Monday, June 3, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pandits in camps die of diseases

Jammu, June 2
Neglected by their country and rest of the world, lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits live a life of misery in virtually inhuman conditions in refugee camps and they are now falling victim to rising incidence of diseases leading to a higher death rate.

Ever since their forced exodus from the valley, Kashmiri Pandits have been subjected to psychological and metabolic stress, leading to rise in diseases and deaths as well as low birth rates in the camps at Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur.

In camps the death rate has increased due to rising incidence of various diseases. Diabetes and hypertension have almost assumed epidemic proportion, according to a noted doctor and Panun Kashmir leader K.L. Chowdhary.

Of the over 3 lakh Pandits, who were uprooted from the valley between February and June in 1990, most have got relocated in tented camps and rented houses in and around the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir here.

During that year, the government spent over Rs 2.11 crore in providing facilities like lodging, medicare, cash assistance and free rations for these displaced families.

Many of them went to Delhi, Haryana, Chandigarh, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Kerala in search of livelihood.

In 1991-92, the Jammu and Kashmir Government with central assistance gave clearance for the construction of one-room tenements (ORTs) for the migrants and these were initially set up in Muthi and Purkhoo and subsequently at Mishriwala and Nagrota, on the outskirts of Jammu city.

Dr Chowdhary, who had conducted several surveys in the camps, said there had been a higher incidence of ailments involving heart, kidney, ulcers, severe psychiatric and mental disorders among the camp dwellers during the past decade. These were usually associated with diabetes and hypertension.

Most of the women in camps suffer from anaemia and malnutrition due to poor living conditions, he said, adding that he recorded 5,000 cases of typhoid in 1991, 15,000 cases of dengue fever in 1993 and 3,000 cases of hepatitis in 1997.

Today, there are 4,742 ORTs with 17,621 persons living in 11 camps in Jammu, Udhampur and Kathua while 981 others are living in non-camp accommodations at seven places in Jammu, according to official figures.

However, the president of All-Kashmiri Pandit Conference, Mr Amar Nath Vaishnavi, said that out of 35,000 displaced Kashmiri Pandit families, only 4,500 families had been provided with “one room unhygienic and sub-human tenements” in camps on the outskirts of Jammu city. Others were facing hardships, he said.

Quoting a booklet released by Panun Kashmir, another Pandit leader Dr Agnishekhar said more than 5,000 Pandits died in first four years in camps and elsewhere in Jammu.

Other factors leading to low birth rate in camps were infertility, higher incidence of miscarriage and opting out of procreation deliberately due to poor economic means.

Another Pandit leader, O.N. Trisal said the government spent more than Rs 420.69 crore through relief organisation to provide facilities to displaced Kashmiri migrants, yet the living conditions in camps had not improved. PTI 

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