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Last Updated: Monday, 17 January, 2005, 15:44 GMT
India islands 'relief is denied'
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

Relief supplies unloaded on Andaman and Nicobar Islands
It is argued that local people have more idea of the needs of islanders
Tribal organisations in India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands have severely criticised the local administration.

They have accused it of refusing to carry relief material from local voluntary groups to remote islands which were devastated by the tsunami.

The island administration has stopped voluntary groups from relief work in the worst-affected Nicobar region.

Last week, Red Cross officials accused the authorities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of "hijacking" aid.

'Little role'

Indian officials reported 30 more tsunami deaths on Monday, increasing the death toll in last month's catastrophe to 10,744.

The figures show that 1,894 islanders are dead in the archipelago, with more than 5,500 missing.

The administration in Andaman and Nicobar says it has supplied enough relief to all communities hit by the tsunami - so there was little role for voluntary groups.

A government spokesman said some local groups were taking huge quantities of relief material from foreign non-governmental organisations and asking the administration to transport them to the islands.

The spokesman said the government would give priority to shipping its own supplies around the islands.

Local correspondents say the Andaman-Nicobar administration is determined to prevent foreign voluntary groups from joining the relief effort, even if it is by proxy.

They say the local administration is trying to stop local voluntary groups from receiving foreign support.

Earlier, the administration said that while overseas groups would not be allowed to join the relief effort, any material they could provide was welcome.

Red Cross officials last week alleged that supplies shipped to the islands' capital, Port Blair, were being seized at the docks, apparently for distribution by the government.

The Tribal Council in the Nancowrie group of islands, the area in Nicobar worst hit by the tsunami, has accused the local administration of being insensitive to local relief requirements.

It said in a statement on Monday that the administration had now stopped local voluntary groups from conducting relief work in the Nicobar area.

The council's chairperson Ayesha Majid said that was most unfortunate, arguing that local groups are aware of the typical needs of the Nicobarese people, which is not the case with the federal officials working on the islands.


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