Sunday, January 02, 2005

Relief vans at Cudalore & Kaanathur villages (beyond Kalpakkam)

Two van loads of relief materials left for fishing villages beyond Kalpakkam. (Pictures will be posted tomorrow)

The relief material in the van included:
Provisions (Rice, Dal, Wheat)
Stoves (160 nos)
Bedsheets (250 nos)
Towels (250 nos)
Mats (150 nos)
150 Plates & Tumblers (Glasses) - Given by Gayathri Vinay of Philadelphia after going through www.sumankumar.com
Used Clothes (segregated as men & women's wear)
and assorted stuff (includes donations from people in India & abroad based on inputs from the website

There were relief camps all along the coast (read East Coast Road) and everyone seemed to have enough of clothing. PEOPLE! Please don't give more clothing unless it is meant for Cuddalore / Nagapattinam areas! There is enough clothing to sustain Chennai and surrounding areas! The relief cams were pathetic in condition. It just has plastic sheets tied to the ground and stands like a tent on two poles. It does not serve any purpose other than providing shade. The sea side by the nights are fairly cold and the victims most certainly lacked bedsheets & covered shelters.

There were a lot of relief vans along the string of relief camps, but I figured that most of them were distributing cooked food. The intent is very good, but this does not help the victims sustain. Provide a man with fish, he eats a meal. Teach him to fish, one gives him a livelihood! Please provide the victims with provisions, stoves, and bedcovers. But also think of providing them a livelihood.

I was talking to Venkatesan & Sukumaran of Periyakuppam. They had just come back to the shore with their catch on the day of the reckoning. When the first waves hit the village, people were hurt but they managed to scramble to safety. Safety was a kilometer away from the sea. (One of the images has been taken from the point till where water invaded the town. I couldn't see the sea from there! But the ground is still wet with the sea water. The debris & a tossed catamaran stands as proof!) These fishermen lost their boats & nets along with their catch which was mostly prawns / shrimps. They wouldn't have been talking to me today if they had stayed back to save their belongings. Fortunately, sense prevailed in them to ensure that the loss was restricted to property!

The third village was a complete disaster. When we reached Kaanathur village government school, I was actually feeling cheated because the school in which the 'victims' were hosted was quite dry and seemed far away from the bay. I began suspecting the nodal officer who suggested that we provide these people with the relief material. When I went inside (nearly 2.5kms inside) to the fishing hamlet by the sea (Angalammankuppam) I felt devastated. So was the village. (Check one of the images taken from the 'thinnai' or the verandah of a hut by the sea. The village was so close that the entire hamlet was surrounded by water and was washed away. There was nothing in the hut. Boats have been rammed into the huts by the sea with such brutal force that neither the boats nor the huts could survive. An 'aerial survey' from the top of the only pucca house in that hamlet shows how badly they have been affected. Babu of Angaalammankuppam mentioned that all the villagers have now been evacuated and are hosted at the government school. Little wonder that I initially felt 'cheated', but it is nature that has cheated them out of their livelihood. The bay that they depended upon has cheated them out of their lives.

The villages where the relief aid were distributed included; Periyakuppam, Aalankuppam & Angaalammankuppam. These villages were identified for us by Relief Foundation (An NGO which has now dedicated itself for this cause). We were led to these villages by Mr. Aghoram (a lawyer based in Madhurantakam) and Mr. Rajesh (from Chennai and works closely with Relief Foundation). There were more than 500 families in these three villages.

Losing life is one side of the story. Losing livelihood is another. Down South, in Cuddalore & Nagapattinam areas, people lost both. The villages we visited today didn't lose many lives, but they have most certainly lost their livelihood. (Pictures will be posted tomorrow by Suman). These villages have now been deserted because of various reasons. The villagers are scared of the sea. They don't have their homes, boats, nets & anything worth calling theirs! They are just alive. So is their spirit. No one cried anymore. They want to fight the sea. They want to get back in there. They want boats, nets and they know how to live.

Am collating details on the kind of nets and the costs. Will be providing the information by tomorrow. Will also be giving the nodal point for donating towards the livelihood of these villagers. Do your might and if not GOD or NATURE, these fishermen will surely bless you. AMEN.

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