The situation - Tsunami affected villages in Tamil Nadu


Role of government

The Government of Tamilnadu rehabilitation process started with the public - private partnership.

But still govt is yet to evolve a final policy on rehabilitation and reconstruction. They are not clear about the house construction should be beyond 500 or 1000 mtrs from the sea. The process of procuring land is not yet started.

According to Antony Benchilas of NGO Coordination Cell, people are not ready to move far from the shore. While evolving a rehabilitation policy we should take care of fishermen communities' livelihood, habitat and so on."

When we asked the people about moving from the seashore they are not agreed. They says, "their all activities are in the beach and that will be difficult for them to move away from it."

Get the New Government Guidelines on Reconstruction

In Thoduvai village, rs. 1000 as relief money is not received yet as the neighbourhood villages Kozhayar and Thirumalai vasal have already received it. People are eagerly waiting for the money.


Temporary shelters are being built by government and various national and international agencies.

The government shelter made of asphalted sheets releasing heat and people cant sit inside. In poompuhar women were cooking food outside, as they can't bear the heat.

Though government has given stove to every family but there is no money to purchase the kerosene. So they are using firewood and it is dangerous to the area.

Water & Sanitation

In Thoduvai village where 350 families are staying in temporary shelters are not getting proper drinking water supply. The pipe water supply is not working and they have to depend on borewell. There is no separate bathroom and toilets for women and children.

In Poompuhar govt had constructed separate bathroom/toilets for men and women. But these toilets are not cleaned properly and there is high risk of infectious disease among children.


Government has started providing money for purchasing Katamarans and net in instalments. The villagers got Rs. 10,000 as the first instalment for purchasing Kattumaram have already being spent for their daily expenses. They won't be able to purchase Kattumaram and nets even if they get the second instalment.

We have noticed in Nambiar Nagar and Thoduvai villages, people have started buying small nets and knitting it. These nets don't yield much result but still they can catch fish atleast for their own needs. They can't have food without fish.

Women led family

Mamangam owned petty shop in Akkarappettai village, which destroyed in the tsunami. She has three daughters and one son physically handicapped. Since there is no one to help her to get compensation she didn't received anything so far. She was running the family with her small business. She didn't know how to rebuild their life.

Mamangam says, "My daughters can't go and fight with the officials to get relief. If I had a grown up boy he would have get something for us."

She alleges that the list prepared by the villagers doesn't include every one and there is partiality.

She wants to take her physically handicapped son to hospital but there is no money.

SHG involvement

In Akkarappettai Government have started livelihood training programme for women. The women were selected from various SHGs groups from the villages. They are getting training from Tara Technology, Delhi with support from government.

Women are getting 10 days training on Tile Making, Cement Block making, Tailoring, etc.

After this training government will provide land and building and they could start their business and should do the sales and marketing their own.

Wait for relief

In Nambiar Nagar, women were standing in long queue to submit the list for compensation of lost livestock. Women have lost whatever they have in their house like, goat, cow, hen, etc.

Only SNEHA, an NGO have provided rs. 500/- to each women members of SHGs. They say that was a good relief for them at the time of crisis.

Women's group in this village also took a loan of Rs. 2500 from Indian Overseas Bank. They have to repay this money within six months time. Few widows are getting 200 as a pension.

Women are in the same opinion when we asked about moving from the seashore. They don't want to live where government is trying to relocate. They want to live in the cost as their activities are taking in the seashore only.


Most of the relief agencies had left the scene. As government and NGOs started working together on rehabilitation and reconstruction, you can see that a number of temporary shelters are being build up in the villages.

There are few community based organisations and ngos working on education, micro credit, health, counselling etc.

NGO Coordination Cell and Tamilnadu Relief and Rehabilitation Council (TRCC) are coordinating various NGOs activities with the government.

"The government policy should be evolved after consulting with NGO groups and experts", feels Antony Benchilas, who coordinate NGO Coordination committee.. They have already recommended to the government on relocating the fishermen community from the seashore.


Gram Sabha in Poompuhar Village

In Poompuhar a Gram Sabha had held on 28th February. Though there was a Gram Sabha held on 26th January on the occasion of Republic Day, was a formality as all the people were in trauma.

This Gram Sabha made some decisions and recommendation, which 200 to 250 people participated.

- The Event drew up a resolution, addressing various issues within and beyond the Tsunami impact.

- The assembly requested the government to review the differential assessment of catamarans and boats as fully damaged and repairable to be replaced and all considered under one category of damaged and relieved equally considering the risk to life associated with repaired boats

- They also demanded that the 50% subsidy scheme announced in case of the fiber boats, to be reviewed to 100% subsidy.

The Gram Sabha gave a clear picture of the existing relation between the elected Gram Panchayat and the local community institutions also called the Panchayat. The Community Panchayat meets every Friday to solve community problems like family quarrels; land disputes, etc. This forum is virtually inaccessible to women and they are welcome only if we they are part of the issue. The community Panchayat has even powers to isolate one family in case they don't comply with a Panchayat decision or question them.

The Gram Sabha in Poompuhar had women's presence in large numbers. But the Panchayat members took very few issues of women's concerns, seriously. The general perception was that these issues were of low priority compared to the larger issues of livelihoods and so on.

So the issues like chicken pox in children, heat in the temporary shelters, problems in water supply in temporary shelters, problems of people cooking inside the temporary shelters in traditional chulah's, stinking of waterlogged area etc., received low priority and were not involved in the resolution.


There is no daily visit by doctors to the villages now. Nurses would visit the temporary shelter for their health needs.

In Thoduvai village, The Cyclone Shelter built by government is not used in the initial stage. When we visited this village second time, we could see a balwadi is running inside the shelter.


The tsunami has affected standing crops and spoiled cultivable land (due to sea water intrusion) in all the affected districts.

A study conducted in Cuddalore revealed that the penetration of saline water is 90 cm and that the land is unfit for cultivation for the next five to seven years.

NGOs like, Covenant Centre for Development and MS Swaminathan Research Foundation has started the process of reclamation of land.

In Poompuhar village Veeramani has lost two cows, which cost 10,000 to 15,000. He has not got any compensation from the government.


With the socio- political focus shifted to larger issues like restoration of fishing activities and housing and land related problems, past the relief phase, the basic services are almost assumed to be in place. But the with the truth remaining that the women's concerns firmly set on the basic service and day to day issues provide a least resistant space for action involving women.

Activities like water point monitoring, cleaning and maintenance plan for streets, providing space for dialogue near the temporary shelters etc. would help us in creating a base for community action and better assimilate the needs as well as their readiness to absorb new ideas.