June 2002 News

A life of misery for Pandits

2 June 2002
The Hindu

Jammu: Neglected by their country and the rest of the world, lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits live in a life of misery in virtually inhuman conditions in refugee camps and they are now falling victims to rising incidence of diseases leading to a higher death rate. Ever since their forces exodus from the Valley, Kashmiri Pandits have been subjected to psychological and metabolic stress, leading to rise in diseases and deaths as well as low birth rates in camps in Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur. In camps the death has increased due to rising incidence of various diseases. Diabetes and hypertension have almost assumed epidemic proportion, according to a noted doctor and 'Panun Kashmir' leader, K L Chowdhury. Of the over 3 lakh Pandits who were uprooted from the Valley between February and June in 1990, most have got relocated in tented camps and rented houses in and around the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir here. During that year, the government spent over Rs 2.11 crore in providing facilities like lodging, medicare, cash assistance and free rations for these displaced families who had to live the life of exiles in their own country. Many of them went to Delhi, Haryana, Chandigarh, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Maharastra, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Karnataka, Rajastan and Kerala in search of livehood. In 1991-92, the government of Jammu and Kashmir with Central assistance gave clearance for constructing one-room tenements (ORTS) for the migrants and these were initially set up in Muthi and Purkhoo and subsequently at Mishriwala and Nagrota, on the outskirts of Jammu city. Dr Chowdhury, who has conducted several surveys in the camps, said there has been a higher incidence of ailments involving heart, kidney, ulcers, severe psychiatric and mental disorders among the camp dwellers during the past decade. These are usually associated with diabetes and hypertension. Most of the women in the camps suffer from anemia and malnutrition due to poor living conditions, he said, adding that he recorder 5,000 cases of typhoid in 1991, 15,000 cases of dengue fever in 1993 and 3,000 cases of hepatitis in 1997. These dome-type dwellings, which were allotted to the migrants, have since developed cracks and almost all of them were leaking causing problems to the migrants, especially during monsoons. However several dwelling were repaired by the authorities but after many complaints by the migrants and representations by migrant organisations. Today, there are 4,742 ORTS with 17,621 people living in 11 camps at Jammu, Udhampur and Kathua while 981 others are living in non-camp accommodations at seven places in Jammu, according to official figures. However, the President of All Kashmiri Pandit Conference, Amar Nath Vaishnavi says that out of 35,000 displaced Kashmiri Pandit families only 4,500 families have been provided with "one room unhygienic and sub-human treatments" in camps on the outskirts of Jammu city. Others are facing hardships, he said. Quoting a booklet released by Panun Kashmir, another Pandit leader Dr Agnisekhar said more than 5,000 pandits died in first four years in camps and elsewhere in Jammu. Of these, more that 1,000 people died of heart strokes as they, coming from a cold climate, could not acclimitise to extremely hot temperatures in Jammu and rest of the country. Agnisekhar said, adding there have also been hundreds of cases of deaths due to snake bites, scorpion bites and other incidents.


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