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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Devastating Floods and Following Relief Work by Vivekananda Kendra, Kodungallur

August 15th 2018, the day and the night will remain in the memory of all for many years to come. The heavy downpour of the day had the rivers, back waters and canals overflowing. By the 16th water had entered the rooms on the ground floor and three cottages at Anandadham. Most of the people from neighbouring houses had already moved by as early as 1 am on 16th . No one had anticipated this calamity, hence the limited number of boats, both public and private could hardly cope up to the demand of moving people, let alone property. The rising waters removed the demarcation between roads and canals. The inmates along with our pet dog Acchu moved to our well wisher Smt. Padma Adikal’s house which was located close to the Bhagavathi Amman temple. One had to literally wade through hip deep water to reach the main road.
The flood water rose further and by 17th it was close to 7 feet at Anandadham. In other places it was even higher. The flood situation in the entire state turned very grim and most parts of Kerala were submerged. There were many deaths reported from different parts, and people were being evacuated to schools/public buildings located on higher ground level. Power supply, Communication network, and drinking water supply was disrupted; Navy was deployed to evacuate the stranded.
It was only by evening of 19th that the flood waters started receding. Thousands of displaced families were given shelter at Govt Girls School, Govt Boys School, Amrita Vidyalayam, O.K Hall. etc. in and around Kodungallur. In each camp there were around 1000 homeless people. Most affected areas of Kodungallur were Elthuruthu and Kavilkadavu, which were by the side of the back waters. Many families from close by places like Moothakunnam, Andipilikavu, Vavakad etc. were given shelter in the camps
The current state of deluge in Kerala is reminiscent of that monsoon, almost a century back(1099 ME), when ‘God’s own country’ was transformed into a calamity zone. “It seemed as if the skies had been ripped apart as the waters burst out endlessly, transforming the bountiful scene into one of catastrophe,” writes historian Manu Pillai about the ‘great flood of 99’ in his book, ‘The Ivory throne’.
By the last week of August people started returning to their whatever was left of their “home”.

Flood Relief and Rehabilitation works in Kodungallur
Vivekananda Kendra Kodungallur under support from our headquarters in Kanyakumari undertook Flood Relief and Rehabilitation works in and around Kodungallur. As early as August 18th Kendra started it relief operations, by helping with cooking of food which was being done by Seva Bharathi for the various relief centres in and around Kodungallur. With the water starting to recede by late 19th evening further relief service of Vivekananda Kendra were coordinated from the Kendra Campus at Anandadham.
Kendra started its Relief Operation on 18th August by helping in cooking food for around 1500 affected people in one relief centre with Seva Bharati. After water receded from Vivekananda Kendra campus, further services were coordinated from Kendra Campus.
Families returning back to their homes from the relief camps were confronted with the serious issue of wells contaminated by the flood water, and with no water supply from the Municipality, Vivekananda Kendra started to supply drinking water to about 150 house around Anandadham. Access to the narrow lanes of the village areas was accomplished using a smaller vehicle carrying a water tank of 1000 litres for distribution of drinking water. Along with this Kendra started providing lunch for about 300 people a day which also included packaged drinking water. This started on 24th and continued for couple of days. Cleaning material consisting of brooms, wiper, bleaching powder, gloves, masks, and chlorine liquid for water purification was distributed to 50 houses within the vicinity of Anandadham.
While the drinking water supply was being done, a preliminary survey was also done and 342 houses were identified. The identified families were distributed cash coupon to the value of Rs. 500/- which they could redeem for necessary provisions from the nearby cooperative store, as a Phase I activity. A small program was arranged in which Mananeeya Lakshmi Didi, Director, Vivekananda Kendra Vedic Vision Foundation Kodungallur presided over the function. Shri Sudhakarji Sushree Sutapa, Sri Raghunathji(Kendra Jeevanvrati Karyakartas), Smt Padma Vivekanandan, Sri Premanath and all the workers of Kendra were present along with the beneficiaries. Sudhakarji explained to the people how they could utilize the token for purchasing the needy items of their choice worth Rs. 500 from Coop Consumers Stores, Kodungallur. Ma. Lakshmi Didi told the people that, Kendra buildings and its premises were also under water for 4 days and we are also equally affected by the flood, like them. Even then, keeping in mind Swami Vivekananda’s call “Serve man, Serve God”, Kendra Karyakartas plunged into action to help the fellow beings in their distress and suffering. We appealed to the people of our country to join in the great task of relief work with Kendra and the help started pouring from different parts of the country by well-wishers and kind souls.
