This is a short story of Rajouli village. A story of devastation that can’t be comprehended through images and video footages. A story of people having lost every single thing they had in matter of hours. A story of power of water. A story of damage that will take months and years to repair. However, this is also a story from which lot is to be learnt. A story where entire nation came together to support those affected by deadly floods. It was just like the circulatory system of our body combating the injury of some part with immediate blood supply. A story of me getting in direct contact with real India.
Soon after the news of fury of Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers reached the mainstream, few of us friends decided to go to the affected areas to have first-hand experience of what the situation was like and how best we could help out within our capacities. However, on contacting co-ordinators of one of the largest Indian NGO-Seva Bharati, which plunged into relief work right from day one, we got the massage to hold on our visit for a couple of days as the accessibility to some of the most affected villages from highways was still not possible and we should focus on collecting relief materials, setting-up collection centres, establishing distribution centres and so on since the local Seva Bharati volunteers were already deployed for doing the ground work.
Finally it was decided that we would plan our visit on October 11. About eight of us IT Professionals from five different companies started at about 6:00 in the morning in a hired cab. Our plan was to reach the main distribution centre of the Seva Bharati for Mahaboobnagar District, set-up at Sri Kottam Tulasi Reddy Memorial College of Engineering, Kondair and then accompany some relief material trucks to any of the affected villages. We reached the place at around 9:30 am by then many of the relief vehicles had already left. But still the place was bustling with activity as few more vehicles were yet to start. We learnt from co-ordinator that due to special appeal to the volunteers more than 1,000 volunteers had come out to support the relief activities. We helped out a bit by loading the trucks with relief kits (10 kgs of rice, 1 kg dal and some tamarind) till we were assigned to join the team that was leaving for Rajouli village. We took NH7 to reach the village. Initially everything looked normal. Only little impact of flood could be seen on the interior of the road.
But as soon as we touched Rajouli, the story began. I can’t find words to describe the scene. We saw dejected faces, marshy land, broken houses and damaged trees. We all assembled near one high school and then began the action.
I already had a first hand experience of how difficult the distribution of relief kits was, having seen people with trucks on our way struggling hard to keep the crowd under control and figure out any sensible fair way of carrying out the task. Within five minutes of any relief materials truck stopping at any place, there would be tens and hundreds of people surrounding it in the hope of not missing out on anything, would use all their strength to stay ahead of others thus making the entire process extremely complicated. I was sceptical of same happening with our trucks as well but soon realised that this was not to happen. Having worked for years in this field, Seva Bharati had a very well streamlined process of execution. The first step was informing the villagers regarding who we were, our reason for being there and how the day ahead would look like. Then six-seven different teams of volunteers were formed with about five people each and were instructed about the geography of the village and card distribution mechanism. The idea was to have each of the team to go to different parts of the village and start distributing cards (to act as ration card for collecting the kit) one per family and to be handedover only at their home (to be correct – besides the remains of their shattered homes) to make it as fair as possible. This started around noon and teams were asked to be back to high school ground by 2:30 pm after which the trucks with relief materials would reach.
With eight of us, another team of about eight people from Infosys and two from Oracle was clubbed We were given the cards distribution job along with Shri Chakrapaniji who was in-charge of all the activities of the day. Going through the streets of the villages was numbing. Water marks over the trees and neighbourhood proved that some houses and even electric poles were completely submerged in water. Passing through weavers colony (known for making of famous Gadwal sarees) we saw weaving machines completely damaged and still lying under water. More than 6,000 weaving machines got destroyed. On reaching the Tungabhadra river side we found that half the barrage wall was broken as it could not withstand the water pressure. Only at few houses and shops we found people still attempting to clean up tons of mud accumulated inside. After the survey we started cards distribution process. This also provided us with close opportunity of interacting with those affected directly. Most of them had many heartbreaking stories to tell and many of them broke-down while telling their experiences. It was a very humbling and heart touching experience. We didn’t realise how the cards got completely distributed and time went past 2:30 pm in the heat which most of us would have cursed tens of times.
By the time we reached high school ground, other teams were also returning. There was then another round of instructions for volunteers – this time on the kits distribution process. People had already started flowing in from all parts of the village (having population of about 12,000) with cards in their hands. Immediately five queues were formed with around 300 people each. I believe a total of about 1,500-2,000 cards were distributed. Once people got settled in their respective queues, the relief trucks arrived. About 10-15 volunteers accompanied the truck till it was parked at the pre-identified location and soon we all lined up in two columns to unload the truck and pass on the kits to those standing in queues. The whole process was extremely well planned and executed with utmost display of discipline by entire volunteer group and greatly supported by local villagers. It was almost 6:00 pm by the time last card holder received the kit.
We then headed back for the town. We all were very sad by the images of the day. Devastation was huge. Trauma on the faces of affected was unforgettable. But the sight of selfless disciplined swayamsevaks and pouring in of material support not only from different parts of the country but across the world was encouraging. Stories of people having taken leave for days to work at ground zero and doctors having set-up free medical camps sacrificing their routine work was motivating. But now off to the biggest challenge-development of these impacted places. Together we can-together we will!
(The writer can be contact at vikran[email protected], 3/408, RV Brindavanam, Miyapur, Hyderabad, AP)