Monday, July 17, 2006

Quake triggers tsunami on Indonesia's Java, at least 5 killed

A powerful earthquake sent a two-meter (yard) high tsunami crashing
into a beach resort on Indonesia's Java island Monday, killing at least
five people and damaging hotels and houses. Indonesian President Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono confirmed the casualties in a radio broadcast. [Link]

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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Tsunami & Pichavaram mangroves

"Pichavaram mangrove wetland, occupying an area of about 1400 ha, is located about 280 km down south of Chennai, in the Cuddalore District. Fishing and farming communities belonging to 17 hamlets utilize the resources of the Pichavaram mangrove wetlands of Cuddalore District. Out of these 17 hamlets, 6 hamlets are under physical coverage of the mangrove wetlands, 5 hamlets are located on or near to the open beach and not protected by mangroves. Remaining 6 hamlets are far away from mangrove forest. There was no damage to 6 hamlets that are physically protected by the mangroves but hamlets located on or near to the beach have been totally devasted."
Read More>>M S S R F - Centre for Research on Sustainable Agricultural & Rural Development

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Monday, January 31, 2005

MGR Thitu: Update by Nanda Kishore

I have been speaking to people in the Killai village trying to gather information about the current situation at MGR Thitu. I got this information from the coordinator of AID India at the KILLAI VILLAGE CAMP (the marriage hall). His name is Mr. Vanjinathan.
The villagers have somehow generated the funds to buy the land which was allocated to them. I hope everyone remembers that they were initially trying to get that money! The government is now working on building houses for these folk, but as usual, the pace is slow. The villagers are still staying in the Killai Marriage hall.
They have a shortage of rice now. Immediate need is for rice. Any suggestions?

Also, the boats and nets part is also at a standstill. The government has promised to give them boats and has already earmarked 2371 crores for this. But the money will take time to reach them. There is also an issue between the FM & the CM because the FM announced that the relief money will be done through the public sector banks! It might take time for the money to reach them.

There is also a problem in trying to get the children back to school. We may remember that their only school (inside the village) which teaches till standard 5 was completely damaged. The education front also needs some help. The details on the kind of help required will be available only by the evening.

But the requirement for nets still remain. They are still maintaining that the requirement for nets will resolve a good lot of their problems. From what I could gather we still have to work on the nets front. And if possible, try and get some rice in the meanwhile. But immediate funding is going to be a problem.
-- by Nanda Kishore

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Monday, January 24, 2005

Conversion attempts in the time of grief

This article: is about conversion attempts by some missionaries of the villagers suffering the aftermath of the Tsunami.
I have heard in my marketing classes that nothing sells as good as sex and religion. And here we have some people trying to sell religion! I am only tempted to believe this story considering that it comes from Shoba Warrier - a journalist of repute. Your views?

Posted by Nanda Kishore Sethuraman

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

My Future in a Pyre

My Future in a Pyre: "My Future in a Pyre". An article by Dilip D'Souza. A columnist / blogger ( and and of course has written this heart wrenching article in Rediff. Till date I had different opinions about most of the organisations he has mentioned in this article. Mr. D'Souza - I change my opinion. Each one of these organisations that Dilip has mentioned in this article stands for different ideals. A case in point is DYFI, RSS & the various Christian missionaries. But they have all come together when the situation demanded. Irrespective of their organisations' ideals & standpoints, these humans have come together for a common goal. I guess the human in them stood above their organisations which is a triumph by itself.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Chidambaram Trip for Relief – My views

There are certain points about this trip, which I would have to reiterate. There are certain issues, which I have to highlight. There are my own views, which would be a part of this report. So if there are any repetitions of what Suman / Anita have mentioned in their report, I would request you to just read on and get your own holistic view of the situation.

Sambandam, a fellow customer at the tea stall at B. Mutlur (stands for Bhuvanagiri Mutlur because there is another village called C. Mutlur where C means Chidambaram) reiterated the information we had initially gathered at AID India office in Chennai. As mentioned by Kiruba in his first post, Anu of AID India, was more than forthcoming to help us with information and they are doing a phenomenal job in the coastal regions. The list of villages he mentioned to be worst affected included MGR Thittu, Chinna Vaikkal, Pillamedu, Pazhayar, Thoduvam, Thirumullaivasal, Koozhaiyar, Nayakkarkuppam and the list goes on. These are villages that fall under the Cuddalore District. Sambandam also mentioned that there are villages where no one was spared.

