Activities

 
 

Earth Quake Relief

The response to the earthquake described in this report was a result of co-ordination between the following parties:

TBMSG - Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha, Sahayak Gana is the Indian wing of an international Buddhist Movement founded in 1967 by Sangharakshita, and known in the West as the Friends of  the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO). It aims to make Buddhism relevant to the modern world and in India it is working especially with the followers of Dr. Ambedkar. TBMSG has run a small Buddhist center in Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat for the past twenty years.

BH- Bahujan Hitay is the social wing of TBMSG which runs community health and education projects for the disadvantaged members of society. For the past ten years BH has run an educational hostel and several community centers in Ahmedabad. After the earthquake in eastern Maharashtra in 1993, BH started three hostels in the region for affected children.

The Karuna Trust was started by members of FWBO in London to raise funds for the social and Buddhist work initiated by TBMSG and BH. Since then it has funded a number of other organizations in India and Nepal especially to do with education for the socially disadvantaged. Karuna raised the funds for the three hostels started by BH after the 1993 earthquake.

Taiwan friends have been supporting the work of TBMSG and BH since 1989. They are inspired by the vision of Dr. Ambedkar in bringing about peaceful social change through the practice of the Buddha’s teachings. They have a strong social concern and are particularly sensitive to the difficulties faced by the socially disadvantaged.

Jambudvipa was founded by Lokamitra to support initiatives that do not easily fit into the TBMSG or BH structure or could be managed more appropriately in other ways. Encouraged by Sangharakshita, Lokamitra moved to India in 1978 to initiate the work of TBMSG and BH.

Introduction:

India is no stranger to calamities, but the Gujarat earthquake that took place on 26th January 2001 was by far the worst for many years. At present official figures state that just under 20,000 have died although other agencies estimate it to be in the region of 30,000 if not more. Many towns and villages have been devastated and the lives millions wretchedly uprooted.

Friends of ours in Taiwan wanted to send us money for relief work. They could trust us as they knew our work. Could we use it? We had not been thinking of relief work, but rather long term rehabilitation work as we had done after the 1993 earthquake. The local TBMSG and BH were very small in Ahmedabad. Added to that they had their own immediate difficulties created by the earthquake. Despite this some of them visited the earthquake-affected areas on 29th January and then began to collect materials, sending them out to the worst affected places. This gave us the confidence that they would be able to use the money from our friends in Taiwan.

The Situation

Our Ahmedabad team was joined by a few friends from Pune. Together they contacted organisations and conducted surveys in Bhuj, the epicentre of the earthquake, Bhachao, and other villages nearby, to find out what was most required and where. Their main concern was to make sure the needs of the Scheduled Castes and other minorities were attended to - all too often they are ignored or sidelined, if not positively discriminated against. Although Bhuj was by now getting so much attention and apparently aid, it seemed that many, many people just had not received the most basic of needs. Some people from the Scheduled Caste and Moslem communities in these places said our team was the first to meet them and bring them the most basic of supplies, even water. Bodhidharma writes in his diary;

“We started on 5th Feb early morning in a jeep. On our way to Bhuj, we visited many places. There was total destruction in Bhachao, Anjar and Rantal. In Bhachao and Anjar, we could see a lot of people on the road, struggling to get food. Many did not have shelter or warm clothes. It was very cold during the nights. It was a very sad sight, heart rendering. There were some voluntary organizations working to help people but their help was not sufficient to tackle the situation.

At about 5 pm (5th February), we reached Bhuj. Anand Shakya led us to a poor locality. There was a water tank from which women were given two pots of water. They told us that it was only the third time that they were getting this water in the last eleven days since the quake struck. That water was greenish and we could see that it was dirty. That was a Moslem locality. We asked them if any Government officials or the local leaders visited them earlier. They said no. They told us that we were the first people or group visiting them. They requested us to provide them water. That locality was totally damaged. Further we went. That was a Bhangi (sweeper) locality. They were living in a pathetic situation. With lots of pigs around and public toilets nearby, not cleaned since the last 10 days, a night soil smell was in the air. Totally unhygienic to live there. According to them no one visited their locality even on the eleventh day. They wanted water. They wanted food and tents. Basic things. What can they think of at that time?”

