Jagatsinghpur (Report by Kahnu Nanda): The 1999 Super Cyclone, arguably the biggest tragedy in the history of the State as well as the country, perhaps one of the most ravaging natural disaster that mankind has ever experienced in modern times.
Even as 12 years have passed after the incident, certain realties stare us at the face. However, thanks to official apathy and massive corruption, several victims of the tragedy are yet to get compensation. Similarly, the reconstruction works in several areas have been below par, while the State Government has not been able to handle relief distribution and provide benefits under various rehabilitation schemes, besides restoring the communication system.
Eventually, Government lacks post restoration follow up measures as a consequence of which few projects completed successfully still draws criticism from public domain. Glaring instance any one can find are the Cyclone shelters and the school building constructed aftermath super cyclone 1999 in Jagatsinghpur.
Official reports indicate that nearly 801 OBB school buildings have been constructed in Jagatsinghpur district by spending about Rs 16 crore. Besides, construction activities have been undertaken for 972 primary schools and 192 high schools.
Government agencies, several NGOs and many public undertaking companies had undertaken such new construction and repair works as a result thousands of schools received new faces. However the Government authorities were unable to provide adequate funds for the yearly maintenance works. The donor NGOs and companies who had provided the funds for the new buildings unheeded over the incident in spite of public complaints.
Besides under Cyclone Shelter-cum-School Building Scheme, Paradeep Port Trust and Paradeep Phosphates Limited had undertaken to construct 181 school buildings. Besides, funds were also availed from Prime Minister Relief Funds (PMRF) to construct some buildings. As many as 30 buildings each costing Rs 3.50 lakh were built in 4 blocks by National Project Construction Corporation under PMRF.
Under chief minister relief fund nearly 8 school buildings and cyclone shelters had constructed at cost Rs 10 Lakh each.
Moreover, Maharastra Government which adopted Jagatsinghpur district after the cyclone had constructed about 52 schools-cum-cyclone shelters at a cost of Rs 18 lakh to Rs 20 lakh each.
Indian Overseas Bank had constructed three schools-cum-cyclone shelters, TATA Relief two, CASA four, Reserve Bank of India one, RK Mission one, CMRF seven, LOS six, HUDCO ten, CYSD three, RD Department of Odisha Government seven, Karnatak Government one and IRCS had built two shelters. Each building had cost Rs 15 lakh to 20 lakh.
Furthermore, 17 school buildings were constructed under MPLAD funds. Official records show that after completion of the school buildings, they were handed over to the school authorities. Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA) had been deployed to supervise the work and monitor the quality of construction.
But after the passage of two years, the buildings required maintenance. The State Government paid no heed to bear the yearly maintenance cost and the donors refused to take any further responsibility. As a consequence, most of the buildings are now in dilapidated conditions.
Two years ago, the District Administration faced an awkward situation when a Parliamentary committee visited Jagatsinghpur district to verify the condition of the cyclone shelters funded under MPLAD funds. as many of the buildings had been damaged or rendered unsafe. Sources informed that the visiting Committee members had expressed displeasure after looking these buildings and instructed the civil administration to take care of these buildings before their next visit likely in December 2011.
The District Collector then called an urgent meeting and instructed Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) authority to repair the buildings forthwith. But when contacted, District School and Mass Education Department authorities said SSA funds cannot be diverted for maintenance of the buildings.
OSDMA sources, however, said for the multi-purpose cyclone shelters, annually Rs 50,000 is being provided to each registered ones for management and maintenance. The concerned committee at village level uses the corpus fund. However, it is not possible to provide yearly funds to all cyclone shelters built after the Super Cyclone.