Monday, January 24, 2005

Onsite Update :: from Sidhamma in Killai

Dear Friends,

It has been a while since I have been able to get through to Siddhamma. Since we spoke last Sidhamma had spent some time in Killai, Nagapattnam and few days in the hospital. She is feeling fine now.

Status of the funds sent to Bharathi Trust:
The wired funds had reached the OSB Bank, which had sent a draft to the SBI branch which Bharathi trust has the account with. The check had got delayed in mail and not arrived yet. She had the bank manager rework the info with the main branch and a promise that they would sort out the problem asap.

Updates from Killai, Cuddalore -
Affected villages need to primarily work on the land issue. Helping ppl with the legal work in Killai. Only a percent of the ppl have been able to receive compensation 130/230.
Immd relief has been provided of (40 kg Rice + 2 kg Dal)/family:
MGRnagar - 173 Irula families
Kalingar nagar - 130 families
Agaram Pudhunagar - 44 families
Pitchapura - 37 families
Shanmuga nagar - 64 families
Samilyar nagar - 103 families
Sangalikuppam - 63 families

Q: What is the status of Killai, Cuddalore.
A: Immd food is not an issue. Govt is delaying in giving boat and net. Amt in the present plan is Rs. 20,000. However, even to have a small boat the requirement is Rs. 30,000 + Rs. 10,000 even for a small net. The number of boats lost in this region is 230 boats and only 130 ppl are covered by the govt scheme. The ppl are showing solidarity and saying that all folks should be reimbursed. Instead they want to find another way to survive till the full extent of the damage is covered. Medha had explored other options with the ppl and the short term solution is having small nets to fish in the the lake. With the fish and the rice they can survive.

The other issue of many villages here is the land. The govt is not buying land and instead has opened it up for NGOs. One of the foreign funded NGO has jumped in with the cash to purchase the land. This would be fine, but for the fact that the land and the building will be owned by the NGOs and not the ppl themselves.

Q: Did this not get resolved by Medha and Geeta?
A: Only in one village so far, MGR Tittu. The Chennai Waterboard has bought the land and has adopted the village. There is some hope of this being transferred to the ppl, so it is sorta resolved. The rest of the villages still need to be resolved. Volunteers from the unorganized workers union, Geeta, Medha contributed to the funds for rice in Nagapattham and Vellurpuram. All in all, 30 tonnes of rice was collected with donations's and Asha's funds.

Update from Patai (around Puligat lake):
Q: What is the status of the Puligat area which we started working with first?
A: Working for immd requirements of the 4 Irula villages:
Rajaratnanagar, Pettai, Sengaiamna Nagar, Kolathumadu

Additionally, immediate requirements of small villages were needed:
Chanavarur - - 11 families
Thambureddy Palia - 10 families
Tsumanbukulam - Isula village
Nandiambakam - 60 families. Rice has been distributed.

The issue here is that Govt doesn't want to give compensation to the Irula's as they are not part of the society. About 5 yrs back the fishery dept froze addition of any new members to the society and only the old societies registered will get compensation of Rs. 20,000. The new ppl get nothing.

May need to do something similar like the Killai area here too. The lake is not too deep and you can wade in the lake and fish. Presently, we were only looking for immd survival since another NGO (Jiva Jothi) is representing all 30 fisher villages and talking to the govt in this area and many other villages have similar issues. Jiva Jothi has also worked with the bonded laborer issue in the other communities and have a good idea of the ppl's dependence on fishing so we are letting them handle this area and focussing on Killai (Cuddalore).

Q: What about the other occupations apart from fishing?
A: Not in this area, everything here depends on fishing.

Q: Are you planning to bring these issues to the relief comissioner tomorrow?
A: Yes, I have a big list of these and some other issues and will be at the Asha Chennai home tomorrow morning. (Unfortunately, the meeting was postponed, and she is now in Killai so we will miss the fireworks on the conf call.)

Q: What is on the list?
A: There are many ppl who were living around the beach, but were not fishermen. E.g. in Chennai there are all the small beach sellers who have carts which were washed away, tailors and rikshaw pullers, daily laborers. Ppl with these other occupations are not even being considered for compensation. So far the schemes are only for boats and nets of the fishermen and these ppl also need to be accounted for. We have made a list of what the livelyhood of the ppl in different areas are and what they
will need to get back to their lives.

Q: Can I get this list?
A: She will ask Nerandran to send it to you, but it will take time.

Q: I still haven't got the survey of the Irula villages.
A: We sent it to Sivapriya, but heard that she only got the name of the villages. We will send it to her again and cc you.

Q: Do you have any feedback on the toys and games that you got forsome children?
A: The response was just amazing. The frisbees were hard to find when I was in Chidambram, only got 2. I took Checkers, carromboard and balls to MGR Nagar. I can only describe it as having pumped back life into the children. The Irula children were seeing a carrom board for the first time.

This is the only way to get these children back. There is a SOS center in Killai, but only 5-6 children go there. You need to take the time and take personal interest with the children. This time around I'm going to go with color pencils/pens and let the children express themselves through drawing. I will send you the pics so you get an idea yourself. It would be great to have more of these kits. I let her know that we had approved 50 kits, but the fuding is stillpending. Her reaction was , really! That is wonderful. I told her that the funds have probably not been realized yet and she said that she will borrow the money as long as it can be returned sometime.

She felt that what needs to be done is to get hold of vols who want to help to just spend time with the children and build relatioship with them. Spend a few months with them and get them back to the regular life.

The officials just come to the village find kids with no parents, put them in a van and take them to the orphanage. while the child is protesting and crying all along the way. These children have already lost their parents and are at least in their own communities. I know they mean well, but in many of these communities the ppl are willing to take care of the children of their own communities. It's not enough to give the children money and food, they need love.