Analysing Forms of Vulnerability in a Disaster S. PARASURAMAN AND N I R U...
Analysing Forms of Vulnerability in a Disaster
This paper attempts to highlight the plurality of vulnerability in an affected
community. It aims to suggest that the needs of each affected group differ and
should accordingly be addressed. The paper is divided into three sections. The
first section briefly reflects on the intertwining of disasters with vulnerability and
entitlement systems. The second section draws upon a case study of the earthquake
in the Osmanabad and Latur districts of Maharashtra to understand the social
processes underway in the aftermath and their impact on different vulnerable
groups' entitlement systems; and illustrate from available data, differential vul-
nerability faced by different groups. The last section generates indicators of
vulnerability in a disaster situation.
Prof. S. Parasuraman is Senior Advisor, World Commission on Dams, Cape
Town, South Africa, and Ms. Niru Acharya is Lecturer, Acharya Marathe Degree

College, Mumbai, and is concerned with issues of gender and development.
Disasters are mainly human tragedies. In a disruption, interrelated
dynamics and new complexities develop, affecting the vulnerability of
individuals, households and communities.
The impact of disasters on a community depends on the nature and
intensity of the event. At times it brings about irreversible changes in
resource and demographic patterns, thereby causing disturbances in
the lifestyles. The aftermath situates the people of the affected com-
munity in a trying environment for a considerable period. This space
and time enclaves social power and production relations. The culmi-
nation of all these affects members of the community differentially
with age, gender, caste and class.
This paper attempts to highlight the plurality of vulnerability in an
affected community. It aims to suggest that the needs of each affected
group differ and should accordingly be addressed. The paper is divided
into three sections. The first section briefly reflects on the intertwining
of disasters with vulnerability and entitlement systems. The second

582 S. Parasuraman and Niru Acharya
section draws upon a case study of the earthquake in the Osmanabad
and Latur districts of Maharashtra to understand the social processes
underway in the aftermath and their impact on different vulnerable
groups' entitlement systems and illustrate from the available data,
differentia! vulnerability faced by different groups. The last section
generates indicators of vulnerability in a disaster situation.
A number of micro-level studies and surveys on disasters focus on the
longitudinal journey that the affected people trudge, and suggest that
disasters and vulnerability have consequential sequence. In Sen's
(1981) analysis of entitlements, the exchangeable entitlements, that is
an individual's capacity to control resources in the system, directly or
indirectly, through labour, inheritance, property and trade, is the focus.
His argument relates to social processes, which spread over a long
period, and dominate in crises situations, like famines. The notion of
'vulnerability' emerges within the context of natural calamities like
floods or earthquakes, which refers to the (in) capacity of people to
manage or withstand their shock (Buchanan and Maxell, 1994;
Longhurst 1994). Following this, we allude to vulnerability here, as
the inability to cope with disruptions in the entitlement system. 1 Those
who are not able to cope with or maintain control over their entitle-
ments are more vulnerable. They will, thus, be more susceptible to
succumb to new forces originating from changing social, gender and
production relations.
Unlike famines or droughts, which are silent and have long gesta-
tion periods, earthquakes and floods are loud and sudden in their
occurrence. The former is embedded within a social structure and an
agro-climatic dynamics and is, therefore, less harsh towards a few who
enjoy security and power. Sudden emergencies do not respect the
powerful or the rich; they victimise and traumatise all. These unex-
pected and quick events cause large-scale property and livestock losses
and/or deaths. In a short span of time, they can alter the configuration
of the social equations and, hence, the vulnerability of people. The
social fabric mutates its form and direction as the disrupted community
resettles and copes with shifts in the socioeconomic factors, institu-
tions and structures. Some aspects that undergo change are the demo-
graphic composition, intra-household dynamics, interdependence
within the social system, markets, and access to aid and functions of
the government. Some gain, while others slide to a more vulnerable

