From the US and UAE to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the world came together to help the lakhs of people displaced by the massive floods in Kerala in 2018. From clothes and food to money, the relief and rehabilitation efforts received commendable support. A year later, Kerala is in the midst of the same situation, with heavy rainfalls, flooding and landslides destroying homes and claiming lives. However, unlike last year, the relief efforts in the state have not been receiving much impetus so far.
More than two lakh people in Kerala have been accommodated across 1,600 relief camps in the state. Northern districts such as Wayanad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kasaragod and Kannur have been facing the fury of rains in the form of cataclysmic landslides. While locals and rescue teams have been tirelessly engaged in the search and rescue operations, the relief materials collection centres across the state, especially in Ernakulam and Thiruvananthapuram, are unfortunately not seeing participation from the public on par with August 2018.
With Wayanad, Kannur and Kasaragod still under red warning and huge numbers of people being shifted to relief camps, several districts have yet again opened collection points in various locations so that the public can donate essentials such as bedsheets, blankets, clothes, rice, biscuits and drinking water, which will be transported to the relief camps.
Such collection points were a huge help for relief camps when the state suffered due to the deluge in August last year. However, TNM found that the response in many of these centres has been poor this time around.
“People are yet to recover from last year’s flood, both emotionally and economically. This is because it was the first time that a flood of such magnitude was taking place in the state and it had affected most of the districts in the state, unlike this year. So the public wanted to do something for their state and the people but if it’s going to happen every year, they will not be as enthusiastic as last year,” says Abbas, Tahsildar of Kochi Metro and one of the coordinators of the collection point at the Ernakulam Collectorate.
The state capital of Thiruvananthapuram, which is one of the districts not affected by the floods both this year and last, had played a crucial role in sending relief aid to flood-affected areas in 2018. However, volunteers at the various collection points in the capital complained of a drastic dip in participation from the public.
Shambu, a volunteer at a collection point in the Corporation of Thiruvananthapuram, tells TNM that they have started sending their volunteers door to door, requesting the public to donate relief items. “We have divided the number of volunteers into different areas in the district, we are going from house-to-house, requesting people to come out and donate items for the relief camps,” he says.
The Thiruvananthapuram Corporation did send two trucks of relief items to Wayanad and one truck to Nilambur in Malappuram on Saturday. “But this was mostly because of the compulsory participation by members of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), who had managed to bring in a lot of necessary supplies,” adds Shambu.
The condition is the same in many of the collection points across the state.
According to another volunteer in Thiruvananthapuram, who did not wish to be named, one of the reasons behind the dip in participation is the false information being spread on social media about how different collection points had not transported the items to relief camps last year. “Because of such misinformation, people have lost their trust in these collection points. So they are avoiding spending their money on donations this year.”
With participation from various film and other notable personalities, Anbodu Kochi, a people’s group, had gained plenty of attention last year for mobilising a huge number of volunteers and starting a collection point at the Regional Sports Centre in Ernakulam’s Kadavanthara. However, despite the dire situation and more than 100 relief camps being set up in Ernakulam district, even Anbodu Kochi is witnessing a dip in participation.
“Last year, we had received huge support and donations from many corporate companies as well. This year, I’m hearing that they are directly donating to camps through their various CSR (corporate social responsibility) programmes. Moreover, people still have not been able to tide over last year’s floods. That could also be a reason behind the low participation from the public,” Jeremiah, one of the coordinators of Anbodu Kochi, tells TNM.
According to official figures, as of 1 pm on August 11, the number of deaths due to the heavy rains and subsequent floods and landslides is around 60.
CM condemns propaganda about Disaster Relief Fund
At a press conference on Sunday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan spoke firmly against any propaganda aimed at discouraging people from contributing to the CM’s relief fund.
“The propaganda that the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund (CMDRF) has been spent for other purposes is wrong. Circulating wrong messages has affected the rescue operations and discouraged people from taking appropriate decisions. A combined effort is needed to prevent rumours and fake news through social media,” the CM said.
“CMDRF is an official system and the money received would be used for distress relief only. It also consists of budget allocation. People shouldn’t fall for this propaganda,” the CM added.
District-wise relief material requirements
The Kerala government, in the website called Kerala Rescue, has, inter alia, put a list of district-wise requirements for relief materials as well as the location of collection centres. This list is constantly updated.
Some of the basic items that relief camps across the state lack and urgently require include clothes (for women, children and men), diapers and sanitary napkins, medicines and rice.
For the list of relief materials required and the collection centres, click here.
A ground report from Kavalapaara, in Malappuram, where one of the biggest tragedies of Kerala rains unfolded