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Victims ensure those cut-off get relief

Source: PTI
October 17, 2005 15:48 IST
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Soon after a calamity, one of the sights we see is scores scrambling for just one bag of rice or out-running each other to grab blankets air-dropped from army choppers.

But villagers in some quake-hit regions of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have sacrificed all-important relief to those for whom it is more valuable-- those cut-off in remote areas.

Despite an acute shortage of relief material and having lost every earthly possession in the October 8 killer quake, the locals have stood tall against misfortune-- sacrificing their own share of relief for.

The government machinery having almost collapsed, people of Monassa, Baglota and Balandkot village have formed local committees to ensure that those stranded in the upper reaches of the mountains get their share of aid that the army personnel bring hourly to the more accessible regions.

"We have had enough," Farooq of Balandkot was quoted as saying by the local media.

"When trucks carrying tents, blankets and food came by our village, the elders decided that we should refuse it and instead direct them to the remote villages that are still cut-off by road," he said.

The solidarity is seen in other villages as well. Fifteen families in Baglota have embarked on a similar pact-- to maintain a common pool of relief material and distribute equal amounts to individual members just to prevent lawlessness and looting.

And the system works.

"We saw how desperate people were and looted relief trucks, as a result of which many went hungry while few families walked off more than they needed," Samiul of Monassa said.

"So we ensure food, medicines, tents are distributed in a fair way," he said.  

Comparatively better off relatives and various agencies donated shoes, clothes, and sheets to many villagers, who in turn carried a portion of it to the upper reaches by foot where stranded villagers are growing desperate by the minute for essentials.

Some areas of Muzaffarabad and Balakot however, saw looting, where people allegedly robbed dead bodies of jewellery, the Pakistani press said.

Bangles, nose rings and bracelets were literally torn off from the dead by groups of people in an area where law and order has taken a back seat as compared to distribution of urgent relief material.

However amidst reports of robberies, government officials were quoted as saying that they were trying to bring some semblance of order into the chaos.

Fearing an influx of survivors into the capital city, officials are gearing up to set up tents to house squatters.

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