Flood Relief and Rehabilitation in Karur District
by L.A. Samy
Renganathapuram, Tamil Nadu, India
a. Flood attack: On November 21st onwards, Tamil Nadu witnessed continuous rain and in many parts this resulted in devastating floods in almost all districts, including Karur where AREDS office is located. All communications, electricity and public conveyance got cut and hundreds of houses either got completely or partially damaged.
b. Vulnerable groups affected in flood: It is once again the poor and the Dalits who fall victims and suffer most. Most of the residential areas of Dalits are located in low areas, which are easily prone to floods and water logging. Dalits, with a long history of discrimination under the caste system feel its discrimination effects in the denial of EcoSoC rights (Economic, Social and Cultural Rights). The efforts of AREDS and the efforts of various Dalit Movements and Action Groups in continuous struggle for empowerment and Dalit Rights, though, has given desired results and continues to give results in various fields -- but there is still a long way to go. As many of us know who are involved in getting the EcoSoC rights to Dalits and who fight against all forms of discrimination against Dalits, the events like Tsunami and Floods, such as this one, in the form of natural calamity and disasters, do not allow these vulnerable communities to move forward. Again and again the poor are the victims and get reduced to the little things they had gathered over a period of life. This is what we have been witnessing from the end of 2004 and throughout year 2005.
c. Agriculture damages in Karur District: Karur district, and other districts in Tamil Nadu, have been experiencing the flood continuously for more than one month. The villages had been flooded already three times and now the breaches in the dams and reservoirs from other districts like Dindigul and Erode have to pass through Karur and again the agricultural lands are submerged in floodwaters, depriving the economic returns of small and marginal farmers. The days ahead for the Dalits landless agricultural laborers are going to be hard ones for there will not be any crop this year to harvest and to earn food grains as wages during the harvest season.
d. Flood damages in Karur District: The recent rains and the flood in the rivers Amaravathi and Cauvery, in Karur district, have caused damages estimated at Rs. 68.98 crores -- Rs. 689.8 million (In Euro: 13,015,094):
2. AREDS contribution and experience in social liberation of Dalits and disadvantaged:
For nearly 26 years, AREDS, through its various interventions with the people in concern in Karur district, have built up the economic, social, and cultural rights. AREDS has started the development process of these communities through education and organization which led to the formation of sangams to federations and then to various people's movements viz. SWATE which has 15,000 women of the grassroots as its members engaged in creating economic and political alternatives within the means they have.
26 years ago, AREDS started everything from scratch from a village which was blacklisted by the local administration because most of the population of this village was of the Dalit community, whose poverty and social environment kept them away from the reaches of all government programmes and subsidies. When these people started to demand their fair share this attitude was not tolerated by the administration and hence they were blacklisted and treated as a dangerous area. It is in this very village in which AREDS started its work and activities. Today, this very village has become a model village.
AREDS initiatives have resulted in the formation of various self-supportive people's movements to the extent that it has paved the way for the formation of the first Grassroots Women's Movement against poverty and violence, which has 120,000 women belonging to it in 22 districts of the state of Tamil Nadu.
It is because of these movements and their support that we are able to address and support the victims of the Flood in providing relief viz. food, clothing, and medical.
AREDS has built confidence and self esteem among women and among Dalits to demand a fair share from the state for their development. Through the rights approach and struggle, the people in concern in the district have acquired alternative skills to meet their socio, economic, and cultural rights. The assets that have been created by Dalit people through AREDS interventions have been destroyed by this flood.
3. AREDS and AREDS-initiated peoples organization intervention:
All the staff and the members of all the peoples movements viz. SWATE, DRALM, FPWLR and MAPOVI-TN had to rush to help the flood victims by taking the children and the aged to safer places. The immediate need was to find water and food. With all our might, we were able to feed thousands of people for more than four days and thus keep them from starving.
e. Specific objectives: AREDS proposes to construct and repair 1,169 Dalit houses that are completely destroyed, in which 964 houses belong to Dalits families, and partially damaged viz, loss of two walls, and major cracks in the whole building, which can be repaired. This will help them to sustain their long struggle and to continue to get their fair share in the socio, economic, and cultural programmes and policies of the state.
f. Target group: Of the total number of the 14,000 families that are affected by this flood in Karur; that need help to reconstruct and find a permanent solution to their livelihood, we identify 1,169 houses.
g. Estimated financial assistance: The estimated financial assistance required to undertake this flood victims reconstruction work is:
The houses will be constructed with brick and cement mortar. The roofs will be tiled.
5. Organization applying for support
h. Address, telephone, fax, e-mail, name of the person responsible:
We request friends and partners to join in our effort to help the flood victims of Karur, especially the Dalit families and the rural poor, to come out of this grave situation and help reconstruct the lives and the livelihood means. And thus give the sense of hope. In the struggle of the Dalits and the rural poor, it has taken years to build their future, but it has taken few seconds to loose everything.
Published in In Motion Magazine February 12, 2006
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