Government still non involved in post-tsunami reconstruction in Nagapattinam
by Nirmala Carvalho
Over 70 per cent of projects underway are the work of the Church and NGOs, says rector of the Vailankanni shrine. Clinton's visit in India was quick and brought nothing to the population.

Nagapattinam (AsiaNews) – Monsoon rains are just around the corner and permanent housing for tsunami survivors has not yet been built, this according John Joseph, chancellor of the diocese of Thanjavur.

Same views about official bodies' inaction from Fr P. Xavier, rector of the Vallinkani Shrine, who spoke to AsiaNews about the recent visit of the UN special tsunami envoy Bill Clinton, a visit that was quick but made no difference to the local population.

"Even though five months have gone by and generous monetary aid is available, the government told us to wait until they allocated the housing sites [before] the construction of permanent housing can begin," Father Joseph said.

The Church though is carrying out its own projects in favour of the survivors, but people "will now have to face the fury of the monsoons in temporary shelters," he added.

"Clinton's recent visit (May 27) did not make any difference to the people of Nagapattinam," said Fr P. Xavier, rector of the Vallinkani Shrine which was damaged by the December 26 tsunami. "It lasted for about an hour. He [Clinton] had a meeting with the District Collector, and the district administration staff. Surrounded by a coterie of politicians, he inspected some handicrafts and left," the rector said.

Rehabilitation work on the Marian shrine has not yet started because of a lack of funds. "All the Shrine's donations have been utilised to help the people, but the Basilica's riverside columns were badly damaged by the enormous impact of the tsunami and we need to collect separate funds to begin restoring them," he stressed.

More importantly, Father Xavier noted, 70 per cent of the rehabilitation work is being done by the Catholic Church and NGOs"

Father Joseph agrees. "Where over 6,000 people died in the December 26 tsunami, we have set up Training Centres for the rehabilitation of the tsunami victims of this coastal district," he said.

Women are especially targeted. "These centres train women [. . .] in handicrafts that include making candles and terracotta artefacts. This should enable them to earn and support themselves in the future [and] protect from exploitation of middle-men".

Older girls and women, who have finished their secondary school, are given training at the Computer Centres. "They are very interested in learning computers, as it gives them a sense of achievement and a chance to get a white-collar job," Father Joseph added.

"Another major project is building a new orphanage for tsunami children [many of whom] might fall prey to greedy relatives, lured by government compensation," he finally explained.