The survey team came across suffering of all kinds. People had lost their homes, people were badly injured, people had lost dear ones, they had to live in the worst of conditions (during this survey the team itself was continually overwhelmed by the stench of decomposing bodies) and to add insult to injury they felt they were being ignored and discriminated against at this of all times.

It was clear that despite shortage of manpower and inexperience our team could manage much crucial relief work themselves. In Bhuj most people in the poorer localities were now getting water and some food. They needed tents and basic household items, as well as large water storing containers for the localities. Anand Shakya stayed on with a few others to set up a relief camp and communications centre, situated in the garden around the statue of Dr. Ambedkar in Madhapar just outside Bhuj.

I visited Bhuj on 12th February along with Ven. Shin Tao from Taiwan, her sister and Bodhidharma. From the air there seemed little sign of the earthquake, but after landing we saw that the airport terminal building itself had been partially destroyed. Driving into the town we were faced with a picture of desolation. It seemed that all the large blocks of flats had collapsed, some almost whole still, but sunk into the ground or resting diagonally, some still upright but ripped apart in the middle. And most of the poorer houses were no more than piles of stone.

To get to the TBMSG relief camp at the Dr. Ambedkar Garden, Madhapar, we had to go through a small tent colony of extremely poor people. My impression, reinforced throughout the day, was that most people were still so dazed they could take little initiative for themselves - and this was more than two weeks after the earthquake. After seeing the place where our team of volunteers stayed and ate and where our supplies were stored, we visited a near-by village, Rantal, which was a scene of near total devastation. A few people were searching the piles of stones that were once their houses, for anything they could salvage. Despite being so near to Bhuj, the local people were saying they had received almost no help from the Government or NGOs. And yet there seemed to be so much money coming into the Government, and so many NGOs working there. What was happening? One can understand the difficulties of the Government and the NGOs in such a situation, but it was hard to understand why so many villages, some of which were so near the centre of relief activity, were still being neglected two weeks after the earthquake.

Relief Work

Phase One

In the first phase of relief work, a number of 5,000 litre water storage tanks were provided and water tankers sent to a number of localities. Our team had 502 tents made up in Ahmedabad as well as 502 household kits, and sent them down to Bhuj by truck. They were distributed in the following villages: Ambedkar Nagar (Bhuj), Bhimnagar (Bhuj), Madhapar, Mangwana, Mankuwa, Pesalpar, Mankuwa, Bhadli, Revalwadi, Rohidasnangar, Bhidnaka Depot.

The Family Kits distributed in this phase consisted of the following items:

Rs 600,000 was passed onto SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association) who have an excellent reputation in Gujarat. 40% of their members are from the Scheduled Castes communities and others are from other socially disadvantaged communities. SEWA spent this mainly on durries (carpets for sleeping on), as they felt this was one of the greatest needs in the areas they were working.

Phase Two

Our team was by now getting many requests for help from different villages. Even one month after the earthquake it seemed that many people had not been approached by the Government or the NGOs. Another survey was conducted and it was found that tents were still a priority but the family kits were modified. In this phase 600 tents and 1,000 family kits were distributed in the following villages: Bhimrao Nagar (Bhuj), Mamaidernagar Depot (Bhuj), Gayatrimandir (Bhuj), Dwidhameshwar Colony (Bhuj), Madhapur, Sankar Tekadi, Chitrod, Bharapur, Mankuwa, Kukama, Lakhand, Dayapar, Karagoga, CRD Colony (Bhuj), Asapuranagar.

The Family Kits distributed in this phase consisted of the following nine items:

Phase Three

For the last phase our relief team moved to Surendranagar District, another area which had suffered enormous damage. Here the greatest need was for plastic sheets and the most basic of food stuffs. 2,500 plastic sheets and 1,000 family kits consisting of just two items, were distributed in the following villages:

Zizuwada, Kochada, Jainabad, Fatepur, Vishnagar, Aadariana, Zadiana, Vadgam, Degam, Sedala, Patadi, Mithagodha, Odu, Memka, Kotharia, Bhadreshi, Ganjela, Methan,Saraval, Ramgadh,  Narali, Surradar, Juna Gatila, Surendhranagar.

