M A I N   N E W S

Resettling orphans a problem as cheats appear
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, January 1
While the overstressed Tamil Nadu Administration carried on its relief work among the tsunami victims for the sixth day, it is now faced with the problem of looking after orphans.

In addition, many cheats are turning up, claiming to be relatives of these orphans as the children are entitled to a huge amount as solatium from the government. So far, the Tamil Nadu police has arrested 60 such “fake” uncles and aunties.

To prevent any kind of racketeering regarding these children, the Tamil Nadu Government has decided to adopt all children who lost their parents when the tsunami hit at least 13 coastal districts of the state, claiming several thousand lives.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa said here today that new homes to shelter at least 100 children in each would be opened in Nagapattinam, Kanyakumari and Cuddalore in addition to the government-run homes already functioning.

She said: “The opening of three new homes will ensure that no child is left in the lurch. Special provisions will be made especially for the kids. Maids will be appointed to take care of them. Playing materials and special medical facilities will also be part of such new homes.”

Many business houses in the state have come forward to adopt these children and set up special homes for them.

Among those killed on Sunday were 40 per cent children, around 2000 of them in Nagapattinam district alone. There are hundreds who survived, but lost their parents and are homeless. A majority of them are in Nagapattinam and Cuddalore disricts, which bore the brunt of the tsunami the most.

There are around 10,000 homeless people who have sought shelter in 16 relief camps all over Nagapattinam, most of them are children.

During a two-hour survey, a state government officer detected 50 orphans in just three shelters.

With the district administrations overburdened attending to those suffering from injuries and ailments following the tsunami attack, it does not know what to do with these destitute children as they need special care.

Many relief workers said there was total chaos after the tsunami struck and many children were torn away from their parents to learn later that they had been orphaned. Many of them just wandered away when they returned where their homes used to be only to find utter destruction.

According to a Red Cross regional coordinator, Mr Raja Mahendran: “It is often children who are the worst victims of any disaster. While several organisations like the Red Cross and the Indian Council for Child Welfare have come forward to rehabilitate orphaned children, the task of identifying them is proving to be daunting. With entire families wiped out, there is often no one to report these children to.”

Many children have been left dumfounded by the tragedy and are yet to comprehend the loss of their parents and siblings.

One relief worker at Nagapattinam, Ms Uma Parvati, talked about a seven-year-old who withdrew into a shell whenever she was asked any question about her parents and home.

These orphaned children immediately need not only food and clothing but also special care, but the administration just cannot hand them over to anyone because of the Rs 2 lakh per person solatium tag on them.

A relief worker said many men masquerading as uncles of these orphans were turning up because of the money they were entitled to receive. A child who had lost parents and a sibling was entitled to Rs 6 lakh.

Meanwhile, medical teams worked overtime attending to those displaced by Sunday’s tsunami in various parts of Tamil Nadu an in this state capital.

Union Health Minister Anbumani Ranadoss today said: “There needs to be more co-ordination. Till date the Tamil Nadu and the Andhra Pradesh Governments have not asked us for any aid of medicines, so there needs to be more co-ordination. Politics should not play any role here.”

The Central Government has sent 100 doctors to Tamil Nadu to assist and is willing to offer any other assistance required.

He ruled out any epidemic and felt the onus was on the government and NGOs to provide the healing touch that Tamil Nadu so badly needed.

A majority of tsunami victims coming for treatment were suffering from fever, body ache or dysentery.

“Many of them were eating cooked food provided by various organisations leading to indigestion. Some of them had drunk water which might have been contaminated. We do not want to take any chances,” said a doctor.

Mobile medical vans had been pressed into service and these were sent to areas where people had returned to their homes which were not washed away.

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