No relief for this tsunami victim even after 7 years

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Even as the global donors, local NGOs and governments of affected coastal states are getting ready to hold sombre ceremonies to remember the thousands of victims of the December 2004 tsunami, fisherman V. Shanmugavel is still running from pillar to post to get the promised shelter after the waves swept away his dwelling at Kovalam, a southern suburb of Chennai.

It was a miracle that the fisherman, then 40 years old, survived after being dug out of six feet of tsunami sand and went through complicated surgeries to cleanse his intestines of the beach sand.

Now, a Kovalam fisherman chief gives him food and shelter while his wife and kids are struggling in distant Erode. The kids’ school fees are paid by their classmates.

“The then chief minister Jayalalithaa saw me struggling for life in GH and said I would be paid Rs 25,000 as relief at once. The tsunami rehab officials promised a house and educational aid for children in 2005. I got nothing even after seven years”, Shanmugavel says.

“I still have health problems. I need to be careful about my food and I cannot strain much”, he added.

The poor fisherman has been visiting bureaucrats every other day. The collector allotted a house plot in 2007 at Melkathirpur but it was taken back and given to another.

“I spend almost 20 days in a month visiting government offices begging for help. Many officers tell me, so causally, that I must wait”, he says, adding bitterly, “I wish I had died in that tsunami; my family would have then got some government help”.

Since her husband remains homeless, Angaleshwari, 38, is forced to live at Erode with her aged mother and children—daughters Mahalakhsmi, 18 and Manjuladevi, 17 and son Balaji, 14.

“I manage doing odd jobs and my children’s fees are paid by their kind classmates. We all had even attempted suicide sometime back. Unfortunately, the neighbours saved us”, Angalashwari says.

When contacted, Kanchi collector Sivashanmugaraja promised he would 'personally look into this case' and help the tsunami family.

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