Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Flood Relief Work at Bihar..... An Experience

First, I would like to mention that the flood in Bihar is not a normal flood at all. A river has shifted its course in this biggest ever disaster Bihar has seen. It needs a deeper understanding before thinking of any kind of relief or rehabilitation work.

I visited Bihar to understand those issues and what problems the people of Bihar are facing. In the media though there were news, which stated about the flood and the river shifting its course, I never was aware of the magnitude of the disaster. On the first day when I reached at Saharsa, I thought of visiting the Mega Camps which government has organized in and around Saharsa, The camp I visited had a population of about 2600 people in it where there were arrangements for food, medicine and shelter for the people. However, the people were not happy with the distribution and the way the camp operated, but still that was a well managed and properly arranged camp. I started to think about why there are many requirements, when the people are properly taken care in a shelter in the camps? I thought I might probably get the answer in the next couple of days in which I would be staying here and interacting with people. I interacted with Ranjana [women at the camp who had a story to tell about why she is here today? She lost her husband to the river. Likewise, there were many Ranjana’s and many more stories.

We on the next morning planned to conduct a medical camp at deep in the district where any NGO’s or the Government aid has not reached. We earlier identified the blocks and the panchayats we could possibly work together. That day we went to Kishanpur Panchayat along with 6 doctors [who were a part of Lion’s Club team] and a few more volunteers. The local volunteers took care of the arrangements of the camp at the village Bhajanpatti. We were exactly located on the bank of a place where we could only see water all around. Its one of the most affected areas through which the river was flowing earlier. Still the water over there was finding its way to drain down. The local volunteers took care of the responsibility of brining in people from the villages using the boat and local volunteers. When they went in the boat to bring in people then I understood that there are many of such villages spread all across the water, where still people are surviving. They are not in a state where they are willing to leave their village and move on to the camp. The reasons are the following.

  • A person who has his / her house at the village was finding very difficult to leave that place where they have cultivated and farmed.
  • The mega camps can only provide shelter for a particular amount of time and after that.
  • People who had their cattle over there were never moved out and they were more worried upon their cattle as that are the income generating source they have.
  • Most of people don’t even come to the mega camp, which would provide them a place to stay.

We checked more than 850 villagers that day at the camp. It covered 5 villages of Kishanpur Panchayat namely Surmaha, Pama, Kishanpur, Bhajanpatti and Paharpur.

The next day morning the doctor’s team left to Kanp for their medical camp and I went to Triveniganj area for relief material distribution, which we got with us and to interact with the local people. Our coordinator Rajesh guided us, and it was shocking to see the water flowing like a river on the agricultural land. The land where the water has recited is filled with sand and some lands were with water, which had a lot of algae and other things, which gave a bad smell. This is just the story of the villages on the banks of the flowing river. We reached a canal in which there was a stream of Kosi flowing earlier and with this flood the canal broke and the water went into all the villages on the left end of the canal. Fortunately Triveniganj town escaped from this. Most of the roads were broken and is filled with water and when we got down the canal we could see an ocean in front of us where some boats were operated.

I got to know that there are tents for about a stretch of 120 KM by the village people on the banks of the canal [both sides] who have came from the villages inside the current ocean. Kosi was flowing with lot of anger and current in front of them. The agricultural lands were filled with the silt spitted by Kosi. Army men were operating boats at shift basis to distribute relief materials brought by NGO’s deep into the village. There are a lot many people still in the villages deep in the areas that are trying to protect themselves from the flowing water. With water all around them for more than a month now, some are dieing because of the disease spread there. It’s really pathetic that the government relief materials have not even reached the people on the banks of the canal where people are starving for food. They rush whenever they see a truck or van running on the road imagining that they may get at least a pack of biscuit or a piece of bread. These two lac or more people on the bank have survived with the help of the local people and the army men who’ve rescued them from the village. They all are carrying a high hope that one day the water will recite and they’ll move back to their village, but the question is what will they do over there? There is no chance for agriculture at least for the next two years after the water recitation as the lands is with silt. The silt thickness is more than half a foot by now. Most of the cattle’s died / got carried away by the water. Those who have cattle’s in the village are finding difficult to feed them now as they are surrounded with water. Cattle’s are also dieing because of the diseases spreading.

It was hard for me to talk to the villagers there. They were so kind enough to ask for a cup of tea, though they were starving to death. I have no words to express the gesture they had for us, but I couldn’t find what I can do for them. They all have lost something or the other. They all were so normal with a whole lot of pain in them, which were visible only after we started to talk to them. Otherwise people will find them normal and don’t even realize that they’ve been affected. Millions of thanks to the NGO’s and volunteers who’ve and are trying to keep faith and hope in the people. It’s a shame on the government that they are helpless and pointing fingers on others for the entire disaster.

If something has to be done, it’s not just giving clothes or food or shelter to them temporarily, it’s the long time rehabilitation and livelihood back to them once the water gets recited.

I would also thank to the people of Bihar for being so kind. I had a different picture about them before I went there and now I have an entirely different picture for them. There is loads of respect from me for them.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

நிஜம்

விரைவில் வருகிறது....