Smt. Padma Vivekanandan, wife of Rtd Major General Vivekanandan, addressed the beneficiaries and encouraged the people to face the situation with courage and cooperate with Vivekananda Kendra in the Relief works. Later, two counters were arranged to distribute the Relief coupons manned by Kendra Karyakartas. They collected back the tokens that were given to them at the time of selecting the beneficiaries and distributed Relief Coupons to them. Snacks, drinking water and cleaning items such as hand gloves also distributed among them. A register with address and full details of the beneficiaries was also prepared for further Relief and Rehabilitation purpose.
Relief materials such as medicines, clothes, sanitation items, food items- rice, pulses, and biscuits, milk powder which came in from Mumbai, Pune and Bilaspur were sorted out and kept ready for distribution. The two volunteers from Jnanaprabhodini who brought the medicines from Pune left after spending couple of days in the relief camp. We had received 57 bundles of clothes from Lioness Club, Bilaspur, and Chhattisgarh. Kendra Karyakartas sorted and segregated them as blankets, bed sheets, shawls, ladies, gents’ and children’s garments. On 28th, people were allowed to take them as per their choice and the whole lot was distributed by 29th evening. Also, 200 men were given a set of one lungi and one undergarment. Around 100 people got cleaning materials such as phenyl, room cleaner and disinfectants. Other organizations and schools also started distributing food packets to some of the families who had come back to their houses and cleaning work was being done. Hence by 30th, Kendra concluded lunch distribution with a grand feast.
Two batches of Kendra Karyakartas led by Shri Sudhakarji and Shri Raghunathan went around the affected area from Undakadavu to Pullut bridge, to see the actual situation of the returning families from Relief Camps. About 1700 families were visited and identified the beneficiaries for the second stage of Rehabilitation by Kendra. A list was prepared and a token was issued with their Aadhar Number (to avoid any kind of misuse or duplicity). The survey continued for two more days. The data collected was extensive as compared to the earlier survey with details like number of children studying in various classes, their loss of dress, uniform and study materials, any health problem after coming back home from relief center, damage of the houses, loss or damage of items of livelihood like tailoring machine, fishing net etc. Kendra decided to leave out some families for now, who though affected by the floods were able to start afresh on their own.
The final list was for 400 families who were asked to come to Kendra on 3rd September at 10:30 am with the token and identity document. There were couple of families who had not returned from the relief camps, such families were also provided with the tokens. Hence the total families were more than 400. It was also planned to provide lunch packets and packaged drinking water for all those who come as they would get late in reaching their homes.
Phase III started on 31st August with a full fledged Medical camp which continued for a month. Medicines for the camp were contributed by Jnanaprabhodini team from Pune. Doctors and medical assistants were from within Kendra’s well-wishers. A small function was arranged in the main hall ‘Dakshina’ at 2:00 P M. Ma. Dr Lakshmi Kumari, Director, Vivekananda Kendra Vedic Vision Foundation, welcomed the public and introduced the medical team. In her brief welcome address, Lakshmi Didi mentioned that, if some medicine was not available in the camp and the patient could not afford the cost, they could buy it from a nearby medical store identified by Kendra by showing the prescription; Kendra would pay for the same. The Medical team consisted of Dr. Suresh Babu (retired physician and Kendra well-wisher), Dr N.M. Vijayan (retired physician and Kendra well-wisher)), Dr. Krishnan Namboodiri (retired Govt hospital Civil Surgeon) and Dr. Satish (Orthopaedic surgeon). Mrs Lany, Mrs. Ajitha, and Mrs Raji assisted the doctors by dispensing medicines and as nursing assistant. In his inaugural address Dr. N.M Vijayan, informed the people about the possible health problems which can affect them if proper care is not taken. He also mentioned that many cases have been reported in and around Kodungallur due to the spread of dirt and contaminated water. He advised the public to take advantage of the camp and prevent diseases. General check-up and distribution of free medicines would continue on all Fridays and Tuesdays from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM up to September 28th 2018. It was planned to extend the camp after 28th September if required. On the first day 52 people came in for consultations and were provided with free medicine and health advices from the medical camp.
