As the Manipur unrest refuses to die down, many internally displaced people (IDP), as refugees are termed now, are languishing now in relief camps with no inkling of when they would be able to return their home and hearth. Whether it is a pucca building or a dilapidated hut, it does not matter as long as it is a home.
It is where one feels secured and peace. It is only when that peace and security is threatened one is faced with no option but to flee. Yet they still continue to nurse the hope of returning one day or after. Howsoever comfortable the accommodation and food at the relief camps be, it will never be able to compensate for the simple food and security at one’s home and hearth. They also have their own sense of pride and they do not want to live forever on dole outs by relief agencies and sympathetic people or organisations. The visits by government officials with relief materials are welcome, but they are more anxious with questions on when they would be able to return to their original home and land. They do not care about politics or who started what. Their only prayer is the return of peace and back home. It is good that the head of the state Governor Anusuiya Uikey makes it a point to visit the relief camps as often as she could.
It is not a matter of distributing relief materials but also of sharing the grief and pain besides the yearning for home and hearth. She seems to understand that. The Supreme Court has also mandated a Committee to supervise the relief work being taken up for the homeless IDPs lodged at various camps and Committee members had been making regular visits to the camps.
While aid and donations continue, it has become more urgent to evolve a systematic approach to relief and rehabilitation measures on the part of the government. The Union Home ministry had sanctioned an amount of more than rupees 101 crores for relief measures. The relief camps are opened in almost all the districts where district officials are working overtime to ensure food, drinking water and security.
Clubs and organisations get together and come up with donations of clothes and food items to help those in the camps, while groups of MLAs visit the camps and try to make amends with help and deliver a semblance of care and hope from the government. While many of the camps face shortage of drinking water and basic amenities, health and hygiene is of main concern.
A few private hospitals have come up with the idea of organising health camps, but it is just not enough considering the prevailing situation where most of the relief camps are overcrowded. Most important of all, it is the collective trauma and state of mental health among the refugees especially among the small children. More urgently, winter is approaching fast and it is becoming difficult particularly among the children to withstand the cold nights. Some private organisations and local clubs have started donating winter clothing to the relief camps.
However, given the number of refugees and camps the state government needs to come in and organise winter clothing and blankets. Pre-fabricated homes for the refugees are okay, but still the IDPs need warm clothing. State authorities need to pool in expertise from organisations like International Committee of the Red Cross and Indian Red Cross Society who has been doing such work. ICRC and many other international organisations are actively engaged in relief works in many countries the world over and they have the expertise and right perspective including neutrality.