20 June 2013, New Delhi
Yesterday, I was watching TV while lazing during late evening. As I didn't want to watch a movie, I browsed through the channels. Every news channel was covering the Uttarakhand (UK) floods, showing how Kedarnath and Rishikesh had the maximum damage due to the horrendous rains last week.
As I browsed more, Leader of opposition was cursing Vijay Bahuguna (CM of UK) for carelessness due to which many lives were lost. Another showing news hour debate with Arnav Goswamy where clueless and illogical reasons were given by political parties to cover the lapses.
As the power switched to backup at my home , the cable went off and in that moment of silence I realized that even if one is at fault other is doing nothing positive but only criticizing the other. So all blame that BJP didn't do a thing, neither did Congress in their governance and VHP said that god showed their angerness because we made the Teerth into Tourism spots.. WHO WOULD ACT...
The Morning Teaser
Today on the way to the office, I noticed that traffic was heavy on Geeta Colony flyover. A lot of vehicles had stopped to experience Yamuna river which looks like a drain throughout the year. I pulled over near the bridge so that my wife could hand over biscuit packets that we had in my car. As my wife rolled down the window to hand over packets, within seconds there were more hands to ask than to give. Understanding the situation that many hands came in to snatch the biscuits, I rolled up the window to secure her.
I stepped out from my car to distribute the rest of the packets. As I moved closer to the pavement, children came over me, stepped on my shoes with their wet muddy feet to get just one packet to satisfy their hunger. It was difficult to order those children to get in a queue since they were busy pulling my shirt for that one packet.
As expected the sound for "Ek mujhe do na Uncle" couldn't last more as I was empty handed soon. Many eyes were in disbelief that they didn't even get one!!
As we started for office, we noticed the impressions of muddy hands on side window. Surprisingly I was not bothered with the stained glass today, which has made me furious all these years.
As the afternoon grew, I decided to get more packets to keep in my car. I went out during the lunch and bought big packs of packets that I felt would be enough if decided to distribute biscuits again.
The Good Samaritans
On the way home, I decided to distribute biscuits to the displaced families on the Yamuna banks. We pulled over on the Nizamuddin bridge near some tents. Applying the lesson learnt from this morning, I decided not to stop my car in front of those tents and stopped some 30 metres ahead.
I stepped out and noticed three Civil Defence Volunteers eating some snacks. I approached them and asked about the current situation. I was sad to know the no help / relief has been sent to this side of the river. Only 10 tents were sent yesterday and there were around 200 affected families.
As they asked me where I was from, I told them that I had come to distribute biscuits and need their help to do so.They hurried up with their snacks and got up from where they were seating. They were excited to do the real work.
I brought packs from the car and handed one each to all of them. They said that they were happy to help the needy since they have been sitting idle since morning. Because the families had no water to drink, they stopped traffic and blocked the roads for half an hour. After SHO's intervention and some assurances they went back to their huts and tents.
One of these guys suggested that we should go along the river, off road to distribute the packets and also to see the real situation which can't be seen from the road. I agreed and started following them. As we walked, children noticed the yellow packets in the transparent polythene pack that each one of us had in our hand tightly held.
The Action Begins
One of the guy opened the pack and started distributing the packets, as everyone noticed that something is being distributed, rush came to him. I stepped moving backward unknowingly that i was moving back on the road towards the traffic. suddenly i heard someone saying "Bhai saab aap idhar aa jaiye, sadak pe mat jaiye". A cop suddenly came on the road to escort me to the pavement.
As I noticed the growing crowd, I realized that these packs won't last long, I rushed back to the car to bring rest of the packs. My wife wanted to come along so we locked the car and hurried towards the Volunteers carrying all the packs.
Surprisingly, packets were distributed from only one pack. Rest of the two were still holding their packs. Volunteers probably knew how to handle crowd and they didn't fall easily to the every asking hand. They asked me how I wanted to distribute the packets. I told them "Jaisa bhi aapko theek lage" (as you like).
He suggested to give two packets per tent. I nodded my head in complete obedience and started walking with him. Crowd of children still followed asking for one but the guy was firm and didn't heed to the children.
As me and my wife walked along the river following the volunteers with kids encircling all of us, I noticed that there were many families which one can't notice from the road. Elders started coming towards us telling their problems to which one of the guy said "Ye sarkaari nahin hai, bhaiyya ji aapki madad karna chaah rahe hain, Humne soochna de di hai, khaana aur paani ka tanker jald hi aayega" (this is not from the government, brother is trying to help you. We have informed, food and water tanker will come soon.
As agreed the guy started distributing packets in each tent. Soon we were surrounded by adults who tried to tell us their problems even though the volunteers told them they we are not from the government.
Here comes the SHOCKER
As we walked further, I was surprised to see that families their had buffaloes, tractors, gas stoves. Out of curiosity, I asked sanjay (name changed) about what this is all about:
Me: What do you do here?
Sanjay: We do farming here. Please see my tractor is submerged. My other equipments are also under water
Me: This is riverbed. From where you get this land?
Sanjay: Bhai sahab, we pay Rs 5000-6000 rent per year. The land is given per bigha (indian measurement for land)
Me: Do you get any raseed (receipt) for the rent you pay?
Sanjay: Nahin, bhai sahab.
It was clear from this conversation that they have been illegally settled by authorities/responsible people who were taking money from them. We can't blame these innocent people who have settled here for opportunities but what about those culprits who despite knowing the risk have pushed these people close to death.
Meeting the Entrepreneur
As we were moving out, someone called me from back "Hanji Bhai Sahab". As I turned, a man in his late 30's who was nicely dressed in Jeans and Tees came walking towards me. He started just like that:
Man: We need water tankers here. People don't have water to drink
Me: Yeah, these volunteers told me that. Why are you here?
Man: Oh me!! I own this nursery (pic below)
Me: I thought these lands were illegal. How come you have a nursery here?
Man: Well government has given these lands on lease to us. They were given on 30-40 years lease. Now they have stopped giving any fresh lease. This side is legal and is not under the riverbed area.
Me: How come water reached on this side?
Man: During some recent works by the agencies, a JBC damaged the barrier and that's how water has reached on the other side where our nurseries are.
With all this, we walked out. Just before getting in the car, I thanked all the volunteers for their help. They were humble and cheerful while helping. Our country needs more selfless people like them who dedicate themselves fully to the needy.
This is for the government but we also need to introspect, what we need to do, what our roles are, what our contribution would be. It is easy to crib and curse the government and officials for their faults but difficult to get up to our moral responsibility as a nation.
Apne andar ke Hindustani Ko Jagaana hai !!!