Analysing Forms of Vulnerability in a Disaster 583
position than before, and still others may retain a status quo. Disrup-
tions in the entitlement system increase vulnerability across all socio-
economic groups with differing dimensions.
Vulnerability is neither static nor does it have the same form over
time (Kabeer, 1994). It would differ in its forms, as it would vary with
age, class, caste and gender. Being multidimensional, it is not always
easy to rank people on vulnerability scales. It can be assessed only with
a varying degree of plurality. For example, the vulnerability due to a
physical handicap, caused by sudden disaster, for an old man will differ
from that of a mentally traumatised young women or from that of an
old farmer who loses young male offspring.
In a disaster situation, vulnerability can assume at least three
forms, though they are not mutually exclusive. People could be
vulnerable on account of their economic status. Second, social
vulnerability assumes a form of discrimination, which is heightened
or reduced as a result of newer emerging entitlement systems. Last,
personal vulnerability is a disturbed mental state, a feeling of being
uprooted and the threat of exploitation due to disruptions of an
individual's entitlement system.
It is to be noted that the loss of or disabilities among adult pivotal
member(s), increase the vulnerability of the household(s) in which
death(s) occurred. In such situations, all members of such particular
households could be vulnerable and their vulnerability, interrelated. In
some situations, household vulnerability may not be significantly
affected, though such cases may not be very many. Typical ones could
be as follows: vulnerability due to physical disability of one individual,
or being a young widow within a large family.2
Unfortunately, the present data do not provide the scope to
illustrate the varied and contrasting forms of household vulnerabil-
ity since they were collected for a different purpose. Notes pre-
sented in the following section, nevertheless, suggest that the
impact of social processes is more stark on households that are
severely affected by the calamity. Differentiation is made between
vulnerability and grief. Vulnerability occurs when the entitlement
system of an individual is disturbed by one or more factors. In
contrast, an aggrieved individual may not lose on any of the three
criteria mentioned above.
In the following section, notes from field studies complement the
different forms of vulnerability.

584 S. Parasuraman and Niru Acharya

This section draws exclusively from the earthquake that struck the
Osmanabad-Latur region in September 1993. High proportions of
victims of the earthquake belonged to landed households and higher
castes. Women and children accounted for very high proportion of the
dead.3 Death rate in low castes and resource poor households was
lower compared to the rate among the landed and resource rich
households (Parasuraman, 1995).
Death and Redefinition of Social Arrangements
Social and economic value attached to men and women, male and
female children organised as groups in families and communities are
expressed prominently in disaster situations. Death of individuals who
provided social, psychological and/or economic security to other
members in the family increased the vulnerability of the survivors. The
status of women in society found clear reflection in crisis conditions.
In the aftermath of the Marathwada earthquake, women were subjected
to utmost humiliation even while they were trying to come to terms
with the reality of loss of their spouses and children.
Women from households that lost all adult males were left to depend
on others, mostly relatives from their natal side, for support. Women
from such households also suffered destruction and lost control of the
property. Individuals, who had suffered the death of their spouses,
were often left with young children and/or elders. They are giving more
time for the management of day-to-day activities because of the
breakdown in support system. Besides, their dependence on others has
also increased. These aspects have facilitated in rearranging the power-
relationships between different members of the society.4 Households
that did nor suffer human loss, but lost properties were better able to
deal with economic and social aspects. Members of the high caste and
rich households, that did not suffer death regrouped their efforts swiftly
to derive benefit from relief and rehabilitation programmes.
During the initial period when relief was being carried out, those
who suffered less managed to get a greater access to information and,
thereby, relief. They had more time at their disposal since they did not
have to spend energy in rationalising the trauma related to the loss of
their loved ones. Narrations from the area confirm all of this. In
contrast, those struggling with their grief depended on the kindness of

