Sunday, October 25, 2009

Alliance for 5 Life Sustaining Elements

Alliance for 5 Life Sustaining Elements
Dear friends,
I am happy to inform you that 6 senior NGOs working in Andhra Pradesh have come together and formed into an alliance by name 'Alliance for 5 Life Sustaining Elements' (ALSE) -- Pancha Bhoota Parirakshana Samstha. The long term objective of ALSE is the sustainable conservation and management of the basic elements ( 5 great classical elements: land, air, water, fire and space) in harmony with nature. Right now ALSE is preparing plans to work in the floods affected districts of Andhra Pradesh, India. The main objective of its immediate plan is to assist the affected families to restore back their livelihood bases and also to assist the people living in the vulnerable villages, (which are located close to river banks), to manage similar disasters with bare minimum losses by training them in disaster preparedness.We are trying to mobilise resources from various sources to implement its plan.I will let you know about our actual action plans soon.
Khasim. Mass Education

Friday, October 16, 2009

Concept Note to deal with the Problems in Flood affected Areas of Andhra Pradesh, India

Dear friends,
You know that there were serious floods in Andhra Pradesh, India about 15 days back. Many interesting developments are taking place in the affected areas. I have explained below in my concept note a way forward to deal with this calamity and our proposed action plan. Please give your feedback.
With best wishes,
Khasim ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
At the outset we would like to introduce, ‘Alliance for Life Sustaining Elements’ (ALSE), which is an alliance of some registered NGOs working in the area of rural development in Andhra Pradesh, India for the past 2 to 3 decades. The primary objective of forming this group is to promote the livelihoods of the people in harmony with nature by conserving and managing the life sustaining natural resources like the land, water, forests etc in a sustainable manner. Right now ALSE group has decided to take up rehabilitation work initially in Kurnool district and also in other flood affected districts in course of time.
In this concept note we have collectively tried to explain our approach and strategies, which were evolved in an intensive discussion for over one week among our group members and the affected communities, to face the gigantic challenge of relief and rehabilitation.
Nature is Furious because we are handling it in an irresponsible manner:
First of all would like to say that it is very painful to discuss about the unimaginable heavy floods caused by Rivers (Thungabhadra, Kundu and Handri) in Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh, India and the sufferings of the masses, mainly the poor who are residing closer to river banks whether it is in towns or in villages. Though heavy rain is the main cause of this devastation, irresponsible management, and inappropriate preparedness to deal with unexpected hazards of this kind and inadequate cooperation between the managers of the major dams of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh states to deal with the floods is also equally responsible.
Severity of the fatality:
33 people have died, more than 200 villages submerged either partially or fully and thousands have lost all their household belongings such as food grains, cloths, house hold articles etc. The affected suffered without shelter, food and even safe drinking water for many days. Though they were surrounded by flood water -- which is highly infected by micro organisms-- there was no safe water to drink because the water sources were either submerged or damaged or electric connections were cut off. Thousands of homes are either fully or partially damaged.
Rivers created severe havoc to the livelihoods of the people …..
The farmers lost their cattle, their lands are either highly eroded or silted up, the standing crops are destroyed or the shepherds’ community lost its sheep and goats. It is a great loss for the livelihoods of the people, for example: In Kurnool town 25 bullock cart owners, who were living on the banks of the river lost their carts and bullocks in the floods. Some horse-cart (jhatka) owners lost their horses. The floods have destroyed the looms and the saries of hundreds of weavers. Now they cannot earn their livelihoods and as a result the families have to face the consequences in the long run.
Spontaneous support from the General Public:
Surprisingly thousands of people from neighbouring villages, towns and districts voluntarily participated in the rescue operations by providing food, clothes and water instantaneously and exhibiting the unimaginable human response to the sufferings of the people. The people of Anantapur district, which is known for its usual backwardness, drought conditions, factional and murderous politics in recent years has shown unexceptional generosity and humanitarian behaviour during this calamity.
Many Corporate Companies, Business Groups, Trade Unions of the Government employees and working classes, even managements of Cable TV channels, News Papers, the political parties, the Film Industry circles etc are distributing readymade food items, food provisions, clothes, cooking utensils, rugs, medicines etc. The Relief Camps are run by mosque and temple committees apart from the government departments. The food is cooked and served in most of the religious centres.
Support from the Government and NGOs:
The government machinery is working hard to restore the normal conditions in the affected areas by removing the silted up mud from the streets, restoring the drinking water resources, electricity and communication systems. It has promised to provide about Rs.3 lakhs to the families of the persons who died during this calamity.
Many local and International NGOs are participating in the rescue and relief activities and some of them are in the process of planning long term rehabilitation activities.
Chaos / Disorder in distributing the Relief Material /Support:
Unfortunately, there are many issues in the rescue and relief activities because there is no systematic planning in the distribution system. It is unmanageable to understand who is giving and who is receiving it. Many people are getting support repeatedly again and again where as some weak / real sufferers are not receiving the support. The people living on roadsides, particularly in the Kurnool town are getting the lions share; more than 50% people receiving or snatching away the distributed materials are not real victims at all. Whenever a vehicle carrying relief material enters the affected towns or villages the unruly mobs stop them at the outskirts of the city itself and force the donors to distribute the materials. There is no record of who received the support and who didn‘t receive it. The police and volunteers are unable to regulate the mob and facilitate the distribution smoothly to the real sufferers or to differentiate between the real or bogus claimants. Some political party workers or activist groups who are overpowered by irresistible emotions are blindly supporting all the claimants without making any home work or assessment of the real victims. This kind of irrational or imbalanced support harms the interests of the real claimants. In some villages protest rallies, road blockades, demonstrations in front of the government officers /offices have become usual practice, to demand more compensation or support from the government.
Relief Activity is a Short term support:
The support so far given is of short term in nature which meets the immediate needs of survival in the form of food, water, clothes, medicines etc. This spontaneous support is very important because it gives instant relief to the needy / suffering victims. But it is temporary in nature. Most of the people and organisations involved in the relief activities are from the non-conventional voluntary organisations. They are emotionally got involved with instant servicer motive and distributing whatever they can themselves or whatever they could mobilise from their friends, relatives and the members of their colonies or circles. They cannot afford to continue the service in the long-run, where as the affected communities needs a hand holding support to restore back their livelihoods in the long run.
Restoration of Livelihoods is a Long term support:
The victims need a long term and systematic support which can only be useful to restore their livelihoods. Giving financial aid or relief service to any one sufferer or group of sufferers is an easier job relatively. But restoration of total normal conditions in the villages and towns and revitalization of the livelihood base in a rational manner is a long term matter and it is a gigantic task. In reality no one can restore back the livelihoods over night or in a short time. The restoration work, to be effective, should pass through many phases such as need assessment, Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), Micro Action Plan Preparation, Implementation etc.
Restoration of the livelihoods by assisting to prepare Micro Action Plans:
The restoration the normal living conditions and livelihood base in the villages is a slow process. Nobody has a magic stick to bring about alter the damage overnight. This can be achieved by good planning and coordination with all the stake holders, CBOs, Donors, the concerned Government Departments and NGOs, Bankers etc. Different kinds of restoration Micro Action Plans should be prepared for all the affected people and villages, at the family, group and village and Gram Panchayat level. Appropriate plans should be prepared to reclaim the damaged agriculture lands, water bodies, drinking water sources, schools, houses and other public properties and amenities. These plans can be prepared in a rational manner only through intensive consultations with the victims and by conducting need assessments by using the PRA tools. The professional community organisers, subject experts, technical persons can only prepare the appropriate operational plans for the restoration work.
The experienced and conventional NGOs have the required skills personnel to prepare the rehabilitation action plans. The NGOs which have successfully implemented the projects related to Natural Resources Management, Water and Sanitation Promotion, Watershed Development, Livelihood promotion etc should be identified and they should be assigned the job of rehabilitation.
Planning is prerequisite to regulate the support coming from different sources and to avoid the duplication and mismanagement:
Earlier experiences show that the resources intended for relief and rehabilitation was mismanaged because there was no control over the support available, there were no regulatory /monitoring mechanisms to know the quantity of the support being extended and who is giving it. As a result some victims received the support from different sources for the same cause where as weaker and innocent did not receive the support at all.
Social Watch / Regulation by Peoples Monitoring Committees (PMCs) on the relief and rehabilitation activities:
The affected communities should have complete knowledge about the support available from various sources and have the right to regulate the duplication of the support. The affected communities should be empowered or assisted to form Peoples Monitoring Committees to work as Watch Dog Committees to regulate the support and see that the support is reached the deserved communities only.
Capacity Building of the victims in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of rehabilitation action plans:
ALSE has plans to build up the capacities of the affected communities, so that they participate in the rehabilitation action plans as active partners but not as just beneficiaries in a passive manner. The capacity building will check up the mismanagement and duplication of the support.The capacity building will enable them to participate in need assessment, planning process, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the of action plans.
Formation of Peoples Monitoring Committees:
ALSE would like to form Peoples Monitoring Committees to make sure that the relief and rehabilitation work is effectively implemented and mismanagement of the resources is arrested. So it feels that PMC should be formed at the village / GP / Mandal and District level.
The PMC members will be trained by ALSE to make them participate in the rehabilitation work actively as well as to lobby with the government on their genuine needs and concerns.
Capacity Building to the Disaster Management Teams:
ALSE feels that one of the reasons for the severity of the damage is that there is no preparedness to handle or face the floods. Either the government officials or the vulnerable village communities were trained or equipped to deal with such harsh floods. There was no effective human mechanism to warn or train the people in advance to face the flood situations. So ALSE strongly feels that there is a need to provide intensive training in disaster management to the selected / committed youth from the affected villages, so that in future the trained youth will work as Disaster Management Teams and take necessary precautionary measures to warn the vulnerable communities and prepare them in advance to face the flood situations safely and keep up the damage at the minimum levels
The proposed trainings would be provided to the leaders of the communities, CBOs, elected representatives of the PRIs and village level officials.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Harsh Floods to Krishna River created havoc to the livelihoods of the people …..