My initial report and the photo essay gave a brief explanation of the Killai village and the fact that we overshot the way to Muzhukkuthurai & MGR Thittu. We decided to get to MGR Thitu because everyone we spoke to mentioned this village’s name and confirmed that this was one of the worst hit. Also, AID India wanted to get more information about the village for them to coordinate as much relief as possible. So we headed in that direction.

Suman had explained about the conversation with the guy in the Ambulance and the way the waves had caused destruction to the farmlands also. A picture is worth a thousand words. I made the mistake. While I took a couple of pictures of the greenery on the way to Killai, I don’t know why I missed a picture of the farmland destructed by the seawater by moving so deep inside! It would have showed the stark difference that the water has made to the land. It would be a long time before the land becomes cultivable and there is absolutely no one who has talked about the water causing destruction to the property of these farmers.

Anyways, I would like to bring to light my conversation with Anbazhagan – the boatman who took us to MGR Thitu and with Ranjith – the son of the MGR Thitu village headman. Anbazhagan gave me a few numbers, which was very disturbing. There were 180 families in that village. (I also got a list of the families from that village and it actually came to 177 to be very precise). The village would have had 750 people of which Anbazhagan mentioned that 64 were dead. Five persons are still missing. There were nearly 60 mechanised fishing boats (read boats and not launches) in that village. None of these boats, I repeat, NONE of these boats are now in useable condition. Using them with repairs can prove equally fatal. Also, the boats were unattended to till date (for obvious reasons). This means that the salt water would have seeped through the engines. These boats have also been lying in the beach / on top of houses / between the bushes and has been exposed to direct sunlight. This has caused the engine parts to rust. Since these fisher folk don’t trust banks for whatever reasons, they also lost money as cash to the waves. They had to choose between grieving for the dead and salvaging lost property. Being humans that they are, they chose to grieve and this has led them to further misery of not being able to salvage their property – whatever is left of it!!!

They now have two boats – one mechanised and the other a little larger and deeper than a catamaran which has to be rowed, which can be used only to get to the village and back. These two are only passenger boats. These two survived because they were at a good distance from the shore. The villagers lease this out to one family on a yearly basis for approximately INR 10000/- (approximately 212USD). The villagers use these boats to commute between the village and the mainland. The villagers pay Rs.2/- (.042 USD) while the visitors / tourists pay around Rs.10/- (22cents) for a round trip.

I would like to take a small digression to explain my take about the fishing boats. By boats, I mean small fibre / wooden boats which are larger than the catamarans and can hold upto a tonne and a half of catch. They are machine propelled equipments and they generally use Maruti / Yamaha engines of a slightly higher capacity to propel the boat into the deep sea. These boats cost approximately INR.60000/- (approximately 1280 USD) and they are then fitted with the engines to propel them. These engines cost around INR.35000/- (approximately 750 USD). In all, a fishing family needs around 2000 USD to start a life and actually be prosperous.

On our way back, I had a chat with Ranjith (son of the MGR Thitu village headman) and a few others (Malaiarasu, Balaiah, Madhiyazhagan) to assess the current situation and their needs. The people from the village are well off. Ranjith has a mobile and that is not the only sign of their prosperity. You may notice in the photo essay the kind of articles that was damaged and the kind of houses they used to live in. Most of them had constructed pucca houses and a few of them had dish antennas. The village has electricity obviously, but what startles is that they used to have satellite phones included to their list of properties since recently. The telecom revolution has actually touched every part of the country and the fact that we could make / receive calls on our mobiles from the village stands guarantee. Every other house had a wet grinder (to make typical South Indian dough / batter), mixer grinder (for dry grinding of spices), Refrigerators, Televisions and all that would constitute a prosperous household even in a city. In fact they would not have suffered the Conditional Access System (CAS) which Chennai suffers from, which means that they would have got all the channels that I don’t get to see now a days including HBO, STAR Movies, Discovery & National Geographic. If I had visited this place earlier, I would have probably felt jealous because they get to live in a beach resort with all the facilities all their lives. I now think different. This just goes to say that the loss to their property is even worse!