Analysing Forms of Vulnerability in a Disaster 585
others. The dynamics of control over information and physical re-
sources — and thereby entitlements — and the rapport with the aid
and rehabilitation agencies placed the less affected in a better position
than others, irrespective of the initial entitlement pattern. However, it
must be noted that easy access to aid and relief by those in stronger
social and economic position enabled them to attenuate their ability to
cope with the shock. Among all groups, women suffered serious
damage to their economic and social positions. Among women, those
who lost their spouses and children are still enduring serious social and
economic hardships.
Women who lost their children and/or spouses were pushed to
social positions that lowered their negotiating power (that is, from
wives, mothers of sons, wife of the eldest/respected member of the
family, they were reduced to widows or childless women). These
women, under severe psychological stress, did not look after them-
selves nor were cared for by others.5 Women belonging to certain caste
and class groups in the earthquake-affected area, who had earlier not
worked for a wage, have now been forced to do so. Evidently this is
due to their newly acquired lower social position.6
Women (especially those who are now the main earners) have not
only accepted low wages for lack of choice, but also pervasive em-
ployment contracts that have exacerbated their vulnerability. In some
cases women were forced to enter into relationships to bargain for
There were a number of remarriages of young and old widowers
and men the disabled spouses, for support and to share family respon-
sibilities and to continue family lineage (in cases where all sons were
lost). Within these social relationships, both the new young brides and
first wives, were the unwilling martyrs in the power dynamics of
Since widow remarriages are, as yet, unacceptable in the region, the
number of female-headed households has, thus, increased. Widows,
deserted by their in-laws, is not been uncommon. In addition, a large
number of women who had lost all their children, especially sons, and
were not capable of bearing any more (for they had either reached
menopause or had undergone a sterilisation operation prior to the
earthquake) were abandoned by their in-laws and/or husbands (TISS
1994). The older, disabled widows were left at the mercy of their sons
or in-laws. In a patriarchal society, it is not difficult to imagine the
extent of lack of control most of them have on resources: property or

586 S. Parasuraman and Niru Acharya
compensation. Though the government declared policies aimed at
giving equal share in compensation and rehabilitation provisions to
women, it has not translated into benefits in the implementation stage
(TARU, 1995).
In some cases, older men have spent their compensation money on
remarriage. A few have spent the compensation money on recanalisa-
The disaster has also actuated varied forms of vulnerability within
an agrarian structure that has social arrangements woven with the
production relations. The sudden crisis in the landed class has affected
social arrangements. In turn, this has exposed poor farmers to positions
that may not be in correspondence to their interests. Social relation-
ships are like a grid; the complexities underlying in the shift of position
of one actor can play a crucial role in defining changing vulnerabilities.
Impact of External Intervention of Vulnerability
Reorganisation in forms of resources emerges because of the very
nature of disaster and the changes in the demographic pattern. Inter-
ventions by the external agencies, in turn, affect the social and power
In this case, the initial relief and rehabilitation enabled to restore
both production and human resources with the aim of having a more
just and equitous social arrangement. Efforts in the earthquake hit areas
have been made to give women equal property rights, more so in the
now female-headed households to prevent women from being further
marginalised. These reorganisations of resources have, however, not
been accommodated by the society, which has been built on a strong
patriarchal and kinship and family structure. Instead, new forms of
control have been introduced. Widows were forced into new intra-fa-
milial arrangements, so as to maintain control over the family property.
This sustains gender hierarchy and inequitable access to family re-
Hindu joint land ownership pattern is one of the criteria of house
allocation in the reconstruction phase. This has encouraged fragmen-
tation of land as well as families, disturbing social networks. Poor
peasants earlier had houses in agricultural plots for subsistence activi-
ties. The documents of this land were not necessarily available in
government records. This meant that they got smaller houses than their
earlier ones, thereby altering their socioeconomic status as well as
affecting food security. The landless dalits, nomadic and denotified

