Unlike the pilgrim survivors who went home, the locals of Uttarakhand are struggling to rebuild their lives. Moneylife writes about an initiative born out of this tragedy
When TV screens started beaming visuals of rampaging rivers that almost seemed to wreak vengeance on the picturesque hills of Uttarakhand, Anuradha and Anurag Sangal decided that they needed to do something concrete to help in the reconstruction process.
The Uttarakhand tragedy, which swept away roads, bridges and people, shook the very foundation of an economy entirely dependent on religious tourism. While the rescued pilgrims went home, the locals have no option but to rebuild their lives, that too without their main source of income—religious yatras which have come to a halt. Initially, the Sangals emailed friends and relatives to chip in; later, appeals were posted on social media seeking volunteers as well as ideas for fund-raising. That is how Leap Foundation’s rehabilitation initiative was born.
The appeal, through twitter and facebook (https://www.facebook.com/leapfoundation.in), transcended personal friendships; they began to receive responses from individuals, trusts and other organisations. The facebook page also provided a platform for communicating details of Leap Foundation’s activities and needs.
A big breakthrough came when the celebrated film and television artiste, Sushant Singh, got involved. “He took our small initiative to another level and actually inspired and encouraged the formalisation of the effort into Leap Foundation—a programme to rehabilitate the Uttarakhand local survivors.” This happened very quickly because the founders added Leap Foundation’s initiative to projects already undertaken by Sri Som Prakash Sangal Charitable Trust, set up in the memory of Mr Sanghal’s father, which is engaged in providing relief to the underprivileged in the areas of education, healthcare and marriage(s) of the girl child.
Mr Sangal says, “As relief aid started pouring in from all corners of the world, the real challenge was to ensure that it reaches the affected and needy. We analysed the situation and realised that resumption of connectivity to improve access to aid was the immediate need.”
The group decided to utilise the services of Nature Connect, the adventure arm of LEAP Education, a quality education initiative run by the Sangal Charitable Trust in Dehradun. They, in turn, collaborated with an NGO from Varanasi and built a wire bridge across the Mandakini River. It was a Herculean task to connect three quintals of steel wire across the River and was accomplished with the help of locals. The bridge restored connectivity to 6,000 villagers of 11 villages in the Phata region of Rudraprayag district. After this success, they sent a team to Guptakashi to explore the possibility of connecting more villages using wire bridges.
Describing this arduous effort, Mr Sangal says, “Our 11-member team reached Guptakashi on the night of 25th July after a gruelling 15-hour road journey with all the material and equipment required to construct two wire bridges, as well as groceries and cooking equipment for themselves. The mandate was to focus on remote villages. The team trekked 80km over the next seven days and strengthened the wire bridge at Rael Gaon over Mandakini; they also constructed another bridge at Chillond village over Kali Ganga to connect it to Jaal Talla, Jaal Malla and Chaumasi. They returned to Dehradun on 3rd August after a torturous 40-hour road journey of which one night was spent camping on the roadside at Mayali.” More such bridges are a part of their immediate plans.
LEAP Foundation has initiated the second phase of its activity—to create sustainable livelihood opportunities for the affected and needy. “We understand that we cannot reach out to each and every affected person; but, we are determined to keep expanding the scope of our engagement so that more and more locals are brought within the ambit of our livelihood programme. We consider ourselves blessed to have secured the trust of so many individuals and our unflinching determination to the cause of Uttarakhand remains as strong as ever. Every morning, we pray to HIM to give us the strength and resolve to undertake this responsibility,” says Mr Sangal.
If you are moved by Leap Foundation’s contribution in rebuilding Uttarakhand and want to donate, contributions are eligible for tax exemption under Section 80G.
Tilak Complex, 27-Tilak Road
Dehra Dun 248 001,
Phone: 0135 272 5106
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This year is likely to be worse than usual, with a forecast of 13 to 19 storms in USA. There could even be evacuation of low-lying neighborhoods in American cities. This is a compilation of the best news reports of hurricanes over the last ten years
Mid-August marks the start of peak hurricane season, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has warned that this year’s is likely to be worse than usual, with a forecast of 13 to 19 named storms. We’ve round up some of the best reporting on hurricanes and what happens after they’re over — from inept planning to police abuses to waste and misspending during the recovery.
After the Flood, This American Life, September 2005
The week after Katrina struck New Orleans, This American Life devoted its show to giving “people who were in the storm more time than daily news shows could give, to tell their stories and talk about what happened.”
