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State gearing up to meet rehabilitation challenge

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, DEC. 31. The State is gearing up slowly but firmly to face the task of rehabilitating the victims of the tsunami onslaught.

The Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy, today exhorted the people to cancel the New Year celebrations and participate in the relief work. He said that the State is facing a catastrophe. The coastal parts of Kerala were in a shambles. Some villages had been completely wiped out and thousands of people were in relief camps. Many families had been rendered helpless by deaths of family members. The families had to be provided land, houses and the means of livelihood. Their rehabilitation will be the biggest challenge faced by the State, he said.

He said the Government was doing whatever was possible on a war footing. The visit of the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to the affected areas and the offer of the Centre to support relief and rehabilitation work were a big inspiration. But a task as daunting as this could not be undertaken without the support of the people, he said. He urged the people to send their contributions to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund, Secretariat, Thiruvananthapuram.

A meeting of top officials of the Fisheries Department, chaired by the Fisheries Minister, Dominic Presentation, decided to extend an assistance of up to Rs. 2,000 from the Fisheries Board to the fishermen who were undergoing treatment in hospitals because of injuries sustained in the tsunami onslaught.

Loan repayment

It also resolved to suspend the repayment of loans from the Matsyafed for six months. Time will be given till March 31 to make payments to cooperative societies and the Housing Board. Nets will be provided to fishermen who have lost them through the Matsyafed. The production of nets by the net factory will be increased. Desalination plants will be set up in places that are facing water shortage. The damage to fishing harbours and fish landing centres will be repaired. Public lavatories will be constructed for the fisherfolk and the reconstruction of roads expedited. The collection of details of fishing equipment destroyed will be completed within five days. The draw for the selection of persons for the 2,500 houses being given under the Centre's special scheme will be completed in January. The meeting also decided to give an assistance of Rs. 20,000 each to 1,000 persons for the repair of houses.

A meeting of representatives of teachers organisations chaired by the Education Minister, E.T. Mohammed Basheer, resolved to observe January 4 as Help Day in schools throughout the State. A fund will be collected on the day. It asked the students to contribute Rs. 3 each in the case of lower primary, Rs. 5 each in the case of upper primary, Rs. 10 each in the case of high school and Rs. 15 each in the case of higher secondary to the fund.

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