Trying To Move Forward

Quake-ravaged regions of India Monday began the move to return to whatever semblances of normalcy could be found.

India's largest port, Kandla, was to open all ten of its berths for the first time since the January 26th quake which killed as many as 30,000 people.

Elsewhere, many students resumed classes for the first time, although in tents, instead of their schools, which are buried beneath rubble from the 7.7 magnitude quake.

In several parts of the state officials were evaluating whether to rebuild towns and villages reduced to rubble by the 7.7 magnitude quake on Jan. 26 that might have killed as many as 30,000 people.

CBS Radio News Correspondent Ranjan Gupta reports in at least one tent city, authorities have run into problems because upper-class quake victims are unwilling to camp beside victims who are part of India's lowest caste, the Untouchables.

Administrators of the worst-hit towns of Bhuj, Bhachau and Anjar have stopped short of the monumental task of removing the debris, instead awaiting word from the state government on whether the towns will be abandoned.

The trauma of the disaster is profound and some are heeding the calls of holy men who say the quake is the result of divine wrath.

In Ahmedabad, in the hard-hit Western India state of Gujarat, dozens of people took their television sets out into the streets and set them on fire, hoping this would help prevent future earthquakes.

According to the Gujarat Web site Ahmedabad.com, the TV sets were destroyed on the advice of holy men who say the TVs have attracted divine anger by spreading obscenity and immorality.

Tent classes were held throughout Gujarat Monday, where some 1,000 schools were crushed by the quake.

"Everyone here is eager to work hard to make up the lost time. Despite the odds we must go on because there are important annual exams upcoming in April," said Sharda Khatri, a biology teacher at Kutch Leva Patel Bidhya Mandir secondary school.

"We have started classes even though some students are still in villages helping families to cope with the disaster," said Khatri.

"We will have to adjust to the new situation. After all, everyone has been affected by the quake," Vekariya Manisha, a 12th-grade student, said in front of a blackboard set up in the tent.

"Why wait until the schools are rebuilt? We have decided to open as many classes as possible in tents," said L. Mansingh, the state government's chief relief coordinator.

Many of the students are sharing salvaged textbooks.

At least 18,000 people died in the quake and 600,000 were left homeless. Unofficial estimates put the death toll at around 30,000. At least 15 million children under age 14 have been affected by the quake, 2.5 million of them severely, according to UNICEF.

Sonia Gandhi, head of the main opposition Congress party, toured battered Bhuj Monday and met wit some of those left homeless by the quake.

"We are homeless, we are not getting any attention from the government," resident Adam Sulaiman told Gandhi.

Critics earlier accused the government of not moving fast enough to help survivors of the quake, but relief officials say they now have enough food and clothing for the homeless. There is still a shortage of tents in some areas.

In Anjar, too, the quake was so ferocious that the town might not get a chance to rebuild. The government is debating whether to resettle its residents on the demolished site or build a new town with sturdier homes.

"Our first stage involved medical relief and rescuing the living from the rubble of demolished homes," Sanjay Gupta, an Anjar administrator, said Monday. "We will now take up temporary settlement and a good plan for permanent settlement of the quake victims."

Anjar is one of several towns and hundreds of villages in that predicament.

Most of Anjar's homes and shops, shoddily built with stone and sandy concrete, swiftly collapsed when the quake struck.

But there was also a little good news - for some.

On Monday, 22-year-old Himmat Pawar grinned after recovering his savings from a battered wooden shelf in the ruins of his home in Anjar, where 80,000 people had lived, half of them within the town walls.

"I have only rupees 3,000 (the equivalent of $64). I have no bank account," said Pawar, whose electrical goods shop in the town's Khatri Bazaar was also destroyed. His family escaped uninjured.

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