“No one dies due to cold. If that were true, nobody would be alive in Siberia.” That is how one of the top bureaucrats in Uttar Pradesh— home secretary AK Gupta — reacts when grilled about the deaths of several children due to cold in relief camps in riot-hit Muzzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of west UP.
Though Gupta admitted before the media that 34 children from the relief camps had died, he said they could not be categorized as deaths due to cold as the cause of death in the medical reports was pneumonia or some other ailment, not “cold”.
Taking exception to the comments chief minister Akhilesh Yadav on Friday asked officials to keep a check on their use of words and ensure nobody’s feelings get hurt. “Use of words by officials or partymen, whether it is about the government’s drawbacks or the party’s achievements, should be such that nobody’s feelings get hurt,” he told reporters here
Meanwhile, displaced victims of the communal clashes live in untold misery in the relief camps as the mercury continues to dip fast. With nowhere to go and even bare minimum facilities missing due to official callosity, they live a life of orphans in the bleak winter. The administrative attitude towards their plight seems to be no less frigid.
On Friday, as many as 27 tents in the Loi (Muzzaffarnagar) camp were pulled down using bulldozers and JCB machines. The government says those who have taken relief money of Rs5 lakh per family should leave the camps. However, chief secretary Jawed Usmani told reporters here that no one would be forcibly evicted.
Camps like those in Budhana and Loi in Muzaffarnagar present a frightening picture. TV channels have been airing footage of people in these camps shivering, without blankets or woollens to cover themselves. The camps are dirty and surrounded by filth.
A boy from village Kharad staying in the Loi camp said there was hardly any governmental assistance, and that some social organisations had been helping them. Sameena of Phugana village, another victim at the same camp, said, “We are spending sleepless nights in the biting cold.”
However, the ruling Samajwadi Party leadership seems to be in a celebratory mood. The entire party top brass along with Mulayam and Akhilesh joined in the celebrations at the annual ‘Sefai Mahotsav’ to usher in the new year. The event will continue till January 8.
But senior SP leader Naresh Agarwal says, “The media should not blend politics in everything to make news. This is an annual event, and it has not stopped Akhilesh from doing his duty. The state government is doing everything possible for the people staying in the relief camps.”
Meanwhile, The National Human Rights Commission has issued notice to the UP chief secretary and district magistrates of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli on reports of children’s deaths due to cold in relief camps.
Safety fears trigger panic marriages
A woman in the Malak relief camp in Shamli district on Friday married off her four daughters in a hurry as she feared for their safety. The girls were married to boys who too are living in relief camps. The marriages were held under a pall of gloom. There was no food, music or celebration, neither were any relatives or family friends around. The marriages were performed with the basic religious requirements carried out by a local qazi. “I married off my daughters to the boys I could find. I do not even know what they do or anything about their families. They are equally unfortunate people like us,” Rukhsana told reporters after the lacklustre wedding. “