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English [20040817] [besz?mol?, ny?lt lev?l] Olvasási ido: 5 perc DEVASTATION IN SOUTH GUJARAT (Harmadik vil?g, Term?szet)
Report from Cedric Prakash SJ: For the last couple of days (August 11th and 12th), we (two of my colleagues and myself) visited several areas of South Gujarat which have been devastated by the recent rains and floods there.

The Province Office for Integral Social
Development of the Gujarat Jesuits
A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace
Post Box N. 4050, Navrangpura, Ahmedabad 380 009, Gujarat, India
Tel. : +91 (079) 2744 9744, 2745 5913
Fax : (079) 2748 9018, 2630 1362
Mobile: 98240-34536
e-mail : [email protected]


For the last couple of days (August 11th and 12th), we (two of my colleagues and myself) visited several areas of South Gujarat which have been devastated by the recent rains and floods there.

Here is a brief report of what we saw and experienced :

Ankleshwar area :

Several villages have been badly affected in this area. The worst hit seemed to be Bakrol, Panoli and Kalapia. We visited Bakrol village where several families have lost all their belongings and their houses. Inspite of the continuous rains, they literally have to live out in the open, being sheltered by plastic sheets. The floods which destroyed the village came around 8.00 pm. on the night of August 3rd. The people say that they literally had no chance but to climb immediately on to the rooftops and even on to the electric poles. For almost two hours, they could do virtually nothing but just pray that the rains would stop and the waters would subside.
The whole village is totally devastated. We met Lalitbhai who that day had gone to take his heavily expectant wife to a clinic in Surat When he returned next day, there was nothing left of his house or belongings. He is a casual mill-worker who earns Rs. 80/- a day when he gets work. His wife who came back to see the destruction on the day we visited them has become highly traumatized … besides, she is expecting her second child at any time. A family of five was swept away by these floods. Only a young boy remains and he still does not understand why God has wiped away his whole family. Then there is the other terrible reality of how a young Adivasi mother was desperately trying with one hand to reach to safety, while clinging to her little baby with the other. The current of the waters were just to too strong… just swept the child away from her arms. Several cattle have also perished in this village.
Fr. Castiella of the Catholic Church Ankleshwar has responded immediately to the needs of atleast 100 families of this village. There are other organizations who are also doing their bit to help alleviate the suffering of the people. Muslim organizations provide free meals to all. The village has a healthy mix of Hindu, Muslim and Christian and tribal families. There is a tremendous spirit of people wanting to help one and other in these crisis. Fr. Castiella has also provided immediate relief to 100 families in Panoli and to another 100 families in Kalapia.

Dharampur Area :

The ravaging waters between Bhilpudi and Fulwadi prevented us from reaching the Centre, headed by Fr. Thomas Kolady. However, Fr. Kolady did a circuitious route of over 40 kms. (a distance which is normally less than 10kms) to reach us.
We undertook a very hazardous journey to Paraspada. The normal distance between Dharampur and Paraspada is 15 kms. but on the 27th of July, the bridge connecting the Dharampur and Kaprada talukas was washed away and so we had to do the journey which took us more than 80 kms. to reach Paraspada. We had initially tried another route which was a bit shorter but we came to a raging river which could have washed us away if we attempted to pass through.
In Paraspada, the Sisters of St. John the Baptist run a Boarding School for tribal children. There are more than 300 children on the campus, in a place literally in the middle of a jungle. The closest contact to “civilization” is atleast 15 kms. away. For almost two weeks from July 26th, the Sisters and the children have literally been marooned with practically no access to the outside world.
Fr. Kolady has managed to take them some supplies on three different occasions which has kept them going.
Just before we arrived, an Adivasi woman had brought her little child to the Sisters for treatment. The child was terribly sick and the Sisters had no alternative but to send the parents and the child, with a villager who had a motorcycle, to the nearest clinic. The Sisters were at that moment, praying that the child would survive because they were helpless.
All along the Dharampur area, we could see trucks and jeeps that were stuck in the sinking mud or were washed away. The small fields of the tribals were totally flooded. All the rivulets and the bigger rivers were in spate. The rains were incessant .

Dadhwada area :

In this tribal area of Surat district, the situation is similar to elsewhere. The tribals have lost all their standing crops. After several years, they were hoping that they would have some good maize to eat this year. All that, now seems only an illusion.
Several roads and some bridges in this area have collapsed or washed away. The rivers too are in spate.
We visited the Katkua Centre where there is a Primary School and a boarding for tribal children. Fr. Aubrey D’Souza, the one in-charge of the Dadhwada Centre, tells us that on Sunday 1st August, at around 11.00 pm., while all the children were asleep, water entered into the girls hostel. The electricity had failed earlier. The children panicked and began running to a safer place uphill. The elders, who were looking after the children, realized the gravity of the situation, and opened the doors and windows lest the whole building collapses. All the belongings of the children - their beddings, their books, their clothes, everything, was just washed away. For two days, till Tuesday, no communication could be sent to Dadhwada because all the roads were damaged and the rivers were in spate.
When we visited Katkua, we realized how frightened the little children were (more than 300 girls and boys live at this Centre). Fortunately, the rains had subsided that day and they were breathing a sigh of relief. The boarding building which is essentially made of mud and bamboo, will now have to be brought down and a new structure will have to be built.
There is another tragedy that has taken place…..In the past years, excellent work has been done by the Dadhwada Centre in rain-water harvesting and water conservation. Three earthenware check dams in Katkua, Samarkua and Karota have been totally washed away. The one in Katkua was a huge one…..63’ in length and 15’ in breadth. These dams were a boon to the villagers around very specially in the last years of drought. All this is now lost…..
Several houses have also been damaged in the villages around Dadhwada.

Unai area :

In the Unai area, the tale is similar. The road from Varasda to Unai, a short distance of less than 10 kms. took us almost four times the normal time. It was just pocked with potholes, some of them resembling huge craters.
We visited one of the villages. Vankal where several families had lost their houses. Fr. Thomas Pereira the Priest in-charge of the Centre has been trying to assess the damage done to some of the villages but he still finds it difficult to reach some of the remote areas.

Zankhvav area :

The fear in thes areas is the possible effects from the Narmada Dam once the water is released or begins to overflow and if – God forbid ! - the Dam bursts. The villages are rife with rumors. The people have begun to fear the worst.
We met some of the Fathers who are in the Centre, and they were able to share with us some of the harrowing experiences of the people. The fate of the Adivasis in these villages, is similar to their sisters and brothers in other areas.

Bharuch area :

In the heart of the city of Bharuch, literally as the link between the old city and the new, stands St. Xavier’s School and Hostel, one of the oldest educational institutions in South Gujarat for tribal boys and girls.
A massive boundary and retaining compound wall of the institution (measuring 733’ x 22’), has totally collapsed, that too, on a busy thoroughfare. The municipal authorities have already regarded the remaining parts of the wall as unsafe and want the School authorities to bring it down immediately. The estimated cost of putting up a new boundary wall is anything between 25 – 30 lacs. (approx. 50,000 to 60,000 Euros). For Fr. Roy Miranda, In-charge, and Fr. Amalraj, the Principal, the immediate concern is to rebuild the wall because of several other related problems. But the institution has no money !
Just behind the Xavier’s School is a massive hillock on the boundary of the old city. Most of the people who live on this hillock are very poor, belonging to various communities – Dalits, Tribals, Muslims, Christians. Their little houses have been collapsing on to each other, like a pack of cards. The Collector of the city has already declared the hillock unsafe and want the people out immediately, but the people have nowhere to go. Some of them would rather die in the place they have called their own for years.
Bharuch being on the banks of the Narmada river, is also in the grip of a fear, which arises from the fact that further inundation may take place at any time as in the past years. When the people remember the flooding of the Narmada in previous years, a cold shiver runs through them.
We had also intended to visit the Dangs area but because of the shortage of time, and because of the fact that one of the key bridges to Bardipada was washed away, we could not get across. The fact is that several Tribal families in this totally Tribal district have been very badly affected.

Our concerns :

After having done more than a 1000 kms. through the flood affected areas of South Gujarat, there are several concerns which we would like to highlight; high among them are the following :

- The adivasis of these areas have been very badly affected by these rains and floods. Several of them have lost all their belongings and even their houses.
- All the standing crops have been lost, and, in many villages there will be nothing to eat atleast for the next two months
- Since most of them eke out a living from the produce of their land, they will have to face long months of starvation.
- There is a possibility of large-scale migration to the urban areas and to other parts of the country. This in turn will create other problems, both locally and elsewhere.
- The Gujarat Government, as in the case of the earthquake and the carnage, is showing step-motherly treatment to the poor Adivasis.
- The focus seems to be (both for the Government and the media), the focus seems to be on the urban areas affected like Surat and Ahmedabad. Practically no attention is given to the rural areas.
- The Government has already begun a wrangling match with the Central Government (which is now governed by a different coalition) and the poor people will definitely suffer because of these one-upmanship games.
- It is almost imminent that there will be outbreaks of epidemics, disease and illness. Primary Health Care Centres in these areas hardly function.
- Bridges and roads have collapsed / been washed away, which makes communication to the remote areas extremely difficult.

Help needed urgently :

Help is desperately needed from all possible sources. The Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has already agreed to provide a one week’s ration of oil and bulgur to some families in some areas through the Diocese of Baroda. The real extent of damage will be understood only after a fortnight from now, provided there is a total let up in the rains and floods.
The Province Office for Integrated Social Development (POISD) of the Gujarat Jesuits is just now helping to coordinate activities in these flood-affected areas through various Centres that live and work amidst the people. The process of rehabilitation will take some time, but, what is urgently needed is some sort of adhoc help to mitigate the sufferings which the victims are going through.
Cheques / Demand Drafts are to be made in favour of THE GUJARAT EDUCATION SOCIETY and sent by Registered Post / Courier to :

Fr. Cedric Prakash sj.
Newman Hall
Post Box 4002
Navrangpura P.O.
Ahmedabad 380 009
Gujarat, INDIA

Bank / Telegraphic transfers can be sent directly to :
BANK OF BARODA A/c. No. 21243
University Campus Branch
Navrangpura , Ahmedabad 380 009
Gujarat, India

All Indian donations are exempt from Income tax under section 80G of the IT Act.

Conclusion :
Gujarat, in the last few years, seems to have it all : successive droughts, the Morvi Dam burst, terrible cyclones, a plague, the killer earthquake 2001, the bloody carnage in 2002 and now these devastating floods. Everyone wonders ….. why ? The fact is: it is the poor and the marginalized that are most affected and what we have seen and experienced is just a small bit of the whole reality.

13th August 2004
Fr. Cedric Prakash s.j.
Director – (POISD)

Földrajzi hely (amirol szól): India

Keletkezés ill. kiadás dátuma: 2004. 08. 13.

Szerző: Prakash, Cedric SJ

Csoport, mozgalom, irányzat (ahonnan származik): Prashant