|Oct 20: Report from Srihari|
Here is Part I of report of our visit to Sangala & neighboring villages in C.Belagal Mandal of Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh for flood relief work. The report is from Srihari (AID-India).
Team that visited:
AID: Suresh, Kiran, Srihari
TMAD: Kashyap, Ravi
Lending Hands: Uday, Uday's Friend
Report of Visit to Sangala: Oct 11-15
AID, TMAD, Lending Hands and BHUMI volunteers started on Sunday, Oct 11th morning at 6am loading the relief materials into the GATI truck we got with support from CII. The package consisted of 2 aluminium cooking utensils, 2 steel plates, 2 steel glasses, 1 blanket and 1 bedsheet per household. In addition, we also had 90 tarpaulins donated by CII that we took along. By the time we got started it was already 8am. All of us except Suresh were to return by end of the day and the plan was that Suresh would stay on for a few more days to study the region and understand the immediate and long term needs of the area.
While in Kurnool or Sangala, we met 3 different groups:
(a) Jagruthi: This is an organization formed by a group of youngsters who wanted to do something in their neighbouring villages. Their activities before the floods came in were to conduct competitions and engage with children in 3 villages. Since the flood impacted the villages they were working in, they took active role in the flood relief. Kiran and Suresh had come across this group during their previous visit to this region immediately after the floods. Mohan, a dynamic young volunteer from this group who is pursuing his CA in Chennai, was to be our point of contact for the visit. As we would find out later, Mohan is quite resourceful and confident and has good relations with the local administration.
(b) Progressive Organization of People: This organization has been working on the field for over a decade in the Kurnool region. Their main activity was organizing labour groups and fighting for their rights. Kiran had come across this group through contacts in Timbuktu. Bhargava, who is part of this organization, has very good knowledge of the region and is familiar with several groups and people. These contacts and knowledge would help in intervening in the flood affected regions, particularly for longer term rehabilitation.
(c) Group from Pune: This was essentially 3 friends from Pune that had taken some time off to do a bike rally in Maharashtra, AP and Karnataka visiting various organizations along the way. When the floods happened, they decided to instead visit flood affected villages and help in whatever way they can. Saurav in the group was a graduate in architecture and has varied experience in working in natural disaster hit regions such as Latur (earthquake) and come up with solutions that are in line with the expectations of the affected communities. He has particular experience in the areas of housing and sanitation.
Sangala is located in the Belagal mandal and the mandal headquarters - Belagal Cherurvu (or C. Belagal) - is only about a 15 minute drive from the village. By the time we reached C. Belagal, it was already 4:30pm mainly because the relief truck moved at a slow pace. By the time we reached Sangala it was 4:45-5pm. We knew it was late in the day to do relief distribution, but since Suresh was going to stay the next few days, we were in no hurry to distribute without studying the needs of the region.
While in C. Belagal we saw a relief truck going back and learned from them that that organization (Tapana Foundation) had just distributed utensils in Sangala. And by the time we reached Sangala, there were 3 relief trucks distributing rice, dal, etc. The villagers were running from one relief truck to another trying to get as much as they can. Mohan had earlier spoken with the village sarpanch preparing to have a more organized distribution process, but by the time we reached village we realized that that was not possible at that time.
We started chatting with the villagers to find out what the extent of the damage was, what their immediate needs were and what the main issues were. We learned that there was a need for tarpaulins. The people also mentioned that currently there was no work to do and they were pretty much spending all day receiving relief materials. They were of the opinion that the relief materials collected would help them weather the next few weeks of joblessness.
It was dark by now and Suresh took our relief van back to C. Belagal to dump all the relief materials in a godown that's owned by Mohan's family. Meanwhile, Mohan introduced us to a few people who seemed like they were from the better-off families (and hence were probably not willing to swarm around the relief vehicles and compete for the supplies). They took us to the affected part of the village and showed us the damaged crops. They mentioned that there are about 250 families in the village (over 1000 people, of which about 100 were school going children). There are two parts in the village - "old village" and "new village". The "new village" was formed during the 1992 Tungabhadra floods when some of the houses got affected.
