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Vedaranyam residents get aid on the doorstep

By R.K. Radhakrishnan

CHENNAI, JAN. 4. The tsunami-affected at Vedaranyam do not know what to do with the cheques for Rs. 1 lakh the Government gave them. Some of them do not have bank accounts, while the others lost their passbooks along with their belongings to the surging waves.

Further, many do not know where to keep the cheques. They did not have the option people in neighbouring Karaikal have: the affected told their Chief Minister that they would collect the cheques after their huts are rebuilt. This could be done in a small place like Karaikal, where everyone, including the Chief Minister, knows everyone else, but not at Vedaranyan, where the affected are spread across seven villages.

Then there is the problem of opening a bank account. One needs to be introduced, must bring photographs and the process took a few days. Also, those who already have an account do not know how to convince the banks that they are the real account holders as they do not have any form of identity.

The residents took the issue to the officer in-charge of villages, the former Kanyakumari Collector, Rajesh Lakhani, and local revenue officials, who made arrangements with local banks and a cameraman. The officials went to the relief centre, took a photograph of the head of the family and issued a passbook to him/her today. Also, they took the cheques and made entries. All on the doorstep of the affected. "The banks were very helpful. Since the people wanted this done, we decided to first complete this before we took up other works," said Mr.Lakhani.

The affected also want their boats repaired as similar work was being carried out elsewhere in the district with the help of the Army. Though the district administration said that they could not bring in the Army for this, it offered an alternative: Rs. 100 a day to the affected to work on their catamarans.

"The tsunami has thrown the logs of the catamarans all over the place. We told them that we could offer remuneration for putting together the catamarans," said Mr.Lakhani.

There have been some takers for the scheme. More will join in over

the next few days, hopes the administration.

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