India accounts for 20% of the total deaths due to landslides. It tops the global list with more than 11,000 out of the total 56,000 landslide deaths globally in the last 12 years. Villages on hills face landslides during monsoon season every year at Uttarakhand, and many are ruined. Millions are displaced and thousands lose their homes to this disaster.
Hindustan Media Ventures identified a need to highlight the plight of landslide-affected communities, gaining more attention from powers that be and creating a movement in the system towards getting better and quicker support for the victims.
While all traditional media highlighted the disaster and the lives lost, no one focused on the plight of the displaced and the survivors. The plight of people living in disaster relief camps due to landslides was pitiable. Many victims had no access to any medical support, good rations, or even proper tents. The victims were forced to live in self-made cloth tents under very poor hygiene conditions. Added to this was the uncertainty of returning back to their homes due to the endless wait for compensation.
Hindustan embarked on a high-profile campaign to highlight the plight of the victims languishing in relief camps in sub-human conditions to help them get improved and hygienic living conditions in relief camps, and also to hasten the process of compensation and alternate living space from the government. Ultimately, the goal was for victims to return to their homes from the camps as soon as possible.
Our first story and photograph of the situation created quite a flutter in the government circles, making the system take notice of the alarming situation. For the first time in 70 years — because of the impact of our campaign — the district administration officials visited the disaster-affected areas, walking as much as 14 kilometers deep into rural areas where even motorable roads were not available.
Due to our successive follow-up stories and constant vigil on the situation, the government moved fast and awarded the eligible families compensation within three days for amounts ranging between 80,000 rupees (US$1131) to 1.3 lac (1 lac = 100,000) per family. Compensation totaling more than 50 crores (rupees 500 million) was distributed to more than 1,000 families who greatly benefitted by getting their compensation speedily and promptly.
The impact of the campaign created pressure on the state government and forced them to identify alternate land for allocation to affected families and victims, such that they were able to return back from the relief camps within 30 days instead of waiting as long as eight years.
The campaign created a storm in the right quarters and the government took notice of the news highlighted by Hindustan leading to the state evaluating relief initiatives across the entire state and making the issue a priority.
The campaign was hugely satisfying for the team at Hindustan, as it was able to bring about change for the good, benefitting many people across the state who suffer from this common recurring issue. This campaign also underlined our commitment to Tarakki ka naya nazaria (bringing new insights to progress).