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1 Feb, 2010 05:48

Tsunami victims in India still waiting for compensation

More than five years after the notorious Asian tsunami, with thousands of people displaced in India alone, signs of the destruction may have washed away, but so have some of the government's promises of help.

Rejecting foreign aid, the Indian government vowed to pay for the reconstruction itself.

However, not all the money has ended up in the right hands, while many people still remain homeless.

When the tsunami in December 2004 hit eastern India, the town of Nagapattinam was the worst affected, with over 6,000 people killed and many more thousands displaced.

Five years later, the destruction seems like a distant memory. There is a new bridge in the town, and it seems the money that poured in has been spent on infrastructure and on rebuilding homes.

But scratch the surface and you find lives have not yet recovered. The biggest livelihood here is fishing, but the government has not yet provided loans to all local fishermen to replace the boats they lost in the disaster.

“My boat was destroyed in the tsunami. I need thousands of dollars to buy a new one, but after promising us a loan, the government has given only a few people money to buy new boats,” shared fisherman Vittri. “Without a boat, I am nothing. From a boat owner, I have been reduced to working as a laborer.”

Practically everywhere there are residents who have not received their promised compensation.

Pushpavali lost her husband and her house in the disaster, and is bringing up her two children by herself. Despite the government promising to rebuild all houses destroyed by the tsunami, her request for a new house has been turned down.

“I asked the village elders and government officials for a replacement house, but they say, ‘you are a single mother, those families who have no male breadwinner will not be allotted a house.’ What do I do?” questions Pushpavali.

Five years ago there were whole families whose lives were washed away by the tsunami and today all that remains are the foundation of their houses, still not reconstructed and waiting to be rebuilt for somebody.

RT approached the local government administration in Nagapattinam, but despite our repeated requests, the district collector refused to speak to our journalist.