Floods are an annual event at Assam. They barely make news and the administration is usually prepared to handle the situation. However, in June 2012 the floods in the Brahmaputra basin were unprecedented due to heavy rains leading to a humanitarian crisis that left more than 6 million people displaced at its peak. Sankalp headquartered 3000 km away at Bangalore realised the gravity of the situation and initiated Project Prayas: Relief for the Flood Affected Assam was initiated on 11th July 2012 21:00 hrs. The next 11 days saw the implementation of the largest ever relief mission undertaken by Sankalp India Foundation in terms of the number of families supported.
While working to ensure that the best possible help is provided to the needy here are some of the challenges that were faced in this event and how they were overcome:
Identification of the Need
The following things were done to ensure that Sankalp has proper and systematic analysis of the need.
- A pilot from the Indian Air Force choppers who was part of the relief operations in Assam was approached to get the rough picture of the affected area.
- The daily reports from the State Disaster Management Authority, Assam were analysed on daily basis to identify need patterns.
- A 2 member field team was sent for field assessment within 5 hours of announcing Code Red. The team in conjunction with the Control Centre (setup at Bangalore) moved through the affected area to get first hand reports.
- Regular calls were organised with the District Collectors of the affected districts to get as assessment of the situation from them.
With all these things happening in parallel the organisation zeroed upon Majuli in Jorhat district. Approachable only through ferry, Majuli is the river island which was inundated from all sides by the river. Low lying agricultural land had residential localities which were found to be under 4-6 feet of standing water. The people had moved to the embankments and the road for shelter. Food and medicines were well organised by the administration. However the people needed tarpaulin sheets for building temporary shelters. The administration requested for as many tarpaulins as possible.
On the north bank of the Brahmaputra, the district of Sonitpur reported a fresh round of floods after the 3 day downpour. An embankment breach had devastated an area which does not get flooded normally leading to utter chaos and pandemonium in the lives of absolutely unprepared poor country folks. 5 hours long field trip on an National Disaster Relief Force rescue boats covering 60 kms and about 20 villages exposed the gravity of the situation to the field team. All the villages were under 5-6 feets of water and people were forced to live in camps. The voice of the people, the Circle Officer - Noudar Circle (In-charge of relief) and the District Collector was in sync - they needed tarpaulins too.
Logistics and Purchase
The tarpaulin traders in Guwahati were pursued relentlessly to get the best deals. In-spite of the general market in Guwahati being in a very exploitative mode - the organisation was fortunate and persuasive enough to find a vendor who was willing to offer the sheets at a very convincing rate of Rs 120/- per kilogram.
Mobilisation of Resources
The organisation followed the approach of keeping people informed about every minute development through Facebook and SankalpIndia.Net. Friends were approached who approached their own friends. Within two days a huge human chain was working to raise awareness and welcome participation for the relief program. With this report we send congratulations to the couple of hundred donors who made the seemingly impossible look trivial. From insufficient funds for 400 tarpaulins, the organisation finally managed to get 1947 sheets purchased. All thanks to the support of the numerous donors who contributed generously responding to the appeals of the organisation.
With good funds coming through the organisation was able to manage a second phase of relief program for Sootea. Once the funds matching the projected expenses on the relief materials were received the organisation stopped collections.
The Delivery of Relief
The relief materials at Majuli were carried across the Brahmaputra in a ferry and then distributed. At places there was obstruction to movement with people who had already been given tarpaulins by other agencies asking for them. The team stood firm and ensured systematic relief distribution.
A list of villages was drawn which were completely submerged and allotment was made for each of them. The responsibility of ferrying the tarpaulins using NDRF boats and distribution was given to the Village Defence Party, Secretaries who come under the preview of the local police. The residents of the villages which received the tarpaulins were informed about the stocks being sent to ensure more transparency. The plan worked well and we had a smooth process of delivery of goods to the needy.
About Public contributions:
Project Prayas led to the Public contribution of Rs. 3,38,498/- which was used for the purchase of relief materials. The balance from the Public contributions is Rs 1,770/-
A large chunk of public contribution (Rs. 37,761/-) were contributed well beyond the final deadline for contribution.
About operational contributions:
The Operational contribution by volunteers and close associates was Rs. 74,476/- Out of this Rs.50,960/- was spent on all operations including travel, transport, accommodation, food, communications and some miscellaneous expenses.
The expenses on operations were largely contributed to by travel and transport. The target locations were both far off from the mainstream and also in remote areas.
The balance Rs.25,286/- have been kept aside as seed fund for next disaster.
The mobilization of funds for Prayas was done largely by individuals.
Mount Carmel College, Bangalore and SAP, India supported Prayas. Mount Carmel College organized for a room-to-room visits with collection box. At SAP, a mail was sent to all the employees encouraging them to contribute to Prayas.
Commendable effort for fund collection was put in by Sankalp Friends and well wishers at SAP, L&T, Fidelity and TCS.
The acknowledgment receipts for tarpaulins for each village are available on request.
A Note of Thanks
It is difficult to put in words what difference it makes when authorities and common people in Assam hear that their countrymen residing thousands of kilometers away, got together and did their bit to ease their pain. Project Prayas will be remembered by Sankalp volunteers as the project in which common folks alone came together to show that we all care. It was all the hard earned money of sensitive people who decided to trust Sankalp India Foundation to carry feelings and the much needed goods from them to the victims. The organisation is the carrier of your gesture, your feelings, your expression of oneness with those who suffer in remote, unknown corners of our nation. Sankalp volunteers are proud to know such individuals.
Thank you everyone who contributed to making Prayas a success.
Project Prayas, the attempt to extend relief to the victims of the floods ended with approximately 10,000 individuals (average family size in Assam is 5) from the 1947 families which received in tarpaulins sheets sleeping in drier and more livable conditions. Far from the watchful lenses of the media houses, far from the attention of the mainland, the sons and daughters of our soil faced neglect and apathy. Sankalp India Foundation is proud and honoured to have received the trust and support of those citizens who felt for the suffering people and decided to do something about it. Sankalp invites organisations and individuals to join in the organisation’s Disaster Relief Partner Program to ensure that next time the disaster strike our soil, we put up a relief mission in a bigger, better and faster manner reaching out to our brethren when they need help, the most!