“After the Tsunami: Politics, Privatization and the Plight of the Poor in South India” Dr. Whitney Howarth Plymouth State University November 15, 2007
On December 26th2004, the second largest earthquake ever to be recorded in human history occurred off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The quake triggered a series of tsunamis across the Indian Ocean, killing more than 225,000 people in eleven countries. Waves reached heights of 100 feet and travelled as far as one mile inland in some places.
In India, the southernmost state of Tamil Nadu was one of the region’s hardest hit by the devastating tsunami. Nearly 10,000 people died here and several thousand more were displaced , psychologically traumatized, wounded, and witness to the destruction of sea based economies, industries and commercial networks. This summer I visited Kanyakumari, known as The Land’s End, in south Tamil Nadu where the three seas meet. This district experienced some of the highest death and property loss rates in India. It also received a great deal of the generous humanitarian aid that came from all over the globe to help the people rebuild in the wake of destruction…
Kanyakumari District with 68 kilometers of coastline had 846 tsunami deaths.5257 houses, 402 fiber boats, 1423 country boats, 6892 catamarans and 24385 fishing nets were destroyed, leaving many injured & homeless,and 106 persons missing. --J. Dinakarlal Thavomony http://www.ias.org.uk/resources/publications/theglobe/globe0503_0601/gl05030601_p23.html
Three affected communities: Fisher-folk – depend upon boat building, net making, fishing Dalits, or “untouchables” – traditionally sweepers, butchers, tanners, and those who deal with removal of the dead. Shell collectors and lime producers. Nadars , also low caste –traditionally palm tree climbers, make their living in coconut and palmyra based industry.
Dr. James Premkumar James Hospital, olachel
$11 billion was donated to Indian Ocean region for emergency relief and long-term reconstruction, according to U.N. estimates While aid for areas struck by the tsunami prevented the deaths of many people from hunger or disease, the report said competition between aid workersto spend huge private donations quickly led to a misallocation of resources. "It's a myth that any aid is helpful," said Jonathan Walter, editor of the report, which was commissioned by the Red Cross but written by independent experts. -- The Herald Tribune, 2005
Humanitarian Aid Government pledges (not including millions raised by private donors and NGOs)Source: wikipedia.com Australia = $ 1 billion Canada = $ 531 million Japan = $ 500 million U.S.A = $ 350 million (original pledge was $35 million) Saudi Arabia = $300 million The Netherlands = $ 295 million United Kingdom = $140 million The Vatican = 6 million
Aid also took the form of military expenditures… ‘U.S. sent more than twenty-four U.S. warships, over 100 aircraft and some 16,000 military personnel-the largest U.S. military concentration in Asia since the end of the Vietnam War.’ Hariharan, "Tsunami: Security Implications," (report, South Asia Analysis Group, 2005), ; Ralph Cossa, "South Asian Tsunami: U.S. Military Provides ‘Logistical Backbone' for Relief Operation," (U.S. State Department, Washington, DC: 2005, as quoted in Bello’s THE RISE OF THE RELIEF AND RECONSTRUCTION COMPLEX, Journal of International Affairs, 2006.
Palmyra Worker's Development Society (PWDS) 1) Rescue, Relief and Rehabilitation 2) Health Care & insurance enrollment (organized network partners) 3) Child Care – educational kits, feeding, counseling, rec. 4) Psychological counseling for survivors 5) Disaster Management & Preparedness Training
“Children! Don’t go, don’t go! If you go from here you will lose me eternally. The tsunami won’t come again.”
Relief! Can’t reach it easily!! Tsunami affected people
Police: “Hey! Are you going to the place we’ve given to you or shall I force you?” Woman: “Aiyo! What will we do?”
Tsunami Rehabilitation Housing “Even we can’t live inside there!” “I don’t know how humans can stand it!” “What idiot built this place?” Oh, it is HOT in there!
Farmer and fisherman Says: “Aiyiyio! We thought that they will save us, alas, they did not!” Govt. says: “To save you, I must take you 500 meters away.” “The fisherman and the farmer are like a drum between the tsunami and the government.”
Agricultural colony Saravanan Mills Workers Colony Fisherman and family: “Where’s our place ?”
