A wave of sympathy

Print edition : February 11, 2005

FOR a city known for its philanthropy, it was only natural to respond with alacrity to the suffering of the victims of the December 26 tsunami.

No sooner had the enormity of the tragedy become clear than contributions began pouring into the Chief Minister's Relief Fund. Within 24 hours of the tsunami strike, various associations and unions handed over cheques and demand drafts to District Collector S. Kosalaraman.

On December 27, various private and trust hospitals, such as the Kovai Medical Centre and Hospital, the PSG Hospital, the Ramakrishna Hospital and the G. Kuppusamy Naidu Memorial Hospital, despatched medical teams to the coastal districts of Cuddalore and Nagapattinam. KG Hospital despatched its team on December 26 itself.

Many of Coimbatore's top companies have come forward to adopt orphaned children and construct houses for the affected families. PSG and Sons' Charities proposed to construct 100 houses in a village in Nagapattinam district. The trust also plans to adopt 15 orphaned children and provide them shelter, food and education at the PSG and Sons' Children's Home.

Auto component major Roots Industries has also sent a proposal to adopt 40 children, according to company sources. Similarly, Professional Couriers, the courier services company, and Sabols, the mineral water firm, have expressed their desire to adopt 10 children each. The Associated Cement Companies and Madukkarai Cement Works have donated Rs.1 crore to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund, apart from contributing a day's pay of the workers of the company. Lakshmi Machine Works Ltd. (LMW) and Pricol donated clothing material valued at Rs.4 lakhs. Other contributions came from companies such as Revathy Engineering, Yuvaraj, V.R. Foundries, Raj Fabs, Ramalakshmi Trust, Sumo Motors, Rama Vilas, Tirupur Exports, Hi-Tech Mineral, and SIMTA Group Company.

The Coimbatore Chapter of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) despatched six truckloads of relief materials. A release from Krishna Samraj, chairman of the CII's Coimbatore zone, said that besides relief materials, it donated Rs.10 lakhs, collected in just two days. A CII team was in the coastal districts overseeing the relief operations. Personnel from Bank of India's Coimbatore zonal office sent relief materials worth Rs.2 lakhs. Members of the Coimbatore Wet Grinders and Accessories Manufacturers' Association donated materials worth Rs.3 lakhs, including medicines, to victims in Nagapattinam and Velankanni. A demineralising plant has been shifted from Salem to Nagapattinam for providing safe drinking water.

In a unique endeavour, Coimbatoreans, at the initiative of local corporates, set up KARAM (Kovai Aid for Rehabilitation and Motivation) soon after the tsunami struck. This volunteer group, according to Sri Sakthi Textiles chief executive Shankar Vanavarayar, which was formed almost instantaneously, is not just another rehabilitation programme but a permanent group represented by all members of Coimbatore society. It aims at developing an integrated programme to deal with any disaster. Says Pricol executive director Vanitha Mohan: "This assumes importance particularly since Coimbatore is in the seismic zone." KARAM, according to her, should serve as a social insurance for Coimbatoreans against any untoward incident.

Help to the tsunami victims came from diverse sources. For instance, students and staff from the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham Deemed University, near Coimbatore, assisted in the relief operations in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam. According to a university press release, truckloads of rice and other food items, emergency supplies, medicines and clothes were sent to Chennai, where the Mata Amritanandamayi Mutt has been providing food to 18,000 people daily since the disaster. The mutt, which has committed Rs.100 crores for relief and rehabilitation, provided potable water, blankets, sarees and dhotis, among other essentials. Further, the Amrita Kuteeram scheme, under which the mutt has already built 30,000 houses all over the country for the poor and needy, would be extended to the tsunami survivors.

The Isha Foundation plans to adopt 120 affected villages in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam districts. According to a release, the foundation's head Jaggi Vasudev has drawn up long-term rehabilitation plans. Eight mobile health clinics with an allopathic physician and a paramedical support team of four each were providing medical care every day to nearly 4,000 villages in the affected areas, the release added.

As could be expected, officers at the Indian Air Force station at Sulur near Coimbatore doubled up to launch rescue operations. "Even those on leave volunteered to join the efforts," says Wing Commander B.S. Yadav, Flight Commander, 33 Squadron. Six An-32 transport planes and an equal number of helicopters were pressed into service to rescue stranded people in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, the Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari, the Sri Lankan coast and the Maldives.

Coimbatore was easily able to raise a volunteer force of college students. A group of National Service Scheme volunteers from the Park College of Engineering and Technology at Kaniyur helped the victims in Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam and Velankanni for three days and distributed clothes and food to them. Some 36 postgraduate social work students of the CSI Bishop Appasamy College, Coimbatore, conducted relief camps at Kuthenkuly, Keelamanakudi and Radhapuram in Tirunelveli district from January 7 to 16. The Shri Nehru Maha Vidyalaya College of Arts and Science and Institute of Management Studies despatched a 30-member team with relief materials to the affected areas. The PSG Institute of Medical Science and Research sent a 22-member team comprising students and doctors to Nagapattinam. The team, led by Dr. R. Meera, treated victims for bruises, lacerations and fractures, and gave counselling to help them recover from the trauma.

The district administration despatched relief materials and money got from diverse sources. A `Tsunami Rescue Team' of the City Corporation, comprising councillors led by Deputy Mayor K. Raghupathy, was despatched to the affected areas with clothes, medicines, utensils and other materials, by Mayor T. Malaravan, Commissioner Anil Meshram, and Deputy Commissioner M. Rahim. The District Rural Development Agency sent five truckloads of relief materials to Nagapattinam district, according to Programme Officer P. Jayabalakrishnan.

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