people in the present existing camps.

There are about 4678 people who are enlisted in the administration list staying in 13 diff camps in which people from different community and states are residing among which mostly Sikhs, Christians, Hindus and the tribal are struggling for the basic amenities. The diet is not balanced.

We recommend and propose to organize a sawmill that will help in the construction of this rehab for which machines like sawmill, wood cutter (battery operated) and plank cutter will be arranged. An estimate for the expenses to carry out this will be completed in next few days. Few plane lands at higher altitudes are being requested from the administration or purchased from the civilian owner to set the camp tents. The government has passed an order that the forest wood can be cut down for rehabilitation purpose.

We have to arrange for special legal advisors who can deal with the revenue records for making claims very soon so that no legal lacunae is left. They should be well versed with terrain, rules and regulation. Arrangements for a specialist eye doctor for eye checkup and getting spectacle for people should  also be  made.

Additional Commissioner Mr. Jagjit Singh needs a helping hand so that justice is done to the prevailing situation. Most of the relief material sent to the island are not reaching Campbell bay due to distance and no cargo shipment can touch the island as the jetty is totally broken. Apart from this it is requested to the government that more Indian air force flight should be pressed into relief service which is very important for the procurement of relief material.

The relief sent by the government is about RS 400 crores that will be utilized on defense establishment and will hardly be used on rehabilitation because the coastal walls and their structure need more than the amount sanctioned for reinstating their normal services. There are hardly any flights, courier which fly to Campbell bay. There is only one helicopter which goes to Campbell bay on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This has 7 person capacity mostly engaged by the politicians for their visit. The ships can't be used because the jetty is broken till date. The admin should take immediate steps to rebuild the jetty which will help with the movement

There are many other islands apart from Campbell bay which have been very badly affected. Some islands have been totally washed away. There is no accountability of life on these islands. According to government census in 2001 and the causality figures provided now, there is only an addition of 10% which is not very convincing. Some of these islands had native tribes still untouched by modern civilization. These islands are very far away from the government's knowledge and records. Many of such islands have been washed away and the press and the government haven't spoken about that. None of the government vessel or aircraft have gone near it.  The government and media should take up this issue and help those helpless natives.

In 1969 the issue of plebiscite was raised by China with regard to these islands claiming that the Mongolian tribes belong to their community. Immediately the prime minister of India Indira Gandhi ordered to settle down the Sikhs of Punjab to mark an identity of India on this territory of Andaman and Nicobar Island. This was one of the reasons the Sikh community was made to settle in this last island of India. The Sikhs have served the nation beyond comprehension. Now the nation on a whole should pay them by helping them to resettle down and live again normally.

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