11/27/2018, 14.03
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Caritas hasn’t forgotten cyclone Gaja survivors in Tamil Nadu

The Catholic charity is helping more than 25,000 households. Wind and rain killed 63 people and destroyed 340,000 housing units. Rich and middle-class people were equally affected. Volunteers discover rooted inequality towards Dalits in access to services.

Chennai (AsiaNews) - Caritas India has not forgotten the survivors of Cyclone Gaja, which devastated Tamil Nadu, and is engaged in “relief operations by providing food, shelter and other assistance to the affected community,” Patrick Hansda, of Caritas, told AsiaNews.

The cyclone, he noted, left 63 people dead and caused "heavy devastation" on the ground. Like an “angry elephant” (Gaja means elephant in Sanskrit), the weather event hit the south-eastern coast of India on 16 November causing a huge disaster.

The numbers are staggering. Wind and rain caused damage in 12 districts, destroying more than 340,000 housing unites, 280,000 of which were simple huts. "This means that the poorest of the poor were reduced to next to nothing," Hansda said.

The winds also battered rich and middle-class people. Over 88,000 hectares of agricultural and horticultural crops were wiped out. Some 12,298 livestock as well as 92,507 birds were lost to the cyclone. More than 103,000 electric poles were damaged, depriving 5.3 million households of power.

The Christian charity activated relief by granting emergency loans to the diocesan organisations through which it operates. Volunteers helped people to reach safer areas. Many residents were taken in by churches and Catholic schools.

Fr Paul Moonjely, executive director of Caritas India, said that “25,000 households will be supported with food and shelter and another 8,000 households will be provided cash for work support.”

“In the coming days water, sanitation and health support along with psychosocial and education support will be given to the affected households,” he added.

However, Hansda laments the fact that “Deep-rooted caste-based inequity was observed in the distribution and availability of infrastructure for Dalits and their accessibility to services and entitlements like water provision and sanitation.”

Likewise, “A subtle way to fence off Dalits from access to functional infrastructure facilities was visible, as such amenities are found in the dominant caste habitations.”

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