Nature is Furious because we are handling it in an irresponsible manner
It is very painful to discuss about the unimaginable heavy floods caused by Krishna River in Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh, India and the sufferings of the masses, mainly the poor who are residing closer to its banks. Though heavy rain is the main cause of this devastation, irresponsible management, inappropriate preparedness to deal with unexpected hazards of this kind and inadequate cooperation between the managers of the major dams of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh states to deal with the floods is equally responsible.

So far about 63 people have died, more than 500 villages are submerged and thousands have lost their belongings including cattle and homes. The affected are suffering without shelter, food and even safe drinking water. Thousands of people from neighboring villages and towns are voluntarily participating in the rescue operations by providing food, clothes and water instantaneously and exhibiting the unimaginable human response to the sufferings of the people.
Our organization, Mass Education is planning Rehabilitation Action Plan in collaboration with the local NGOs. Five NGOs have decided to form Rehabilitation Group. This group will make a rapid assessment of the dire needs of the victimized communities and try to extend its support on priority basis to those who lost their livelihood base and shelter. We feel that it takes years to rehabilitate these victims. We need the support of National and International Agencies, Individuals to take up this gigantic task. We will approach the donors after making the status appraisal.
Khasim, Mass Education

Saturday, October 3, 2009

'Pancha Maha Bhoota' is an ancient concept /philosophy.

In this article I would like to use the term ‘Panchabhuta’ as a synonym to Paryavaran (a Hindi word, which means Environment /ecology), because it has strong roots in the Indian cultural / religious / spiritual background.

The Indian public is more familiar with this word rather than any other recent terminology used for Environment. ‘Pancha’ means five; ‘Maha’ means great and Bhoota means Life Sustaining Element. Panchabhuta is a Sanskrit word meaning five classical elements or constituents. According to ancient Indian Philosophy, the universe is composed of panchabhutas. Even the body (whether it is human or animal body) and all kinds of foods are derived from this. Prithvi/Bhumi (earth), Apa /Jala (water), Agni / Tejas (fire), Vayu / Pavan (Air / Wind), and Akasha (Ether / Space) are the five elements of panchabhuta. These elements are kept in a certain balance in the universe and the body. Deviations from this balance ends in natural disasters, and diseases in the body.

Just like the human invented Gods, the ‘Panchabhutas’, are omnipresent (universal), omnipotent (all powerful) and seemingly omniscient (all knowing). All these exceptional characteristics of the Panchabhutas are attributed to Gods by our spiritual leaders. The only difference between the Gods and The Panchabhutas is that, one can see, touch or feel the presence of the Panchabhutas whereas nobody has seen the Gods except some fictitious sages in the ethics or puranas.

Apart from Hinduism, many ancient philosophies like the Buddhist, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic philosophies etc have used a set of archetypal classical elements to explain patterns in nature. In this context, the word element refers to a substance that is either a chemical compound or a mixture of chemical compounds

Aristotle, Plato, Socraties have also mentioned extensively about these classical elements

Lord Krishna says in Bagawad Gita,

“My existence is eight fold like earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect and ego.”

Bhumir - apo - analo vayu kam mano
Bhudhireva cha
Ahankara Idiyam me binna
Prakruthiashtadha (Gita - 7.4)

The Universe manifests through these five elements or great cosmic energies. The universe exists in perfect balance. The five elements are the powers responsible for creation, protection, destruction, disappearance and appearance. The material existence of the cosmos is the earth.

From the Atharvaveda (XII: 1.1, 1.3, 1.6, 1.27,
Translation from Dwivedi and Tiwari 1987):

The earth is our mother, Aditi is cause of birth, and Space is our brother. May these all save us from sin. Sky is our father. May he be auspicious to us in our faults with forefathers. Let me not fall from the world by offending against relatives.

Truth, the great and fierce cosmic law, vow, penance, the ultimate truth bear the earth. She, wife of past and future, may make a wide space for us.
From whom ocean, rivers and waters, food and fields have come into existence (are born). The whole world comes to life in her breathing and moving. May earth give such to us.
Let us behave in accordance with the earth, treasure of all and mother of herbs, the firm earth bore by the truth and which is the auspicious seat.
Khasim, Mass Education