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Monday, 29 January, 2001, 15:19 GMT
Press blames corruption for quake losses
the Gujarati city of Ahmedabad after the earthquake
The earthquake devastated the city of Ahmedabad
The press in India has blamed corruption within the construction industry for the high mortality rate in Friday's devastating earthquake.

The Times of India says the disaster brought into contrast the builders who implemented the relevant regulations with those who cut corners on quality control.

It proposes the compilation of a comprehensive list of contractors and punishment for those guilty of malpractice.

"As often happens in India, corruption underlies our avoidable disasters... While earthquakes cannot be avoided, the corrupt practices of builders can be."

Recommendations ignored

Gujarat in particular should have shown a greater urgency in implementing the experts' recommendations

The Hindu

For its part, the Indian government says it did propose changes to the building regulations in 1998 which were ignored by the state authorities in Gujarat, the Hindu writes.

The Urban Affairs Ministry says not a single state has chosen to implement the recommendations which also included the launching of a massive training programme for officials in charge of building plans.

"The officials said the Gujarat government in particular should have shown a greater urgency in implementing the experts' recommendations as the state... came under the seismic zone which had the greatest risk of earthquakes".


It is high time the authorities addressed the all-important question of earthquake education

The Hindustan Times

The Hindustan Times also points out that the authorities should have made people living in Gujarat aware of the risk of a possible earthquake and taught them how to react to it.

It suggests that local people should be taught to observe natural phenomena such as sudden changes in water levels in wells and behavioural changes in animals and birds which precede quakes.

"It is high time the authorities addressed the all-important question of earthquake education. It is one thing to talk about 'disaster management' and quite another to actually practise it."

The paper adds that India itself should learn a lesson from other quake-prone countries, such as Greece.

"Indian agencies should vastly increase their criteria for quake-resistant designs and make it mandatory for builders to comply with them."

Army help - again

The repeated inability to cope... is now becoming as 'natural' as the calamaties themselves

Calcutta Telegraph

The Times of India praises relief efforts by the defence forces, saying that the army is well-trained, well-equipped and free from what it calls "political interference".

The Telegraph in Calcutta, on the other hand, says that every state government is taking the army for granted and using it as an excuse for not drawing up their own crisis management strategies.

"A comprehensive national disaster management plan... needs to be drawn up immediately", it warns.

"The repeated inability to cope with calamities of this dimension shown by Indian states and the Centre... is now becoming as 'natural' as the calamities themselves."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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