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Siksha Adhoori.... [Education Incomplete....]

That morning he had a class test. He knew that he hadn’t prepared for it at all. He prayed to GOD that the teacher should not come to school so that the test automatically get cancelled which he knew that it had a very less probability. Still he made up his mind that he would go in and give the test and manage to see what happens after that. Suddenly something sparkled in his mind and he remembered the India Australia One Day match that day. Though he was aware that India would loose the match, but yet he couldn’t resist himself to choose for the match between his match v test contest. He also remembered the other day when he skipped the match for the test. He didn’t do the test well and because of that he was badly scolded by his teacher. He hated his routine tests every week. He decided to sit and watch the match. One of the most common reasons he had to take a leave was loose motion. That day also he did the same and took an off to the school and enjoyed the match. At the end of the day India lost as he predicted and also the teacher didn’t come to school. Alas!... the entire fun of the day went off…..

This is one page from my Diary and if I turn back the pages of my diaries I can find ‘n’ number of such stupid but interesting stories. I hope every reader here might have even more interesting stories to tell…. When deeply assessed the problem is not just the exam which I feared about, it is the post mortem which will happen after the exam which feared me…… some how I felt treacherous to myself at times. Without confusing too much I would straight away take you to the issue which I want to discuss here :) , it’s about the educational system followed in the school.

Generally there is a feel that children are mischievous and they can be made disciplined only by a proper way of bringing them up. This thought is there at both school and at the house, but many hardly fail to understand that children are children. They are supposed to do what they want to do and we have no right to stop them doing it. A child start to learn things from the very next day it comes on this earth. The child knows when to cry, when to laugh and to whom it should pass smile. When we are not the ones who introduce these senses to them, then why we try to teach them common sense [rather we should learn it now :P]. Now after the parents its time for the school….

School is the place where children mentor’s themselves (I really mean it). I feel teachers should play a role in making the children mentor themselves rather than they play a mentor’s role. Most of our school education has routine classes where a teacher teaches a fixed curriculum and they never bother about what the child needs at all [A few exceptions are there but I’m talking about the majority]. What they all feel is if the child gets a mark of more than 90 in a subject, then his education has been wonderful and he is brilliant. No… that’s not at all the thing!!!!..There are much more….. I never see an open space for the children to express themselves. By children I mean a student studying in class KG - Class XII…… There is no open forum where he can talk or discuss about what he feels… We’ve always heard and seen teacher’s judge on the children who don’t pay attention to studies. We’ve really had a very few teacher’s with us who identifies what else interest that particular child.

For me education means not just learning a few subjects, it’s about imparting a moral value in a person where he / she develops himself / herself as a personality and make others reflect on them….. Our entire system of school has just compressed the life of a child into a classroom with four walls and a blackboard and yes not to forget the two hours in a week Physical Training period where we get to go beyond the bounded wall….. Every lecture was for one hour, where a few teacher’s were extremely supreme in making the children scare on them on their entry [usually people gets scared only on Villain’s entry on screen]. There were a few teachers’s who made their class a very pleasant space to be and a few made the children sleep as well…… Some of the teacher’s reflected their frustrations from home on the children….. All these makes a child to think a few things in the class [at lease I defend these points from my point of view only]…..

1. When will the recess bell ring…
2. When will the lunch period begin….
3. When will I reach back home….

I also remember we all used to stand up when the teacher comes in and when they walk out. It’s an honor which we pay to the people who are making us….. And it should come from the child’s heart, but in most of the cases our adoration came in on compulsion……

Teachers should be learners….. They should keep exploring the possibility of innovative and interesting things which interests children. Recently I got to meet a teacher who teaches class I in a school [name with held :)], and I was interacting with her on education and how school should be and what are the practices which we can bring in by innovative education etc. She was hearing all the stories….interestingly :). Finally I was sharing about some of the interesting books like John Holt’s Escape from Childhood, Instead of Education.. Books like Divaswapna, Tho-tho chan which shares about the introspectiveness of children and innovative education and learning. After hearing all these things she replied “I’m sorry, I might sound rude but I don’t want to read all these things and you are going over bored by advising me”. I was shell shocked and I really felt pity for those children who she’ll be teaching. If a teacher is not ready to learn about things which the children needs and can’t adjust to it then what will they do at the school? I just felt that the teacher is in fact seriously ruining a couple of futures.

Finally to conclude on, Today is teacher’s day but how many of us called back or wished our teacher’s who put in efforts to make us what we are today?..... Only a very few of us, wishes a very few of our teachers, nevertheless we wish all our friends on friendship day and on their birthdays too… We always have a habit of doing back things, and we call it as reciprocation, and in fact Newton’s third law too says every action has an equal and opposite reaction [though logically fits the discussion, but technically not], but have we ever reciprocated something for our teachers????...have we ever reached them back and thanked them???...... Then what is the education we got or what the education the system has given?. We all are a part of educated illiterate……. When we are educated illiterates then “hamaari Siksha hi adhoori” [our education is incomplete]……