The 177 families had around 60 boats. A few people owned these boats, but the rest of the fishermen worked along with them and they shared the catch in whatever proportion they agree upon! They now have lost their land because the government does not want them to stay in that village, because of its proximity to the sea. They have been asked to move to the mainland and a 20 acre land has already been allotted to them. But they have to pay for it. It would cost around 10 lakhs for the villagers to buy that land and they don’t have money. The government has told them that they would be given constructed houses in the allocated land, but they would have to buy the land for availing this. The fishermen are in a fix. Reasons? A. They don’t want to move inland, because as Suman had mentioned, it would become a huge logistics problem for them to haul their catch to the markets. B. Their financial situation does not allow them to buy even the allocated land!

I would like to make a special mention about Mr. Gagandeep Singh Bedi – the collector of Cuddalore. I understand from the villagers and from the relief workers in that area that this man has done a phenomenal job. Everyone confirmed that the INR.1,00,000/- for the deceased was disbursed in less than three days to their families. Of course, the money has not been given yet to the families of the five missing villagers, but I still think that it is an outstanding job done, given the current set of resources. The INR.4,000/- for ALL families and ration (includes 60kg rice, some cereals, kerosene etc) has also been disbursed to all the recognised families. KUDOS to that man for actually making the official machinery work overnight. It requires extraordinary talent and he has just exhibited that!

There are cases where some families have not been recognised and the villagers are actually so united that they distributed the funds and the rations, equally between all the families. I am not really sure if I would have exhibited that kind of magnanimity given the kind of situation. My respects to all those people who shared not just their grief, but what they got as relief material. It takes a lot of strength to do what these people did! Just enough proof that they have the strength to face life despite the situation.

On my way back from the village I promised myself to keep reminding about the public for as long as I can, till as many of these affected victims roll their way back on the track of life. Public memory is very short and Media is a very ugly tribe. They will roll from one scoop to another and we can already see that very few people are talking about these victims. And in due time, there wouldn’t be many or any. No one talks about 1984 revolt (barring a film called Amu); people have forgotten Bhuj; and Kumbakonam is now known only as the temple town and not as the killer town where fire swallowed more than 80 kids. I wanted to do my might by reminding people about this for as long as possible. Life – at the end of it – will move on, but these victims need a hand, a shoulder and a push to get it back on track. It would take a long time for sure.

The villagers are still in the process of negotiating with relief agencies and the government to try and get their lives back on the wheels, but for now, I think that no one has a clue of where to hit the arrow so they get the result. They have at least been able to spell their needs and they are doing that with everyone! The situation is “Whoever gives Whatever – may they be blessed”. Little wonder that the fisher folk from Pillamedu (represented by village headman Govindan) were in tears when this little drop in the form of nets (collected by Anita, Arun & Joshi of Bangalore) fell their way. This sure is a little drop and there is certainly a long way to go.

After getting back to office, I was speaking to one of the volunteer coordinators (Vibha Ravindran) of AID India. She mentioned a view, which I think I have to echo here. “It is now that the relief work would become doubly difficult. With the media not talking as much about the current situation, the task would be Herculean to get funds, volunteers and material to ensure that the livelihood is back for these people.”

At the risk of sounding dramatic / over-reacting, I am making this appeal:

Please do not forget this incident. If you still want to… delay the amnesia by a couple of years at least. It is not a single man task. And it is not only about MGR Thitu. There is much more to be done and it is a long hard way. It would be better if the job were done in a coordinated way. “Bloggers of the world. Unite!”

Nanda Kishore Sethuraman, 18th January 2005.

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Monday, January 17, 2005

Photo essay of the trip to MGR Thitu - An affected village

A few of us from Bangalore and chennai went to Chidambaram and surrounding villages to survey the damage and provide relief material for the affected fisherfolk. This is a picture essay of our trip to that village. Corresponding reports will be provided by myself, Suman, Anita Bora & Kiruba. The reports should be available very soon.

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Chidambaram Trip to assess the damage and provide relief

People who have followed this blog would have known by now that a few bloggers from Bangalore & Chennai were out for the weekend on a field trip to Chidambaram to assess the damage and to provide some relief material. Well, here is the preliminary update. The trip has been completed successfully and it was a mixture of happiness and sorrow. To dramatize this, I can say that we could actually see 'Agony & Ecstacy'. The team comprised of: Anita Bora, Arun, Joshi, Suman & Chitra from Bangalore. The Chennai team had Nanda Kishore, Kiruba Shankar & Shravan (Kiruba's cousin who exhibited phenomenal enthusiasm in making it for the trip and contributing in his own way. All this for a 11th standard school boy.)

