By Prarthana Mitra
With the death toll at 400, the flood which sweeps Kerala of its footing has really been a test for the rest of the nation. The state government displayed its strength in the face of such an unprecedented disaster and exposed the real priorities of a grossly unresponsive central government.
Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi surveyed the situation in Kerala on a helicopter and declared a Rs 500 crore interim relief package for the state in response to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s demand for Rs 2000 crores.
Help for Kerala came from all quarters, be it the ubiquitous UK-based Sikh charity Khalsa Aid which set up a base (and a community kitchen) in Kochi, or a journalist who cancelled his daughter’s engagement to direct those funds towards rescue and rehabilitation instead.
Kerala Floods: UPDATE
We are now feeding 8000 people who have been affected by the floods in #Kerala. We are also setting up a kitchen in another camp.
Thank you for your support
— Khalsa Aid (@Khalsa_Aid) August 19, 2018
Scheduled to take place on Sunday in Kannur, Manoj, the resident editor of CPI(M)’s mouthpiece, spoke to his daughter’s fiancé’s family, who agreed to call the engagement off at once.
Several distinguished and ordinary statesmen have donated out of their own pockets for the cause, while India’s youngest billionaire and Paytm CEO bragged about offering Rs 10,000 to the relief efforts underway in Kerala, struck by the worst flood since 1924.
On the other hand, state girl Hanan Hamid who supported her education selling fish and was maligned for it, donated Rs 1.5 lakh from her funds which had been raised on donations as well.
This is Ramesh from Dharmapuri, He donated 5 baskets of guava when he saw the collection drive in Bangalore. This was everything he was planning to sell this evening. Photo by /u/gagasutra https://t.co/DP7PSHJAsM pic.twitter.com/Z4S9rCgmUG
— r/India on Reddit ðŸ‡®ðŸ‡³ (@redditindia) August 20, 2018
The fishermen of Kerala proved themselves twice the heroes, diving straight into the neck-deep and at times two-story-high water, hauling their boats along to reach areas and save innumerable lives while the centre tarried to send help. When centrally allocated funds did arrive, they were abysmally inadequate.
Additionally, the rescue led by the Indian Armed Forces when they did arrive in full force has been anything but exemplary. Extensive operations, led by the likes of Lt. Anshu Mali, are still underway in severely affected areas.
Young Indian professionals from all sectors and corners of the world are also chipping in for the cause. Pondicherry University student Jazeel started the #artforrescue drive on Facebook, offering to do commissioned portraits for donors to raise funds worth Rs. 2 lakh. A bunch of techies based in the United States are operating an online record of the rescue operations and a platform to relay online calls for help to rescue operations offline. The website which was set up by members of Kerala’s IT cell and volunteers from Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) include employees of Google, Uber and Microsoft, and runs without any funding.
Even English Premier League club Liverpool issued a statement promising help in any form and assuring the flood victims, “You will never walk alone.”
Dear @KeralaReds Our international supporters liaison team will be in contact to see what we can do to help. Thank you for reaching out, and please know that all of us here @LFC are thinking about you in this time of extreme difficulty #YNWA https://t.co/UJzscZZS6Y
— Peter Moore (@PeterMooreLFC) August 17, 2018
Furthermore, it’s not just the human lives that such gestures of empathy and aid were reserved for. In Thrissur, when the news of a trapped elephant struggling with the dam’s flow reached the concerned authorities, they closed the gates until the animal had safely passed through the zone. Stories also came pouring in from pet and livestock owners who refused to part with the poor animals until help arrived for them as well.
Animals tend to suffer the most during the event of natural calamities and a saddening report by One Green Planet revealed that nearly 80% of Kerala’s animals have been fatally afflicted by the recent flood. Nevertheless, several volunteers and animal rescue services like Humane Society International are patrolling the submerged waters to rescue stray and abandoned dogs (and cattle) from the deluge which the state now has to rise up from.
(1/2) BREAKING: Kerala is experiencing the worst floods the state has seen in a century. @IndiaHSI's Animal Rescue Team rushed to the most heavily affected flood regions to provide rescue & relief efforts to animals in desperate need. pic.twitter.com/Wpp1Fa52xb
— Humane Society International (@HSIGlobal) August 17, 2018
The tenacity and resilience displayed by the victims, thousands of who have been relocated to relief camps, coupled with help arriving for those who need it the most, presents a picture less bleak than before.
— Ssshhh (@_sumi_s_) August 20, 2018
Although Kerala reels from the devastation with a long way to go even after the waters have receded, these volunteers are saving more than lives. They are saving face for a nation where people no longer refrain from colouring a “severe natural disaster” in political, sexist and communal tones.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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