Analysing Forms of Vulnerability in a Disaster 587
tribal households invariably got smaller houses, irrespective of the size
of the houses they had.
The variations in living arrangements (offered or imposed), emerg-
ing in the resettlement process, involved rearrangement of social
relationships. Sharing of spaces within houses for animals, storage of
fodder and fuel, agricultural implements, and negotiating for basic
amenities like water, toilets, space for private activities with alien
(caste/religious) groups has exaggerated the feeling of being uprooted.
Prolonged stay in temporary sheds has disturbed women and children.
The rich from the affected villages normally resided in nearby district
and taluka towns and in Mumbai city. Such households neither expe-
rienced death of its members nor had to stay in 'temporary sheds'. A
few landed farmers shifted to their farms and made temporary housing
arrangements. It were the landless, marginal and small farmers with
least financial capacity to make independent housing arrangement,
who continued to reside in temporary sheds. Women and children from
such households suffered the most as they used the space in and around
the temporary sheds for most of the time. Men went out to work and
often slept in common places due to shortage of space in the temporary
The reconstruction work in affected villages brought a large number
of labourers and professional staff from other places. While some of
the local labour either migrated to other, safer places or were unable
to work due to a state of shock,9 large landowners hired labour from
the neighbouring villages. The presence of large number of outsiders,
and a feeling of temporariness and uncertainty resulting from pro-
longed stay in tin sheds induced serious sociological consequences.
The affected villages now have many arrack (liquor) shops and local
women find the new environment highly unsettling.
It has been observed that the distributed agricultural implements
and livestock (hybrid seeds which require systematic nurturing, spe-
cially designed hoes which are used in specific ways, cows and
buffaloes which yield large quantities of milk and require special
fodder and care; milching too would specify certain training inputs)
would call for different labour demands than before and also raise their
labour productivity. However, in the absence of adequate infrastructure,
there is likely to be a change in the labour allocation owing to extra
responsibilities and burden, and the brunt of the physical labour is
likely to be on the women owing to their low human endowments and

588 S. Parasuraman and Niru Acharya
Corruption and considerable leakage of finances and selective
information provision have governed the rehabilitation process, which
benefited a few. In addition, there has been delay in the legal proce-
dures, allotment of houses, and non-availability of basic amenities
even after a year's wait. Consequently, entitlement patterns have not
been restored to the earlier level and the feeling of uncertainty contin-
ues to be prevalent (Parasuraman, 1995). This has also lowered the
self-esteem of the people and affected their capacity to support and
empathise with one another. The rush to acquire what was being
offered, situated the community at a stage where aid dictated social
behaviour. Material base in the name of compensation has deformed
strong family and social support network. Alcoholism, gambling and
domestic violence has been on the rise. On the other hand, a few who
were the least affected by the calamity gained, while aid was being
indiscriminately distributed.

An examination of various forms of vulnerability and their interface
with social processes was done in the earlier section. Four factors are
identified as important in defining an individual's vulnerability. It is
essential to differentiate them by the nature and intensity of vulner-
ability. Grouping individuals by nature and extent of vulnerability and
developing strategies to deal with the problems faced by the groups
emerge as a critical step in the rehabilitation and development pro-
gramme. Thus, in this section, an attempt has been made to analyse
available data, and categorise an individual's nature of vulnerability.
Disabilities can range from simple to the most complex. The illus-
tration focuses on groups of individuals with different forms of vul-
nerability within the affected community. The intensity of each
individual's and group's vulnerability is not assessed, though the
exacerbated conditions of certain groups with specific forms of vul-
nerability are illustrated through case studies in the appendix. Since
the data on ownership and access to property could not be used, the
other three aspects alone are analysed.
The forms of vulnerability for this exercise are: physical, social and
personal. The first refers to the disability of an individual due to injury,
and could include problems ranging from blindness to orthopaedic
disorders. Social vulnerability refers to the attitude and norms of the
people in determining social positioning of an affected individual.