In this flood, the "old" village" was the one that got completely wiped out and was under water for close to 48 hours - some roofs collapsed, some walls were broken and there was a sort of stale stench in the village making it uninhabitable. The "new village", which was at a slight elevation, also got some water, but was relatively less affected. About 100 families, all from the old village, had shifted to a piece of government land that is at the entrance to the village about 2 furlongs from the new village. Apparently, government officials had proposed that the affected families could rebuild their homes in the government land that they have now occupied in return for the old village being taken over by the government. That same day, the AP Chief Minister had announced that the government would build the houses under Indira Awaz Yojana instead of giving cash to affected families. However, no one from the administration had yet informed the villagers of anything.
We were told the the majority of the people in the old village were from the BC community while the SC families mostly resided in the new village. Having said that, we didn't get a very good picture of the actual caste dynamics in the village. It will take some to figure these out. We would later find out that some more families affected by the floods had taken shelter in the school building and these were SC families.
The fields had been completely submerged and the standing crop was completely damaged. The land was still very moist and slushy at places with puddles here and there. The crop that got damaged is not even suitable for the cattle. In addition, there were sand deposits brought in by the flood and this sand had also hardened since the flood.
Some agriculture officers had visited the village the day before our visit and take stock of the situation - essentially the crop loss, the extent of submergence and the damage. Apparently, on being asked what the villagers would get as compensation for the crop loss, they said that they weren't aware of the same and that they would submit the report and the administration would take a decision accordingly.
About 50-60 cattle had died in the floods, but the majority of them have been moved to safety. There is no fodder for the cattle as well.
It seemed that the overwhelming concern in the village was one of helplessness due to lack of employment opportunities and the uncertainty as to when they would be able to get back to farming. Agriculture is the primary occupation. We were told that all except ~10 families owned farm land and agriculture was the only occupation. Land holdings varied quite a bit from 20 acres to 1/2 acre of land. There were about 1000(?) acres under cultivation in the village. 80% of this land got submerged in the floods. Main crops are paddy, onion and one other crop that I forget now. We were able to see onion being harvested in one of the lands that wasn't submerged.
Although the remaining land was not submerged, there was crop damage there as well as there was no water supply. The lands were irrigated through pipelines drawn from the Tungabhadra river. During the flood, all the motors got damaged as they were submerged and lot of the pipelines broke as well, causing even crops on the unsubmerged lands to be affected. As an aside, we also noticed the head for a lift irrigation system installed on this bank of Tungabhadra which supplied water to neighbouring villages (but not Sangala). We were told that the lift irrigation system was damaged as well. There was conflicting information on how much land was unaffected by the flood. Some said 4-5 acres, some said 50-60 acres, so the estimates were wildly different. This needs to be studied further.
There was an underlying pessimism about the immediate prospects of restarting farming. Many of the people we spoke with, were in despair and said that given the damage, only 10-15% of the damaged land can be used for rabi plantation. It seemed that they were being unduly pessimistic and they were probably feeling helpless mainly because they are not used to floods. If any experts that have dealt with flood restoration in the past, particularly people that have worked on the land to make it productive soon after the floods, can be brought in to provide advice, may be some ideas will come.
To a lesser extent, but still quite important, the affected families were also concerned about the bad conditions in the current temporary settlements and wanted to get back to better housing soon.
We sat there chatting with the villagers while waiting for the Qualis to come pick us up. The Qualis came with the Pune folks and the folks that came from Hyderabad all went back to C. Belagal to help Suresh with the unloading. Meanwhile, Srihari and the Pune folks started to walk back to C. Belagal and during this time Saurav shared some of his thoughts. Saurav said that the current temporary housing seems like something that could last for some time and is probably more in tune with what the villagers are comfortable with (as far as temporary housing is concerned). As for sanitation, he said that his idea is to meet the settlements to figure out the conditions and also find out how many of them were used to toilets in their homes in the past. One idea that came up in the discussion was whether NREGA could be used to restore the fields. This would have the double advantage of creating immediate employment and readying the lands for the rabi season. This would need to be brought up with the administration.
We returned back to C. Belagal, had dinner and the folks from Hyderabad started back while bidding adieu to Suresh, Mohan and the Pune group.
Over the next couple of days, Suresh and others did a survey in the Sangala village, identified the needs for each households and distributed the relief materials to deserving families. It turns out that the utensils given by the other organization were of the smaller kind and hence they definitely need the larger utensils we had taken along. In addition to Sangala, relief materials were distributed to affected families in Nadi Kairavadi and Pedda Kottili villages - both within 10 kms from Sangala. The 90 tarpaulins were also distributed. There was more need for tarpaulins that we could meet.
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