One of those people was Denise Moore, who took shelter at the New Orleans Convention Center after the levees failed. “What they kept doing the whole time was tell us to line up for the buses that never came” she told Ira Glass. “It was like they were doing drills every four hours. You all have to line up for the bus. And if you bum rush the bus, they're just going to take off without you, and nobody is going to get to go anywhere. You have to line up. You have to be in a straight line. We're talking about old people in wheelchairs and women with babies in lines, waiting for buses that you know God damn well aren't coming, like they were playing with us.”
The Deadly Choices at Memorial, ProPublica and the New York Times Magazine, August 2009
ProPublica reporter Sheri Fink spent two and a half years reconstructing what happened at New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center during Hurricane Katrina. She found that the exhausted, overwhelmed doctors intentionally injected a number of patients with lethal doses of morphine and the sedative midazolam during the chaotic evacuation of the hospital.
From Blue Tarps to Debris Removal, Layers of Contractors Drive Up the Cost of Recovery, Critics Say, The Times-Picayune, December 2005
The federal contractors hired using the $60 billion Congress earmarked for the Katrina recovery hired subcontractors, who hired sub-subcontractors — a process that sometimes produced sub-sub-sub-sub-subcontractors, or “fifth-tier subs,” and helped to drive up the cost of recovery. “In other words,” The Times-Picayune reported, “the guy spinning a Bobcat choked with tree limbs on a residential street may be earning as little as $1 per cubic yard of debris, although the prime contractor may be billing 20 times that amount for the service.”
After Katrina, New Orleans Cops Were Told They Could Shoot Looters, ProPublica, Frontline and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 2010
One commander told New Orleans police officers they had the “authority under martial law to shoot looters” in the days after Katrina, according to a videotape of his remarks. Two New Orleans cops said that the department’s second-in-command at the time, gave a similar order, even though police had no such authority under the law.
The story was part of a series on cop shootings after Katrina. Another story in the series looked at the case of Henry Glover, whose remains were found inside a burned-out car in the days after Katrina. Two witnesses said police had refused to help Glover after he had been shot and they drove him to a police command post. A cop later drove off with his body still in the car. After the stories, three officers were charged and convicted in connection with Glover’s death. An appeals court later overturned two of the convictions.
Behind a Call That Kept Nursing Home Patients in Storm’s Path, The New York Times, December 2012
The day before Hurricane Sandy struck, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ordered a mandatory evacuation of New York City’s low-lying neighborhoods. But the city recommended that residents of nursing and adult homes in the same areas ride out the storm. The decision led to difficult evacuations through sand and debris after the storm, which “severely flooded” least 29 such facilities in Queens and Brooklyn.
How New Jersey Transit Failed Sandy’s Test, WNYC and The Record, May 2013
Hurricane Sandy inundated 19 of the 8,000 rail cars operated by New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority. It engulfed hundreds of New Jersey Transit cars, more than a quarter of the fleet, thanks to the decision in yards that flooded. An investigation by WNYC and the New Jersey Bergen Record found that NJ Transit had used maps built inaccurate numbers that showed the yards wouldn’t flood.
Suffering on Long Island As Power Agency Shows Its Flaws, The New York Times, November 2012
Two weeks after Sandy hit, more than 10,000 Long Island Power Authority customers still didn’t have power. A Times investigation found that the government-run authority had “repeatedly failed to plan for extreme weather” and had fallen behind on trimming tree limbs near power lines. At the same time, the authority had become “a rich source” of high-paid patronage jobs for politicians’ friends and relatives.
Miami-Dade Cleans Up on FEMA Aid, The Sun Sentinel, November 2004
The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent $28 million worth of relief to Miami-Dade County in Florida after Hurricane Frances hit in 2004, even though the brunt of the storm struck 100 miles north of the county. The damage in Miami-Dade was limited to “a few fallen and power lines.” But FEMA shelled out for new cars, lawn mowers, thousands of appliances and even a funeral in Miami-Dade, even though no one in the county died in the storm. The story is part of a Sun Sentinel series investigating FEMA.
Weak Insurers Put Millions of Floridians at Risk, The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, February 2010
Big insurance companies like State Farm and Allstate fled the Florida property insurance market after Katrina hammered the Gulf Coast in 2005. A Herald-Tribune investigation found that millions of Floridians had turned to tiny insurance companies that had taken their place, which had nowhere near enough money to cover the billions of dollars in property they insured. Lawmakers and regulators had “ignored warnings and encouraged private companies to stretch their limited cash further.”
Want more hurricane coverage? Check out our ongoing series on FEMA and the challenge of rebuilding after storms as the climate changes.