Analysing Forms of Vulnerability in a Disaster 589
Persons in this group would include widows and elderly women who
have lost their sons. Last, there is vulnerability to the self, referred to
as 'personal'. These would typically include threats to one's personal
self, like exploitation, threat to endowments (such as health, labour
power,11 education and personal security.12 The lack of access to
physical resources is not included in this exercise, but the model would
provide an additional weightage to this form of vulnerability.
As stated earlier, gender and social relations determine the catego-
risation of groups. For example, widowhood for a woman is a single
form of vulnerability but it may be compounded by disability, and/or
by loss of all male children. In a gender contrast, disability affects a
young man's labour entitlement but his social position may not be
The definition of variables is as follows:
Individuals are more vulnerable and, thus, more susceptible to suffer
deprivation in specific phases of their life cycle. Life cycle here is
divided into five age categories: less than 18 years, 18-35 years, 36-45
years, 46-55 years and 55 years and above. The rationale for this
division is based on reproductive and productive periods, as they
assume importance in peasant settings. In addition, entitlement pat-
terns differ for men and women in different age groups. Typically,
women's social status directly relates to bearing of male children. Men
and women in the age group of 36-45 years are both caretakers of
young children and old parents, in addition to their productive role.
Men assume the role of 'patriarchs'. Unlike men, the reproductive
phase for women is complete by this age. Both men and women are at
the tail-end of their productive phase, with property inherited by men.
In the 55 years and above phase, there is dependence on grown up sons.
Children below 18 years are placed in a different category because of
their differing dependency, needs and entitlement patterns.
Social Positioning
Gender and marital status override the social position. The economic
and occupational criteria are not considered here due to data limita-
tions. Class and caste factors too have not found place in this exercise
since the focus here is principally the individual, with the assumption
that class and caste, predetermined in a rural Indian setting, influences
the position and status of the individual.

590 S. Parasuraman and Niru Acharya
The death in the household pushed in individuals to one of the
following status:
• remain married;
• widow/widower;
• orphan; and
• loss of sons.
Each category shapes the vulnerability of the individual. Losses of
sons or spouses shape the vulnerability of individuals belonging to
different age and sex groups differently. The extant social attitudes
could augment the vulnerability of certain individuals like widows,
orphans, middle/very aged women who have lost sons, due to disrup-
tions in their entitlement system. Women who are not capable of
bearing sons again experience lowered social position as well as the
fear of being deserted. The loss of all sons would situate an old married
female in as vulnerable a position as an old widower, the latter because
of a threat to his entitlement system and the former because of her
lowered social position and threat to her endowment (male children
are endowments of women). All males in the age group of 36-44 years
and 55+ years with disability would be vulnerable because of their
handicap in the productive age group as well the stress of not being
able to carry out their normative roles.
Disability is regarded as a factor in disrupting an individual's entitle-
ment pattern (as a further elaboration, various types of permanent
disability are considered to show the extended categories or groups
with a similar form of vulnerability).
Physical permanent disability is classified as
• no disability of senses;
• motor disability;
• serious disability; and
• paralysis.
This level of disaggregation is, however, pursued in a limited
exercise later in the text.
Groups with varied forms of vulnerability are derived from a
combination of categories, stated factors that influence the entitlement
system of the individual. Having arrived at these groupings, that is, age
with social positioning and disability, the combinations were re-
grouped into six categories based on an a priori criterion of severity.

Analysing Forms of Vulnerability in a Disaster 591
The number of groups resulting from different forms of vulner-
ability (combinations of the three variables) is 66, details of which
are not given in this paper. These categories are then regrouped into
six broad groups to arrive at meaningful policy options. Effort is
made to group them into 'congregations' that may represent 'simi-
lar' degrees of severity; an orphaned and disabled female child is
most vulnerable because she may have no guardians (or may have
ones who may not provide her with the appropriate affection/care,
but may be interested in taking control of her property or compen-
sation money). It is also reasoned that a disabled female child, in a
male dominated society, is treated by the relatives as a burden.
Besides, being subject to mental trauma, she may also be physically
abused. Her helplessness, disability and incapacity to be on her own
perhaps makes her the worst affected.
In contrast, a non-disabled widow in the age group 36-45 years too
is vulnerable, but not as much because her labour entitlements are not
completely lost. In the event that her adult sons are dead, her physical
support and social position are also affected. But it is less likely that
she would be cheated of her property and even less likely that her
coping mechanisms are completely destroyed. In yet another situation
there are males who have become vulnerable, but given the fact that
their bargaining capacity with the system remains relatively unaltered,
the severity of vulnerability would be lesser compared to women in
such circumstances.
Based on this logic, six categories are formed as described
1. Those who are incapacitated to perform productive activities,
their entitlement system being disturbed with the loss of sup-
2. Persons with lowered social position, due to threat to their
entitlement system.
3. Individuals who are socially powerless to exert control over
their endowments.
4. People experiencing a threat to their entitlement system and
lack of control over their endowments.
5. Those subjected to personal vulnerability and a threat to their
entitlement system.
6. Individuals likely to be subjected to all forms of exploitation
and lack of endowments which would situate them in a highly
vulnerable position.

