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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.

Field Report from Esher Singh

On 11th morning at 6 O'Clock, I along with three locals left for Shastri Nagar where one Pritpal Singh son of Jasveer Singh had died. The road was rough in fact there was no road at all at many places. We had to pass through jungles, we reached there by 6 in the evening. At places we had to carry our cycles on our shoulders. Only at few places where the roads were intact, that we could pedal the cycle. On the way we passed through Joginder Nagar at a distance of 13 kms which I had already visited. The road is intact for about 10 kms but even these 10 kms one has to get down from the cycle at many places. No four vehicles can move together there. After that one has to walk for 18 kms. There were houses at a distance of 13 kms which were totally destroyed, few at 18 kms, one at 27 and another at 3. The bridge of 18 kms is completely destroyed where the water has made a bay inside the jungle. One has to carry the cycle \ belongings on their shoulders and walk for one km. One can walk with the cycle in a field for about 5 kms.

There was one stretch of land where one could go for half a km on cycle. Then through the broken roads, streams, jungle for another 27 kms, there, one Dara Singh has lost his land and house. After 27 kms one has to walk for another 4 kms where there are 3 state transport buses pushed into the jungle by the Tsunami waters and a private bus of Devinder Singh Toor. At the 18 km mark there is a Higher Secondary school which is totally broken and there were about 400 houses which are totally shattered. At the 31 km mark there is a big hospital called Primary Health Centre at Gandhi Nagar inaugurated by Let. Gen. Ranjit Singh Dayal, MVSN, MVC, ADC Retd. on 4-4-9. The hospital is totally damaged now. There were nurses and doctors' staff quarters which are damaged too. Lot of medicines, X Ray machines lie shattered in the rooms, three ambulances were swept into the rooms with the force of the water. Till now, no officer of the administration has landed at this place except the D.C who came once that too on a helicopter. Even the local administration has never been to this place. After 33 kms there is Ajaib Singh's farm whose son has been paralyzed due to an accident, his house and his land is submerged in water. After 35 kms is the farm of S. Jasbeer Singh whose son Pritpal was killed by Tsunami waves. His tractor, trolley, car, floor mill, rice mill, house were all destroyed. I slept in the house of Ajaib Singh who had two separate rooms on a hill.

The day before yesterday I surveyed 35 kms. After 38 kms the roads are totally damaged. The villages till Indra point are all washed away. This is the last point of Campbell way. I came back at 1:30 at the 35 kms point. I ate 2 parathas at 2:30, and on the way had coconut water and then a proper dinner at night.

Morning of the 12th I had breakfast and nothing till evening later. Only after the breakfast I came to know that there is a boat which will leave for Campbell way from Gandhi Nagar. It could accommodate 8 to 9 people, 15 ft long 5 ft broad with a diesel engine. There was a heavy tide and when we were about to start at 1:30, the boat was pushed to the dry area. It took about 7 hours to move the boat into the water again. At about 7, we finally started. It was almost dark when we reached here at 10:30. There were heavy waves, huge tides, and we were quite sick by it as the salt water entered our eyes and mouth. At last we came here at 10:30 at night. It is not possible for another 1-2 years for the roads to come up as they are totally damaged. Administration never went to other places after the 13th and they expect that the people should remain here which is total foolishness. The head of the Administration is A.C Vikas Anant who is anti-Sikhs. He tries to coordinate only when he feels his position is threatened. The administration is trying to help the tribals who are few in numbers only about 100-200 families. Many live in the jungles and never come out. They are not trying to concentrate on the non tribals who actually inhabit this island and who are called settlers. Except food nothing proper is being done for them. People are lining up here with the hope that they will be compensated with the land and property loss which will take the due course of months and years. The family members are missing, they will complete their loss only if they are reported missing in the newspaper and only after 7 years will they be declared dead. The bodies found are very few, and the missing are beyond calculation. Their reports are hardly being lodged. Only for information sake they might have been written otherwise they are not compensated. It's very hard to think about rehabilitation after the survey yesterday and day before. There are 2 lines of settlement.

  1. People at hilly areas
  2. At coastal belt.

Upper hilly areas bore very few proper agricultural lands where mostly paddy is grown. But the lower area which was fertile for coconut, beetle nuts, cloves, etc. is totally damaged, most of the land is taken over by the sea. Again the people have to work by cutting the trees and make the land cultivable and which will take years. Unfortunately the land on the coastal area is not sufficient.

People are staying here and there in other people's houses and a few in camps. From 0-6 kms people are staying on elevated land. Some at 0 coastal area, suffered heavy loss where there were many residential shops. The land is totally submerged in the sea. There is water even when there is low tide and water flows in high tide.

Government servants are well taken care of, only the main settlers are disturbed.

Waheguru ji ka khalsa, Waheguru ji ki fateh.

Esher Singh

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