[b]Field Report from ASM in Andhra Pradesh[/b]
January 26, 2005 marked the one-month anniversary of the Tsunami, which had devastated lives, livestock, and livelihood of scores of coastal communities. The disaster knew no boundaries as it spread from Sumatra to India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, the Maldives and so on. Even the word Tsunami was unknown in the Bay of Bengal, so people were caught off-guard. But in some places, December 26th being a Sunday saved their lives but not their livelihood. One such place is Krishna District in Andhra Pradesh, India.
The fisherfolk, who are dependent on tides for fishing, were the worst affected. Their fishing gear is designed to bear the pressures of the sea only to a particular point and beyond that, they get damaged. The tsunami wave destroyed many nets on the coast of Andhra Pradesh. Added to this plight, many of the fisherfolk did not venture into the sea for the past month as they did not have fishing gear and moreover they were afraid of after shocks of the Tsunami.
As help poured in from many quarters on December 26th, 2004, nothing at all reached the remotest villages. With many promises by the Government that they would act as saviours, the local people were left high and dry as the only aid they received was 25 kilograms of rice per family and that was over 15 days ago. Apart from this, a rumour spread that fisherfolk should not venture into the sea for the next three months and the people were confused as to how they can survive with only 25 kilograms of rice and nothing else. In order to address these concerns, [b]Arthik Samata Mandal of Atheist Centre[/b], which has 27 years of experience in the field of disaster management and comprehensive rural development, stepped in to rebuild the livelihoods of the coastal communities….
Initially, ASM undertook a disaster assessment survey through which it could interact with the fisherfolk. A journey by boat to study the devastation was also undertaken. With further interactions, it was clear that the fisherfolk want to rebuild their livelihoods and that they would in turn buy food with their hard-earned money. Some of the old people and children are still dependent on food aid. ASM interacted with the Village Level Committees and Gram Sabha (Local Self Government at Village level) who identified the priorities for intervention and the needy beneficiaries. A resolution was passed in the Gram Sabha on the list of the beneficiaries, the level of livelihood damage and the fishing gear required and it was submitted to ASM. Based on the outcome from the resolution as well as the existing financial resources, ASM recognized fishing gear as the key interaction point.
A foolproof system was chalked out for the rehabilitation work. ASM volunteers distributed token slips (containing the beneficiary name, father’s name, village name, list of the fishing equipment to the beneficiaries) a couple of days before the actual distribution of the equipment. Everybody were asked to bring the token slip along with them to receive the benefit which included the following items:
1. 50 meters Blue Mesh – For 5 fishing nets
2. 2 meters White Mesh – Fishing Net
3. 80 meters of Plastic Rope
4. 70 meters of Plastic cloth
5. An Aluminium pot
ASM is grateful to the wholesale dealers who were highly helpful for giving the best price and the maximum concession. The Prasad Textiles, Vijayawada, which are the dealers in fishing material, gave a concession amounting to 10% and Sun Light Metal Works, Vijayawada from which aluminium pots were purchased gave 5% concession towards the Tsunami rehabilitation work as a contribution from their side. The local truck company cut down the transportation cost to half to take the equipment from Vijayawada to Koduru.
With the monetary help of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, Free Thinkers Association of Germany, American Humanist Association, the British Humanists and the Australian Rationalists and other friends from India and abroad, on January 26th, 2005, a rehabilitation program was undertaken in Koduru Town for 114 families from Pattauppakalli of Nagayalanka Revenue Mandal and 62 families from Basavanipalem of Koduru Revenue Mandal of Krishna District in Andhra Pradesh. The intervention in these villages was the supply of fishing nets.
January 26th marks Republic Day in India and the rehabilitation program was organized at ASM Koduru Campus (Office) for the affected fisherfolk families from the two villages. Apart from them, Dr. Vijayam, Executive Director of Atheist Centre, Ms. Nau Gora, Executive Secretary of Arthik Samata Mandal, Dr. Maru, Medical Director of Arthik Samata Mandal, Mr. Ch. Satyanarayana, Project Director for ASM-PLAN, Krishna Project and Mr. Vikas Gora, Project In-charge of the Tsunami Rehabilitation participated. Apart from them, the village level volunteers and coordinators also participated. The local media personnel were also present.
Before the actual distribution, a meeting was organized at 11.30 a.m. on January 26th, in which the representatives from Atheist Centre and Arthik Samata Mandal highlighted the process of identification of the beneficiaries, the bottom-up approach followed, the tsunami devastation, the fishing items that are going to be distributed as well as mentioning the names of the donors who made the rehabilitation work possible.
After the meeting, the actual distribution process began when people from each village were asked to attend a simultaneous medical camp which was conducted by Dr. Maru of Atheist Centre who examined and gave necessary medicines for general health, vitamins and in some cases for body aches. This medical camp involved free distribution of medicines, which was again made possible through the medical help of Dr. Pai and his friends from Mumbai, India. After the check-up each beneficiary showed the token which he/she received revealing his details to the ASM staff who inturn cross-checked the names and signatures and then distributed the fishing gear kits.
The whole program went on till 4 p.m. in the evening and was highly organized as the villagers with respect and dignity received the fishing gear kits and in some cases tears rolled down their eyes as they mentioned that they thought their lives were washed away as they lost their livelihood. The fishing kit along with the aluminium pot is valued at about Rs. 1500 [about $35] including the transportation and other costs. They say that their hopes were rebuilt.
In February, ASM intends to continue its livelihood rehabilitation work in three more villages that lost their fish traps, and gradually extend its activities based on the availability of the resources to reach out to many more tsunami victims. A survey and identification of the beneficiaries is already being undertaken. Interactions with the communities further revealed that greater intervention is required in other villages wherein rebuilding livelihood is the need of the hour.