592 S. Parasuraman and Niru Acharya
The data used in this exercise have been drawn from the survey conducted
by the TISS for assessment of loss due to earthquake in Osmanabad and
Latur districts of Maharashtra in September 1993. In all, 34,446 house-
holds were surveyed covering 1,70,955 individuals. In the analysis, only
those households in Osmanabad district, which experienced death of at
least one individual were chosen for analysis. The total number of
households that suffered death was 1,910, which accounted for 8,395
individuals. The data related to Latur district was not analysed, as data
from Osmanabad district was analysed to illustrate the methodology.
The total number of groups, as per the vulnerability criteria dis-
cussed earlier, are 61. Their operational definition, as well as the
number of cases in each group, is presented in Table 1. The total
number of persons identified to be vulnerable are 1,350, that is 15.6
per cent of the total in whose households death has occurred. At the
first level of analysis, only death figures, determining the magnitude
of the loss, was carried out. This does not, however, reflect the grief
or the extent of vulnerability of the truly affected.
Physical disability has played a crucial role in establishing vulnerabil-
ity. About 67 per cent of those vulnerable are also disabled. This could
partially be a biased statement keeping in view the fact that disability,
whose importance cannot be undermined, is a criterion of vulnerability
here. About 44 per cent are estimated to be vulnerable owing to social
positioning, most of whom are women. Again, this latter estimate could
be biased since, in an agrarian setting, the gender intrinsically conflates
with the definitions of social positioning. Last, about eight per cent
vulnerable are so, due to the threat to their person, education and health.
All of these are overlaying categories and it has been observed that many
are affected by more than one type of vulnerability. These data only show
the magnitude of one category vis a vis the other.
The categories of vulnerability are presented in Table 2. These have
been drawn in accordance with the 'depth' of vulnerability of an
individual. A priori logic would suggest that if a person suffers from
more impairment than one (of the three mentioned above), he/she
would be graded higher on a vulnerability scale. This, however, is not
the approach followed here since it is possible that not all forms of
vulnerability have the same degree of severity. The least vulnerable be
defined as those in category ' 1 ' . The grade progressively increases
with the most vulnerable clubbed in category '6'.

Analysing Forms of Vulnerability in a Disaster 593
TABLE 1: Distribution of Individuals from Households Experienced Death by
Severity of Vulnerability.

Categories of Severity of Vulnerability
No. of Cases
Category 1
Married Males, 46 + years with no disability, lost all sons
Widowers, 46 + years with no disability, lost all sons
Married Males, less than 35 years with disability
Married Males, less than 35 years with disability, lost all sons
Widower, less than 35 years with disability.
Widower, less than 35 years with disability, lost sons
Widower, 55+ years, no disability
Category 2
Married Females, 18+ years, no disability, lost all sons
Widows, 18+with no disability
Widowers, 55+ years, no disability, lost all sons
Married males, 36+ years, with disability
Widowers, 36+ years, with disability
Category 3
Male orphans, with no disability
Widows, 55+ years, no disability and lost all sons
Married disabled female, 18+ years
Married disabled males, 36+ years and lost all sons
Widowers disabled, 36+ years and lost all sons
Category 4
Male disabled orphans
Widows, 18-55 years, no disability, and lost all sons
Widow, no disability, 18 years
Married disabled female, 18+ years, and lost all sons
Disabled widows, 18+ years
Category 5
Female orphans
Disabled widows, 18+ years and have lost sons
Category 6
Female disabled orphans

