Friday, December 23, 2005
Nagapattinam diary 1
I was back at Nagapattinam on Tuesday, 20th. Last year in January I had been there. This district -- which accounted for 6,065 tsunami deaths, with 3,378 in the town alone -- was the worst hit in India.
But as I travelled around the place, I just couldn't believe this was the very same place I had been to last year. So much has changed. As collector J Radhakrishnan said the district was lucky to get plenty of relief material. And all that the government had to do was to coordinate the efforts of NGOs.
I attended a public function at which 375 families were handed over houses constructed by Mata Amritanandamayi Mutt under the guidance of IIT Madras engineers. The people got not just houses, but a fully integrated township spread across 11 acres -- complete with stormwater drains, roads, effluent treatment plant, children's play area, reading room. Wow! It's an incredible township, and Mata Amritanandamayi Mutt is the first NGO to complete such a township for the villagers.
Brahmachari Abhayamrita Chaitanya said that their aim is not just to build houses, but provide all the benefits to the villagers. The social activities of mutt must be seen to be believed. In fact, in the beginning I was quite sceptical. But no longer. When tsunami struck, the first thing the mutt did was to set up a number of kitchens. Their logic: you can survive without clothes, you can survive without a roof, but not without food.
For the function people were in such a festive mood. They turned out in their best clothes. Streets were all decorated. For the survivors of tsunami, in a way the tragedy was a blessing in disguise. Because the district is flush with funds and dedicated NGOs; besides, an able administration is doing a fantastic work of rebuilding broken homes.
It's sad that a place had to pay such a heavy price for development.