We had visited a few villages near Chidambaram town. The villages are: Killai Relief camp, Muzhukkuthurai & MGR Thittu. We first went past the Killai camp and came back to find out the exact way to Muzhukkuthurai & MGR Thittu. Muzhukkuthurai is part of the main land, while MGR Thittu is a small island off Muzhukkuthurai. Muzhukkuthurai was affected badly because of the sea water entering the land and damaging property that lived closer to the shore. But MGR Thittu was the worst hit, because the water actually crossed MGR Thittu, submerged it entirely and then reached Muzhukkuthurai. Loss of life was pathetic and loss of property and livelihood is not comprehensible. Pictures taken are yet to be uploaded and detailed reports on the same would be put up tomorrow.

A game of cricket with some of the affected children. Kiruba getting back to his early instincts and exhibiting examples of Darwin's theory by hanging down a tree (upside down). An hour long session with kids aged between 3-7 years where they painted using crayons on drawing sheets, sang tamil rhymes (which we heard for the first time) danced with Chitra Suman and went on an unusual human merry-go-round with Kiruba!!! It was good to see them smile forgetting for a moment that most of these kids had lost someone or the other from their family and were part of the mass burials that was carried out! And finally, it brought a sense of satisfaction when we handed over fishing nets worth Rs.20000/- to the villagers from Pillamedu (village head Mr. Govindan who lost his 19 year old son to the killer wave received it on behalf of his village). The smile in their faces will linger in our minds for a very long time. I promise to show you those smiles by tomorrow (the pictures are yet to be uploaded).

Not to forget the ADVENTURE.
Kiruba's car!!! Man.. what a piece of antique!!! It always fails at the wrong time! It had a flat on 14th night somewhere near Chidambaram and while coming back, some part of the car (most probably the engine as guessed by Suman Kumar) moved from its original position to be found hanging! The car refused to move and we had a terrific hindi movie climax type chase to catch a bus before the toll plaza at Pondicherry! We reached back safely.

Suman would also give his reports very soon and I would put up the pictures by tomorrow. I will also publish my detailed report of the conversations we had with the villagers and the situation in the villages we visited. I am fairly sure that I would go back to those villages in the near future. I am sure everyone who made it to those villages would! Apart from working on the report for AID India (who gave the names of these villages to us) and a report for this blog, I think that there is one more huge task that lies in front of us. NETS, NETS, NETS & BOATS for these villagers. To help them get their life and livelihood back and to achieve it as soon as possible would be the biggest challenge. Achievable, but huge. Hope that it doesn't take too long before they get back their lives, at least for the ones who survived.

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E-mail Posting Disabled

I have disabled the post via e-mail feature on this site due to spamming. Sorry but I had no choice. E-mail me if you want to publish information here.
Facing problems in publishing info? Mail to suman[at]sumankumar[dot]com

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Friday, January 14, 2005

Tsunami Relief Project

I want to share a unique Tsunami Relief Project:

The Tsunami Relief Project is a collaborative effort between, celebrities, business leaders, authors, and individiual donors.  Dozens of well-known business experts and celebrities have agreed to donate one hour of their time in format of teleseminar, webinar, or personal coaching sessions.  People who donate via the Tsunami Relief Project will have exclusive access to these events and content.  It is a unique way to contrinbute to the effort, while at the same time receiveing something very valuable as a thank you gift.

So far, the list of VIPs includes:

# Mark Victor Hansen co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul and Honorary CoChair of the Disaster Relief Project
# Bill McDermott CEO of SAP America
# Tom Peters author of In Search of Excellence and Famous Management Consultant
# Frank Maguire top leadership expert and Fed-Ex founding Senior Executive
# Ken Blanchard author 'One Minute Manager’ and famous management consultant
# Pat Williams SVP of the NBA Orlando Magic author of 35 books top  speakers
# Jay Abraham, one of America's leading sales and marketing strategists
# Ken Kragen, creator of 'We Are the World and Hands Across America'
# Les Brown author of Live Your Dreams, and It’s Not Over Until You Win
# Al and Laura Ries Author of The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
# and more

For more info, see



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