594 S. Parasuraman and Niru Acharya
TABLE 2: Distribution of Women Who Were Disabled and Lost All Sons
Note: 1. Disability of the senses 2. Motor Disability 3. Serious Disability 4. Paralysis
Category '1' has 24 percent individuals of the total 1,350 identified
persons with vulnerability. Category '2' has 33 per cent, while in
Category ' 3 ' it is 30 per cent. Category '4' has 9 per cent followed by
Category ' 5 ' and ' 6 ' , both of which have three per cent of the
individuals. There were only two individuals with acute disability. It
follows from this that the hidden severity of the vulnerability surfaces
with deeper analysis. The small numbers in different categories sup-
port the argument that more severe the vulnerability, lesser will be the
number of persons in that category, while most would fall in the less
severe categories.
The analysis reveals that sudden disasters, like earthquakes, accentuate
vulnerability of the people. Although, for an immediate period right
after the disaster, all the members of the affected community are
'vulnerable', in the sense they are physically and personally dislocated,
most recover from their state of shock in a relatively short period.
Some, however, are likely to slide further down the vulnerability
ladder, if not supported effectively.
The analysis here puts forth that peoples' needs vary with the forms
of vulnerability. A uniform policy negates the severity of impact of the
disaster on a few. A few, who are most vulnerable, get lost in the
number game and they are the ones who need long-term support.
For mitigating vulnerability of individuals, this exercise could be
extended or modified according to the nature of the calamity and the
objectives stated to identify the truly vulnerable groups. The four
aspects, which according to this exercise, need to be looked into are

Analysing Forms of Vulnerability in a Disaster 595
age, disability, control over physical resource base and social position-
ing of the individual. The illustrative experience shows that the gender
aspect needs to be aptly addressed within the policy framework since
it forms the edifice for control, access and social positioning. It also
emphasises that careful definition of vulnerability would be imperative
for a long-term effective rehabilitation.
Wo acknowledge our thanks to Dr. S. Acharya, TISS, for his comments and technical
help in the paper.
1. An entitlement system refers to a framework within, while endowment refers to
ownership of an individual's assets like health, education, security and labour
2. It has been observed that empathy and grief was not gender neutral: more the
deaths of male children/adults, more the grief and empathy. We, therefore, have
taken death of all male children as a factor of vulnerability.
3. In Osmanabad district, 1,910 (12 per cent out of all affected) households suffered
deaths. Nearly 49 per cent of the dead were children (less than 14 years) and 55
per cent of the dead were females. In Latur district, 1,555 (9 per cent out of all
affected) households experienced deaths of whom 47 per cent of the dead were
children. Females accounted for 55 percent of the dead. About 41 per cent of the
households with deaths were of the higher caste, and 20.6 per cent owned 21 acres
or more of land (TISS, 1994).
4. In Osmanabad district, 48 per cent of the widowers had very young children to
look after, while 46 per cent widowers had young children below 14 years and 42
per cent widows had dependent children.
5. Widows and childless women and the mentally disabled are rarely treated with
compassion. But the worst treatment is meted to those who are a combination of
the above.
6. A document by Gorhe (1995) notes that many middle class women, who had not
worked for a wage earlier, were encouraged to do so by the women's groups to
help them forget their woes. Other observations from the field note that women
from these classes were deserted because they had become widows or childless
and were forced into wage labour.
7. Observations from the area suggest that contractors who employed women forced
them into illicit relationships. The region has also witnessed a rise in prostitution.
8. Recanalisation is a surgical procedure to reverse the fertility behaviour of those
women, who had undergone sterilisation to arrest their fertility. A number of
women, who had lost their male children, underwent recanalisation to have a male
child. None of the health parameters were met nor were the women given any
prior information about the severity of the operation (Hegdeand Acharya, 1995).

