20-Jun-13. 4:00 am. Prithviraj Nagar, Uttarakhand
Photo credit: Neil Curry/Saritha Thomas
Isolated from the outside world due to disappearing roads and dangerous landslides – Prithviraj Nagar, People’s P.ow.e.r Collective’s home base in Uttarakhand, tries to come to terms with the magnitude of the devastation caused by the monsoon – said to be the most severe in the last 88 years!! There are no working means of transport, food and water supplies are running low and phone signals are weak. Yet, the spirit is very much one of “Keep Calm and Carry On”.
Here is a detailed update from People’s Power Collective’s team who are currently based in Prithviraj Nagar.
Merely 20 kms from Chandrapuri, Rudraprayag (where 400 homes have been swept away!), the mood is very low in the village. Though we are located at the top of the hill, and have escaped flooding, the local community has lost more than what one can imagine. Most of the families here have members working as labourers/vendors in the holy city of Kedarnath during the season of religious pilgrimage. The havoc wrecked by the floods has left them with no news about their loved ones!
Our immediate neighbours – a simple Nepali immigrant family – have no news of their three adult sons. Their parents have set out on foot this morning, with nothing but a packet of rotis, to hunt for their missing sons, leaving their 9 year old daugher in the care of their pregnant daughter-in-law whose husband is one of those missing.
The phone lines are very weak, and it is hard to reach anyone. There is absolutely no internet access. Relief efforts are slowly getting under way. About 15 minutes from Chandrapuri, in Agastya Muni, the Indian Government has organized air-lifts for the ‘yatris’ or pilgrims back to the safety of the nearest city.
The roads have all been washed away. We ourselves had a minor scare this week, with the rain water threatening to enter our homes (technically, the home of our host, Manvendra-ji). Along with the locals, we managed to dig out a little make-shift canal from the kachha road, and divert the water into the forest. We have, fortunately, had a brief respite from the rains for the last couple of days. There is just about enough water and food for everyone here. No vegetables/fruits are coming up from the village, but we are managing with whatever can be sourced from the local farms. Our hosts Manvendraji, Uma didi and even little Rishabh, are doing the best they can to keep us safe and secure.
Amidst this calamity however, we are incredibly fortunate to come across real life heroes… it is as if the whole village is very slowly coming together to help one another. They have indeed lost lives and property, but the human spirit still battles on.
Jagmohan Jinkwan .. a resident of Chandrapuri and owner of a grocery store, has lost almost everything he possessed, in the floods. However, instead of grieving, he has set up a little relief area along with his brother, and is using his very last reserves to cook and feed the neediest. This has inspired other villagers also, to contribute with whatever little they can spare.
‘This is my role’, he says, ‘to do whatever help I can do’.
Many travellers from Rajasthan have come up the village road, in an attempt to escape the floods. The village has come together to kindly offer them shelter and food, of whatever they can spare.
Some of the villagers are volunteering enthusiastically to share real-life-stories of both destruction and hope, in the programs that we are recording together with our local partner NGO (Mandakini Ki Awaaz). As we do not yet have a broadcasting license, we are narrow-casting these programs by taking the content from house to house.
Manvendraji, Amol, Saritha, Shweta
Obviously, our training programmes have been temporarily postponed as people are unable to travel, the weather is still harsh and the mood is very low. However, we are still making the best of this time and connecting with our community and getting to know them better. We are also working towards connecting the villagers with the relevant local authorities for information and help.
Pic courtesy: Neil Curry/Saritha Thomas
As for us … this was always going to be a life-changing experience, but these are aspects of rural life that we never thought we’d see so soon into our project. Yes, it is tough, but we are also grateful to be a part of this community, at a time like this.
There is currently not much information on TV about this particular village/community. Please feel free to share our story in your own channels, networks and immediate groups. We will keep you posted whenever possible.
Signing off for now,
Saritha, Shwetha & Amol
People’s P.ow.e.r Collective