BHUJ, India (AlertNet) - When the ground shook in India's industrial heartland of Gujarat on a sunny morning a decade ago, crushing homes and killing thousands of people, authorities mounted a largely impressive effort to rebuild.
Exactly 10 years on, as Gujarat developed into a model of industrial progress in India, thousands of victims of that quake continue to reel from the disaster, in flimsy plywood and tin hovels without compensation and little food and water.
The 7.9 quake struck on what was an annual holiday to celebrate India's 51st Republic Day on Jan. 26, 2001. Around 9 a.m., as children hurdled in schools to raise the national flag, the ground in Gujarat shifted, killing around 14,000 people, injuring over 150,000 and leaving millions of people homeless.
It almost flattened four major towns including Bhuj and Anjar in Gujarat's Kutch region bordering Pakistan.
Across Kutch, pockets of temporary shelters where life is an unbelievable list of woes is a blunt testimony to the unfinished recovery task, despite a much-vaunted rehabilitation effort by the authorities, who pegged the quake a 6.9 magnitude, lower than a U.S. Geological Survey reading of magnitude 7.9.
Like all other victims, government claims of rebuilding ring hollow for 80-year-old Pushpa Jaysih.
"I have to go around with an empty bucket and beg for water," Jaysih, who lost her daughter and her home in Anjar, told Reuters at her tin-roofed hovel that had an original shelf-life of two years but has come to be her permanent home now.
"No one comes here to see how we are living … only during the election time when they promise to help, but never do," said Jaysih, who embroiders clothes to make ends meet.
Aid workers say there are thousands of earthquake survivors -- most of who were living below the poverty line in urban area -- who have been left out of the Gujarat's much-touted rehabilitation and reconstruction plans.
"Overall the Gujarat earthquake had a tendency to target the middle sections of society, especially those living in older houses," said a report by the UK-based Disaster Emergencies Committee after the earthquake.
"There were effects on everyone, but the poor were always more vulnerable when it came to getting assistance, whereas the middle sections had remarkably good access to the means of recovery."
The Gujarat government and aid agencies were praised for their response and authorities put in place a widely-lauded rehabilitation plan.
But there are still many pockets across drought-prone Kutch -- both urban and rural -- where survivors remain dejected with no form of rehabilitation, having slipped on government apathy.
Few have access to clean water. Most defecate in the open. And many struggle to provide two meals a day for their families.
"Many are tribal, others are low-caste communities, some are Muslims - but they all have one thing in common … poverty," said says Bharat Parmer, program coordinator for ActionAid International in Kutch.
"A large number of these people were tenants and did not own land and so it has been much harder for them to claim their rights as rehabilitation was very much focused on home and land owners."
But local authorities say their rehabilitation schemes have been comprehensive and have, by and large, covered all those who were hit by the quake.
"I don't think that there are people who did not get what they were due -- there may be a rare case here and there but we have rehabilitated all that were in need," said Gunvant Vaghela, additional collector and the second-most senior civil servant in Kutch district.