596 S. Parasuraman and Niru Acharya
The medical profession has enabled the society to meet social dictates of patriar-
chy and, thus, situated women's bodies in public.
9. A comparison between the Bihar famine of i 966-67 and the Maharashtra drought
of 1970-73 showed that an extensive communication system and large urban
centres as fundamental factors for distress migration which helped Maharashtra
to limit excess death. However, such temporary migrations have long-term
implications in terms of conflicts over land, property and compensation, and they
charge production relations within the region. The in-migration also suggests a
threat to the livelihood of the small producers of the region, as the migrants would
occupy this economic space (Dyson and Maharatna, 1992).
10. The data related to land and other moveable and immoveable property owned was
collected. However, the quality of the data was not good as the persons knowl-
edgeable about the property were not always available to answer the interview
schedule in the days immediately following the earthquake.
11. The reference is to the health of those women who are in the reproductive phase,
but have lost sons. They have to undergo a set of subsequent pregnancies once
again and those women who had, in the past, adopted family planning measures
to arrest their reproductive phase may revert to their reproductive capacity with
the help of technology and again undergo a set of subsequent pregnancies. Labour
power would be threatened by disability.
12. This includes the security of the aged who have lost sons, those who are likely to
be rejected by their in-laws and may not be accepted in their natal family.
Buchanan, M. and
Linking Relief and Development: An Introduction and
Maxell, S.
Overview, IDS Bulletin, 25(4), 2-16.
Gorhe, N.
Quake Hit Women: A Lonely Path to Development A
Report on the Activities of the Stree Adhar Kendra, in the
Earthquake Hit Areas of Marathwada, Pune: Maharashtra
Sahakari Mudranalaya.
Kabeer, N.
Reversed Realities, New Delhi: Kali for Women.
Longhurst, R.
Conceptual Frameworks for Linking Relief and Develop-
ment, IDSBulletin, 24(2), 17-32.
Parasuraman, S.
Impact of Earthquake on Lives, Livelihood and Property
in Maharashtra, India, Mumbai: Tata Institute of Social
Sen, A.
Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Dep-
rivation, Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Marathwada Earthquake: Rehabilitation and Recon-
struction Work two Years After, New Delhi.
Tata Institute of
Status Report on Rehabilitation of Women and Children
Social Science
in Latur and Osmanabad Districts, Mumbai.

Analysing Forms of Vulnerability in a Disaster 597
APPENDIX : Cases of Extreme Vulnerability
1. Savita Birajdar, 22 years old, a physically handicapped widow and a mother of a
three-year old daughter has been deserted by her in-laws. She is presently staying
with her parents who are economically well-off and are willing to support her.
They have tried to persuade her in-laws to take her back, but have failed. Savita
has not accepted her fate; she wants to independently support her daughter, but
lacks skills and now being physically handicapped, though she can move around
with difficulty, she is able to do most of the work. She wants to do something, so
that she is not dependent on her natal family. She is not sure of the behaviour of
her brothers once her parents are no longer alive or the brothers get married.
2. Sarubai Kokane is 38 years old. She lost three sons in the disaster and her seven
year daughter is partially handicapped. She had a tubectomy operation after her
daughter's birth. Her husband Kishore is 44 years old, and forced her to undergo
recanalisation. One year after the operation, Kishore and his parents are convinced
that she cannot conceive again. They also are perturbed that even after having
spent a large sum of the compensation money on the operation, Sarubai has not
been able to give them a male child. The medical reports revealed that her fimbrin
was mutilated and one of her fallopian tubes was missing. However, this had not
been conveyed to the family or to Sarubai.
Kishore is now planning to marry again to have a son to continue the family
lineage. His parents, as well as Sarubai's, have given their consent in this regard.
Sarubai is aware that her consent carries no weight. Above all, she resentful of
the fact that through no fault of hers she is being blamed, even though she has
gone through the pain of operation.
3. Members of certain types of households carried greater risk of facing destitution
and social marginalisation. A few such households are listed below:
• A man aged 65 years and his grand daughter aged three years are the only
survivors of a household. The girl's parents and her siblings did not survive
the earthquake.
• A poor peasant household with all the adult members are seriously disabled.
• The only survivors of a family in Rajegaon village are an aged woman and her
disabled grandson. The boy's parents and all his siblings have perished in the
There are a few households of the types mentioned above in each affected village.
The aged persons left alone to bring up the young children face different forms of
vulnerability compared to households with one or more physically disabled persons.