The Family Kits in this phase consisted of

1.          5 kg atta

2.          1 kg oil

Rehabilitation

The relief work took place from 7th February until about 28th March. We are now thinking about long-term rehabilitation work. If sufficient funds can be raised, the plan is to start a hostel for about 50 boys in or near Bhuj, and another hostel for a similar number of girls near Gandhidham. Once established there are other ideas such as helping local artisans develop and market their skills.

The reasons behind these activities are:

It is hoped that the State Government will give grants for the most of the running expenses of the hostels.  However all the expenses for the first year may have to be found by us. We expect both projects to cost around Rs 85,00,000. This would include land and buildings for both projects, temporary buildings for the hostels, a small temporary administration centre in Bhuj, costs for running the hostels for the first year, and an endowment to cover the costs of the administration, so that there would be no burden of  fundraising work for some time.

We are also planning a meditation centre in Surendranagar District to help with psychological rehabilitation. While there are many spiritual groups active in Gujarat few of them are relevant to the needs of the Scheduled Castes. Indeed many such people do not feel welcome or at ease in these groups.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those supporters, especially from Taiwan, who have made this work possible by their generosity.

If you want more information, please contact one of the following addresses below (donations can also be sent to these addresses and marked for the “Gujarat Earthquake fund”):

1.     Dhammachari Lokamitra,

Jambudvipa, 5, Prashant Apartments, Deccan College Rd., Yerawada, Pune 411006, India. Tel/fax 91-20-6696812. Email:  jambudvipa@vsnl.com
Cheques and bank drafts should be made payable to TBMSG Pune.

2.     The Karuna Trust

St. Marks Studios, Chillingworth Rd., London N7 8QJ, UK. Tel 44-207-700-3434
Fax 44-207-700-3535 Email info@karuna.org
Cheques and bank drafts should be made out to The Karuna Trust.

     3.      Mei-huei Cheng, 

     Taiwan: tel: 886-2-2365-9085 mobile:0936-316-683
     Cheques and bank drafts can be sent to account number # 146-50-334-861,
     First Bank, Sung-kiang Branch, Taipei.


Accounts

This work was new to us. Besides the cost of the actual materials we had expenses in collecting, transporting and distributing them, conducting the surveys, setting up and running a communications center, travel and food expenses for our team of volunteers, as well as many others.

Expenditure Relief Work :  

Relief camp and communications

100,496.65  

Relief materials cost 

1,889,056.40  

Relief material transport

35,091.00  

Surveys and distribution  

168,931.00  

Travel

7,748.00  

Self Employed Women’s Association 

600,000.00  

Total                                                                          2,801,323,05  

Budget Rehabilitation Work:  

Land and building for girls hostel :

Rs  2,250,000  or  

US$ 50,000

Equipment and furniture

Rs    180,000      

US$  4,000  

First year’s running expenses(1):

Rs    500,000       

US$ 11,500

Temporary building(2)

Rs    200,000       

US$  4,500  

Land and building  for boys’ hostel 

Rs  2,250,000        

US$ 50,000

Equipment and furniture

Rs    180,000        

US $ 4,000

First year’s running expenses(1) 

Rs    500,000        

US$ 11,000

Temporary building (2)

Rs    200,000        

US$  4,500.

Land for office

Rs      60,000      

US$  1,350

Temporary office, equipment, accommodation(3)

Rs    300,000        

US$  6,700

Endowment for ongoing administrative costs/support.

Rs  1,200,000       

US$ 27,000

Total                                                 

Rs   7,820,000

US$175,050  

 

Total with Contingency @ 10%

Rs  8,602,000    

US$192,555

Land and building for meditation centre    

Rs  2,250,000        

US$ 50,000  

Endowment for support and maintenance  

Rs  1,575,000        

US$ 35,000  

Total for meditation centre      

Rs  3,825,000        

US$ 85,000