A simple function was arranged on 3rd September at 10:30 AM at Kendra. Dr. M Lakshmi Kumari chaired the function. Sri Anapuzha Muralidharan, well known author and a renowned primary school teacher (Rtd) was the Chief Guest. He emphasized the need for public cooperation with Kendra in all their activities which are primarily aimed at the welfare of the people. Shri Sudhakarji briefed everyone who were gathered on the how the materials will be distributed to the beneficiaries. He also declared Kendra’s extended Relief and Rehabilitation program. As part of the plan some selected people would get a certain amount for minor repair and maintenance for their houses, some fishermen would get financial help for purchasing fishing nets and a number of women would get trained in tailoring. Women who were already trained in garment stitching or similar Kendra would provide assistance in marketing the same. Kendra offered to provide a sewing machine to individuals if they would participate in the training program and offer services (tailoring) for a period of 1 year. A series of counselling program’s for students, women and men has been planned. Both the programs would begin in the month of October. All the three local body members representing the area also attended the function. In her concluding address, Lakshmi Didi highlighted the generous contribution of Kendra well-wishers all over India and the need of developing highly potential qualities of Tyaga and Seva. Later, the relief materials were distributed to the beneficiaries. It included: plastic mats, dhotis, saris', bed sheets, bathing towels, washing soaps, bath soaps, 20 litre plastic buckets, plastic mugs and one kilo bleaching powder. A 2 litre pressure cooker for each of the families was planned for 11th September. Lunch packets were also distributed to all who came for the program.
The news of Kendra’s aggressive relief work in the area around Anandadham quickly spread to adjacent villages and towns. Requests started coming in from other localities around Kendra. Shri Sudhakarji and Shri Raghunathan with some Staniya Karyakartas went to see the places and affected people.Shri Sudhakarji and Shri Raghunathan with some Staniya Karyakartas went to see those places and affected people., Areas like Vavakkadu and Oottukadu were very badly affected. Hardly any relief work had been done by any other agencies. After the visit to these areas, it was decided to distribute rice, sugar, tea leaves, and salt, cooking oil, some masala and pulses for 100 families in Vavakkadu. In Oottukadu, plastic mats, ladies, gents, and children’s garments, bed sheets, bathing towels and cleaning materials were found urgently needed for at least 100 families. So these things were distributed on in both the areas.
On 24th September, the balance of the items for relief were distributed. Beneficiaries who had not come on the previous day collected there kits. Around 400 people turned up on 24th although the items available were only for about 200. The rest were given something for now. The second of the medical session camps functioned in the second half with Dr. Vijayan, Dr. Suresh Babu and Dr Namboodiri. 51 patients came in for consultations. 30 TT injections were given, and the medicines for next four days were given to the patients. For medicines that were not available Kendra, arrangements were made to get them from the local drug stores. Sri Vinay, Kartik and Tushar of Jnanaprabhodini, Pune took permission to leave from Man. Lakshmi Didi after having a first hand experience of post flood operations.
On 6th September as part of the Phave IV, 60 girl students each of Govt. Girls Higher Secondary School, Kodungallur received a kit that contained a school bag, 5 to 10 note books, one Geometry box, pens and pencils 2 each, clothes for one set of school uniform from Ma. Didi organised as part of a small function in their school. Similarly on 7th September another 60 girl students of Govt Boys Higher Secondary School Kodungallur too received uniforms and study materials from Ma. Didi. The same day 100 families of Pallamthuruthu received kits with food items worth Rs 600/- each. On 8th September 100 flood affected people of Vavakad, in adjacent Ernakulum district were also provided kits. Both these 200 families were identified by our yoga students who stayed in those areas.
11th September, alongwith the anniversary celebrations of Swamij’s Chicago address, 320 beneficiaries where provided with a 3 litre pressure cooker each. On the 12th four Fishermen received new fishing nets with the blessing of Ma. Didi. The nets were worth about Rs. 15,000/-. Another set of 300 flood victims identified by our yoga students and well wishers received kits containing provisions, clothing and mats and bed sheets. On 26th September, 33 ladies from the localities around Kendra, registered their names for the tailoring class named as “Nivedita Swasraya Parisheelana Kendram” which started on 30th September. Two teachers and a supervisor will look after the centre. The course will be of three months duration, free of cost. This training centre has been planned for a year for the time being, with the idea of rehabilitating the ladies (housewives) who have suffered much losses due to the floods.
This quantum of relief work was only possible for the whole hearted contribution of our well-wishers from all over India, Our special thanks to Jnanaprabhodini group of Pune, well-wishers of VK Madurai, Bharathiar University of Coimbatore’s NSS team who sent a truck load of materials including eatables, clothes and other essentials, Rotary Cochin for getting us 1000 litres of bottled drinking water from Kinley, well-wishers of Rajasthan and Gujarat, VKV students of Arunachal Pradesh and Valliyoor, Sri Samasta Mahajan of Mumbai, who contributed maximum for the relief work. Sri Pradeep and team from Coimbatore and last but not the least but for the seva of innumerable volunteers including Yoga Varga karyakartas, YCC karyakartas, QCI coaching students, parents of Sishuvihar students, SamskarVarga karyakartas, well-wishers and neighbours. A Herculean task.