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Fishermen seek relief for all

By K. Manikandan

TAMBARAM, MARCH 3. The fishermen of Chinna Neelankaraikuppam off the East Coast Road are sore over what they call denial of tsunami relief material to the entire community and say they will not accept the relief unless they are uniformly distributed. Today, they prevented government officials from taking back the relief stored in the hamlet. However, the officials argued that the no one was left out in the area and that sufficient relief materials were available for all.

According to the locals, there were about 1,200 families in Chinna Neelankaraikuppam and more than 800 families were affected by the tsunami. Though all of them applied for relief soon after the State Government began distributing relief material, only 511 families were shortlisted.

While 820 bags of rice were brought to their area, authorities planned to distribute them only to 511 families.

"We are not that selfish to accept it while others are deprived of the same," said Masilamani. Another fisherman, Ramu, said it would be unfair for some families to receive the provisions while others were forced to fend for themselves.

The fishermen said that until all the affected families receive the tokens to collect the provisions, none of them would accept the rice. The rice bags have been kept at a civil supplies shop and at the Pazhandi Amman Temple in the colony. The fishermen said an ooru panchayat (village order) was in force and none would touch the rice bags or venture into the sea until the issue was resolved.

They would prevent any steps by the officials to take back the relief material. They alleged that efforts to take back the provisions were part of a larger conspiracy to sell them in the open market.

`No shortage'

However, officials said that for the past one week they had distributed 16 items, including 30 kg of rice, 10 litres of kerosene and other provisions to fishermen in several villages along the East Coast Road.

At Chinna Neelankaraikuppam, 511 families had been shortlisted after applications for relief were received and an equal number of provision kits were sent. However, about 300 bags of rice meant for Injambakkam village were off-loaded at Chinna Neelankaraikuppam by mistake.

Officials at the Tambaram Taluk office clarified that the question of relief material to 820 families did not arise at all, as only 511 families had applied for relief.

They had been trying to convince the fishermen for the past few days that the excess bags of rice were meant as relief for affected families in an adjacent hamlet but in vain. They also denied allegations that the excess bags would be sold in the market.

However, the fishermen are in no mood to listen and said they would resort to a hunger strike if the relief is not distributed uniformly.

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