“The tsunami has thus struck the coastal areas in yet another manner: it has paved the way for privatization of coastal areas and commercializing coastal regulation zones…” --L.A. Samy Renganathapuram http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/global/lasamy_cetv.html
Child: “Oh Boy! Is it the ocean? Haven’t you told me that grandpa was a great fisherman?” Father: “They threatened us by telling us that the tsunami will come again and they chased us away from the sea!”
“Do only poor people get chased 500 meters away from the Sea? While the rich upper class enjoy the seashore as entertainment?When will you chase the hotel owners?When will you chase the prawn farmers?”
Tsunami: Disaster or commercial opportunity? • ‘Disaster relief and post-conflict reconstruction have thus become increasingly intertwined, so that it is difficult to understand the dynamics of one arena without looking at the other.’ • ‘Post-disaster and post-conflict reconstruction planning and implementation are increasingly influenced by neoliberal market economics.’ From Walden Bello’s THE RISE OF THE RELIEF AND RECONSTRUCTION COMPLEXJournal of International Affairs, Spring/Summer 2006, vol. 59, no. 2.
What is the most urgent matter needing our attention? Govt. Rehabilitation Committee “We can have a prawn farm! “We can build an amusement park and make good money!” “We can build hotels!” *************************** “Whatever you ask, we will do it in time. Be patient.” Nets? Boat engines? Boats? Houses?
Post-disaster Privatization --Disaster Capitalism? • The World Bank was criticized, along with governments, for placing emphasis on the rehabilitation of commercial enterprises such as prawn farms and tourist resorts. Vandana Shiva, "Tsunami Recovery: Sustainability, Poverty and the Politics of Aid" (keynote speech, 10th Anniversary of HRH The Prince of Wales's Business and Environment Programme, 2005 • Indeed, a February 2005 report on its post-tsunami operations noted that the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank's financing arm, was "considering financing facilities that will rapidly mobilize long-term debt financing for the recovery of the tourism operations in the affected areas." World Bank, "World Bank Response to the Tsunami Disaster," (report, World Bank, Washington, DC: 2005 …as quoted in Bello’s THE RISE OF THE RELIEF AND RECONSTRUCTION COMPLEX, Journal of International Affairs, 2006.
Voices inside: “Can we chase everyone away and start a prawn farm” “If we build hotel near sea shore, we can earn good money!” “If they don’t leave, we can force them” Politician: ““Don’t worry, for months now we’ve been discussing what is in your best interest.” Boats? Houses? Fishing Nets?
Prawn farms are big money makers since industrial "aqua-culture" in coastal areas produce bumper crops for export to USA, UK and Europe … Shrimp Conflicts? Corporations create large-scale “mono-culture” practice Salinization of soil (destroys local agriculture) Brackish water from tanks contaminate local drinking wells Farms block fisherfolk access to sea and destroy mangroves Prawn farms wastes, pesticides and fertilizers pollute sea
“When the four bulls were together even the Lion couldn’t eat them. Whether fisherman or a farmer, aren’t they are all part of the labor class? Let’s get united and FIGHT!”
Non-Govt. Organizations (NGO’s) vs. the Govt. “Lack of a long-term strategy beyond the immediate relief phase into the reconstruction phase was another common complaint in many areas. Still another was the consequence of the state's abdication of its responsibilities… dependence on NGOs for housing had drastically reduced the State's duty as a provider of basic infrastructure.” Bello’s THE RISE OF THE RELIEF AND RECONSTRUCTION COMPLEX, Journal of International Affairs, 2006.
Japanese fisherman: “hello, tsunami ! Come and catch me if you can” Indian fisherman: “Aiyo, what will I do if the tsunami comes?“ After so many tsunamis hit Japan, the Japanese govt. has provided safety and security for the fisherman. This is the govt.’s responsibility.
Do too many NGOs in the kitchen spoil the soup? “With its volatile mixture of strategic concerns, bureaucratic imperatives, profit-making and partisan humanitarianism, it is questionable that this new paradigm of relief and reconstruction is superior to the traditional arrangements.” – Walden Bello
“Relief is not like giving to one who begs – it also is also not a concession – it is our RIGHT.”
Assertions of our common humanity occur only at times of great loss. To retrieve and hold on to it at all other times - that would be something of worth to salvage from these scenes of desolation. – Jeremy Seabrook ,The Guardian (UK) Dec. 31, 2004