India Uncut

This blog has moved to its own domain. Please visit for the all-new India Uncut and bookmark it. The new site has much more content and some new sections, and you can read about them here and here. You can subscribe to full RSS feeds of all the sections from here. This blogspot site will no longer be updated, except in case of emergencies, if the main site suffers a prolonged outage. Thanks - Amit.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Despatches 19: The three levels of public aid

Dr Mahendra, after I finish speaking to him about the government, tells me about the private aid workers.

“If you come here without a plan and a vision for what you want to achieve, there is no point in coming at all. Volunteers who just land up wanting to help but not coordinating their efforts may end up doing more harm than good. They could actually make the situation worse.” I think of Srinivasu and nod.

“Thankfully,” he continues, “there are some NGOs that are doing wonderful work. They have come here with a purpose, and it shows in the way they go about their work.”

The organisation he refers to in particular is DYFI – the Democratic Youth Federation of India. DYFI is a grassroots level organisation, and it has hordes of volunteers who have panned out all across the state. Dr Narasimhan, the doctor who was doing such a brave job at Nagapattinam, is one of them. DYFI suffers from the drawback of not having a high profile and, consequently, having rather low funds. But AID India takes care of that. [Update (Feb 4, 2005): Please read this clarification.]

AID India, an organisation I can’t praise highly enough for their unflagging relief work in the state, have taken a pragmatic approach, tying up with anyone who shares their vision and work ethic. They have adopted two villages in this area, Pudupettai and Pudukubbam, in association with DYFI and another group called SFI – Students Federation of India. One of their coordinators, Muthu Kumar, showed me a document all the team leaders have been given, the text of an email from their leader in Tamil Nadu, Balaji Sampath. The document lists three levels of relief work. I don’t have a copy of that document, but let me briefly paraphrase what those three levels are:

Level one – Providing immediate emergency necessities like food, drinking water, medicine, shelter etc.

Level two – Building them huts and houses to live in and looking after their health needs.

Level three – Giving the affected people back their livelihood, which could involve buying boats for the fishermen who have lost everything, forming cooperatives so they can compete better in the markerplace etc.

AID’s work at the two villages has now reached level two – although much of the affected areas are still struggling through level one – and they intend to keep at it until level three is completed. “How long are you guys planning to stay here,” I ask.

“We have planned for six months,” says Muthu Kumar. “But we will stay for as long as it takes.”

Note – In case you plan to donate, note that level three is the critical phase of relief work, without which these people cannot be said to have been truly rehabilitated, and very few organisations have that kind of long-term vision. AID India is the organisation to support, and if you are anywhere in India and wish to volunteer, get in touch with them. Their website is here.
amit varma, 2:10 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage

I recommend: