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Monday, 21 January, 2002, 19:26 GMT
Gujarat earthquake: The scars remain
Children playing among the rubble in Bhuj
Children play cricket amid the rubble
Sanjoy Majumder Nita Bhalla

A year after the devastating earthquake that struck Gujarat, signs of the tragedy can be seen everywhere.

In the town of Bhuj, close to the epicentre of the earthquake, people are getting on with the process of rebuilding their lives.

But the scars can be seen right across this ancient town.

This place used to be so beautiful - now it's the abode of the dead

Bhuj resident Anand Makwana

The town's old quarter, once part of a majestic walled settlement, seems stuck in time. At every corner, piles of rubble can be seen at the base of damaged houses.

Cracked, broken walls, ruined homes with gaping holes for windows and doors mark the boundaries of the narrow winding streets.

Picking their way through crushed brick and stone, children play cricket in a make-shift playground.

Abode of the dead

"We've got used to it," says Anand Makwana, a long-time resident of the old town.

"This place used to be so beautiful - and so alive. Now it's the abode of the dead."
Bhuj's old palace
The remains of Bhuj's old palace are closed to visitors

In the centre of the quarter lies Bhuj's old palace - or what remains of it.

The once proud battlements have been laid to dust - the palace itself is locked to visitors.

But Bhuj is also a bustling market town, an important pit-stop in the highway that winds its way through the Kachch region in India's extreme west.

It was the worst-hit part of the state, with tens of thousands left dead and many more homeless.


Aid workers say a lot of relief has reached those affected by the earthquake.

Many villages have been reconstructed and local agencies say they are putting in place long term measures aimed at securing the economic recovery of the entire region.

But thousands of people have still to receive any assistance. Many of them are living in temporary houses, a year after the disaster.

With the kind of bureaucracy we have, it will be a miracle if we see any rebuilding

Bhuj taxi driver Basheer
Aid workers say this is partly because rehabilitation efforts in the towns and cities are lagging behind efforts in the countryside, where most of the aid agencies and non-government organisations have focused their resources.

"It is easier to work in the villages where there is plenty of land and less litigation over ownership," said one aid worker, who wished to remain unidentified.

Basheer, a Bhuj taxi driver, agreed: "Things here are still in the 'town planning' stage. With the kind of bureaucracy we have, it will be a miracle if we see any rebuilding," he said.

Government figures illustrate this quite plainly.

While more than 35,000 out of some 145,000 destroyed village homes have been rebuilt in the region, only a few more than 300 out of nearly 34,000 urban houses have been reconstructed.


With the anniversary of the earthquake less than a week away, politicians, bureaucrats and journalists have begun descending on the region.
A ruined house in the old city in Bhuj
Stuck in time: The town's old quarter

The chief minister of Gujarat state is due in Bhuj on 26 January, India's Republic Day.

There is even talk of the prime minister arriving later this week to take stock.

Bhuj residents, however, are less than pleased.

"We'll go through the whole road-show again," said Beena, as she argued with a vegetable seller in the busy market-place.

"They come here to show us their face once every year. And go back with little to show for their efforts," she added.

Bhuj has sprung back to life and its residents have picked up from where they left off before the earthquake. But the scars are yet to heal.

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