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Sonia tours quake-hit areas in J&K

By Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
December 09, 2005 18:25 IST
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Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday visited the quake-hit border town of Uri in Baramulla district of north Kashmir.

Sonia flew to Uri directly after visiting the border town of Poonch in Jammu region and later drove to Sultan Daki village near Uri under tight security accompanied by state Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress General Secretary Ambika Soni and top civil and police officers.

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Even as authorities had made elaborate security arrangements in the Sultan Daki village, which the Congress president visited, she walked beyond the security cordon to interact with the victims of October 8 quake who turned out in large numbers to greet her.

Sonia made on the spot enquiries about relief and rehabilitation undertaken by the state government. Some residents in the village, which was completely devastated in the quake, told her they were not satisfied with the official relief effort.

"We are ten brothers and sisters. We had two houses in this village, both of which were destroyed in the quake. They gave us just a few thousand Rupees to build new homes. We need much more than that. If they cannot give us the required relief, they must shift us out of our village," Mohammad Kabir, 30, told Sonia in Sultan Daki village.

Akbar Jan, 45, and her 26-year-old daughter-in-law said, "Both of us were widowed by the quake. We have no home or anywhere to go. There is no breadwinner left in the family. What the authorities are providing us is highly inadequate even for bare survival. How do we build our homes?"

Sonia gave the villagers a patient hearing and assured them that everything possible would be done to mitigate their suffering. She heard similar stories of inadequate relief and rehabilitation in the nearby Kamalkote village, which she visited later.

This is her second visit to the quake-hit areas. She was the first national leader to visit the quake-ravaged areas in Kashmir on October 8. To express solidarity with the quake victims, Sonia decided not to celebrate her 60th birthday on Friday and visited the victims instead.

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Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar