The floods in Kerala wreaked havoc on the entire state leading to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The government estimated that 5.5 million people were directly affected, many died and over 1.5 million people were taken in to 5645 relief camps including more than 600,000 children. Those from the privileged sections of society were able to build back their lives relatively fast in such calamities, but Dalits and other underprivileged have a much harder time, especially as they are often discriminated against in terms of rescue, relief and rehabilitation, which happened in many cases during these floods.
There are over 60 alumni of Nagarjuna Institute in Kerala, most of whom did what they could in terms of rescue and relief even though many had to move their families to relief centres because their own homes were affected. The alumni worked in the worst affected districts of Allepey, Ernakulam, Idukki, and Patanimitita, where they helped transport people to relief camps, distributed health materials, relief materials, food supplies, clothes, medicines in various districts and relief camps. Some set up their own relief camps and provided them with shelter and food. They also arranged for educational supplies to be provided to 500 children. Because they are from the Dalit community, they were especially sensitive to the needs of other Dalits affected by the floods.
In the second week of September, Priyadarshi (Director of Manuski) visited the districts in Kerala where the alumni were conducting relief work and also the affected areas of the place. He had meetings with the leading Nagarajuna Institute alumni who are actively working there in Kerala.
It was not possible to raise the sort of funds required to help so many in distress in terms of long term rehabilitation (new houses etc). However the government provides considerable funds for such work, but due to discrimination and ignorance many of the poorer and Dalits were not able to benefit. Our alumni helped some of those affected make claims to the government, through helping them with documentation, distributing claim forms, helping to fill them in, and then monitoring the response and action of the government.
Support was also given to the children on one school which was badly affected by the floods, providing all of them with basic educational kits.
We decided to support a training programme with “Rights” an organisation that specialises in training NGOs. At our request they agreed to help develop and train 25 NGOs over the next twelve months, including some run by our alumni, in establishing themselves, helping them to understand legal and administrative responsibilities, and training hem in disaster management.