EDITORIAL | A question mark over Kodagu relief

Food grains, clothes, blankets and other necessities meant for those displaced by the recent landslides and floods in Kodagu are lying unused in warehouses in the district. In one such makeshift warehouse at the Government Pre-university College in Madikeri, some 43 tons of rice, 1,030 bedspreads, 250 blankets, umbrellas, utensils, and over 60,000 soap bars are among a mountain of relief items lying unused. Officials say the material won’t go waste and will be distributed to those who are still in relief centres. They have said that food items have not gone rotten and are edible still. They have also set up CCTV cameras to ensure that items are not pilfered. The assurance from district authorities that these relief items will not be allowed to go waste is heartening, but the stuff lying unused at this one facility raises the question whether there is more unused relief material at other warehouses in other parts of the district as well? If there is, we should hope that it will all be put to good use and won’t end up feeding rats.

Also read: Rebuilding Kodagu: 'Don’t know what the plan is'

It is important that the Karnataka government ensures that all relief items bought with public funds, collected from the public and provided by non-government organisations reach the intended beneficiaries. Else, perishable items that haven’t crossed their expiry date yet should be distributed to the poor. The government must ensure that all items are stored safely, so that they aren’t diverted to markets. Importantly, officials must provide an accounting of what they received and how it was distributed. Of course, some of this accounting will be difficult as the initial relief process was chaotic. Still, an audit of what remains in the warehouses is necessary and its details must be made public.

Also read: ‘Kodagu is Back’ campaign to promote tourism

Indians are often reluctant to contribute money towards disaster relief as they fear that it will find its way into the pockets of unscrupulous politicians and officials. In the wake of recent disasters, however, youth from across the country mobilised over social media and collected funds and essential goods from the public. They went themselves to disaster sites to distribute the relief items to those affected. They displayed admirable organisational skills and social commitment in an hour of crisis. The public reposed enormous trust in them while handing over funds and relief items. These youngsters are back in schools, colleges and work, and officials are handling the relief process now. Officials must ensure that corruption does not mar an otherwise admirable relief effort. Financial, material and human support in future relief efforts will weaken if corruption erodes the process now.

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EDITORIAL | A question mark over Kodagu relief

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