People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 42

October 18, 2009

AP FLOOD HAVOC

CPI(M) Plunges Into Relief Work



CPI(M) leaders serving food to the flood victims in Vijayawada

 

N S Arjun

 

IN the wake of the unprecedented floods in the state of Andhra Pradesh and the state government's utterly tardy response, the people were virtually left to fend for themselves. They were supported in this hour of crisis by fellow citizens, voluntary groups and some political parties, including the CPI(M). Due to lack of adequate warning, most of the people in the worst affected districts of Kurnool and Mahabubnagar had to rush out of their homes, leaving their everything behind. And all that they left behind was destroyed in the complete inundation of their homes, villages and towns. Hundreds of thousands of people – including the old, the women, the children – needed to be taken care of, provided food, clothes. More importantly, they needed to be protected from the expected outbreak of diseases in such situations by restoring sanitation.

 

But the government machinery did not rise to the occassion. It was totally absent in most of the affected areas as even a week later all the roads in the towns and villages are still under water, with layers of slush, stenching smell with carcasses, drainage water etc. The people who came back to their homes after the receding of flood waters waited in vain for the authorities to clear this. In such a situation, hundreds of CPI(M) cadre swung into work with shovels and other implements to clear the roads and bylanes of the huge amount of mud and all other clogged up waste. This was done as part of the “Shrama Danam” programme which was launched by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and state secretary B V Raghavulu in Kurnool town on October 6. He along with CPI(M) Central Committee member and former MLA from this constituency, M A Gafoor participated in the clean up operation in a few localities of Kurnool along with hundreds of other cadre. The work was painstaking and also dangerous in view of the unremitting stench. Later he toured most of the affected areas and interacted with the people. Given the scale of damage, Raghavulu demanded that the central government should immediately declare this a national calamity and step up the relief effort. He attacked the state government for its lackadaisical effort at providing relief to the suffering people.

 

With the CPI(M) state committee giving a public call on October 5, 2009 for aiding the flood victims, hundreds of Party cadre from other districts like Ranga Reddy, Hyderabad and Anantapur, reached the affected areas and participated in the “Shrama Danam”. Other Central Committee members P Ramaiah, S Punyavati, P Madhu, Mallu Swarajyam and state secretariat members personally directed the relief effort in various affected areas. Around 30 leaders working from the state centre of the Party and various mass organisations plunged into the relief work. All the leaders of the Party extensively toured the affected areas, met the people, consoled them and enquired from them their necessities. They intervened with the administration to get these done to the extent possible.

 

Alampur town, situated at the confluence of Tungabhadra and Krishna rivers in Mahabubnagar  district, was almtotally submerged in these floods throwing the nearly 20,000 population of the town on to the streets. This famous town, also known as the Dakshina Kailasam, is home to many temples dating back to the sixth and seventh centuries.  A team of around 125 CPI(M) workers from the districts of Ranga Reddy and Mahabubnagar undertook the clean-up work under the leadership of state secretariat member Y Venkateshwar Rao for five days from October 9. The chief minister K Rosaiah during his tour of flood affected regions appreciated the CPI(M) work in Alampur town. The CPI(M) MLA J Ranga Reddy participated in the Shrama Danam in Guntur district.


Party Anantapur district secretary along with cadre removing the slush from the streets of Kurnool

Apart from clearing up the clogged streets and bylanes, the CPI(M) relief effort also comprised of setting up community kitchens for providing food to the victims. In this aspect also the government failed so abysmally that in Kurnool town, where around 1.5 lakh people were displaced, it was providing only 10,000 food packets and one lakh water sachets! The people of the neighbouring drought-prone Anantapur district pitched in much more handsomely than the government by sending supplies to Kurnool. The CPI(M)-run community kitchens helped in a minor way in meeting the needs of the displaced people. The other important area of CPI(M) relief effort has been the setting up of health camps in the affected areas. A team of doctors from the Nellore People's Hospital has been running one centre in Kurnool for the last one week. There have also been camps set up by Prajasakti daily and Jana Vignana Vedika in many areas. Prajasakti staff members also participated in big numbers in the “Shrama Danam” programme. There is a pressing necessity for supply of essential medicines in such camps and despite repeated requests to health authorities, they have not been able to deliver. The medical representatives union, APMSRU, has pitched in by supplying  medicines.

 

Another area of intervention by the Party cadre has been in rescuing the people stranded in their homes, on rooftops and other places as the water levels rose dangerously in the initial days of the flood. They were escorted to safety by organising dingy boats and sometimes through use of ropes. In the districts of Krishna and Guntur, where there was danger of parts of the levee on the Krishna river giving away, hundreds of Party cadre rallied the people in strengthening it in those places. In places where it had breached, efforts were made to fill them. 

 

Truckloads of relief material – comprising primarily rice and clothes – have been sent by the Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Khammam, Nalgonda and Vishakapatnam district committees of the Party. With feedback about most victims not preferring to wear the old clothes being sent, the Vishakapatnam district committee bought new clothes worth around Rs 2 lakh from the money they collected for relief and sent them in the truck.

 

Apart from the state committee, which has set up a separate fund to collect money for the relief effort, almost all district committees and mass organisations have also undertaken mass collections for relief. At the time of writing the state committee has received Rs 11 lakh for its fund. More is expected in the coming days. Those willing to send money for the Party relief effort may do so by cheques/DDs in the name of “CPI(M) – People's Relief Fund” and mail them to The Secretary, CPI(M) AP Committee, M B Bhavan, 1-1-60/2, RTC X Roads, Musheerabad, Hyderabad – 500020.

 

At the all party meeting called by the chief minister on October 3, CPI(M) state secretary B V Raghavulu had demanded from the government provision of 30 kg rice, kerosene, cooking utensils, blankets etc to all flood-affected people immediately. Later, a suggestion was made to bring in large number of labour to the affected areas and engage them in sanitation and clearing of debris works under the NREGA. With the administration paralysed due to the ongoing power tussle within the ruling party, it is far from acting on such suggestions. And, it is the people in the affected areas who are paying a price twice over for the negligence and callousness of the government machinery.