Kerala Floods And the Delhi War Room: A story untold so far..

When the wrath of nature falls on lesser mortals, only the invisible divine hands could save the hapless sufferers but the almighty do depute some agents on its own, to save and here, we have such a story, so far untold by any media. When the obedient rivers of Kerala changed their flow course, roads turned rivers, lakhs got stranded up and death danced. The State administration, in hundred years had never faced such a crisis of this magnitude and hence got stunned when the rivers flowed with all fury. The 15th evening passed on with some cautioning inputs on rising water levels and incessant rain in Kerala. The 16th morning saw desperate phone calls from my friends in Alappuzha and Pathanathitta Districts. On 16th frantic calls seeking help reached the author from Saji, Sai and Sajith, two of them in abroad saying situation is so grave in Chengannur, the worst affected taluk of Alappuzha District. The aged parents at New Street, Chengannur had moved on to the first floor, they were asking help. I had no other option but to search the numbers of District Administration, but the helplines were chocked. The frequent calls from abroad told about 150 people stranded in Mali, Kodiyattukara, I was shocked to realise that the voice of my friends were trembling with fear, they pleaded for help. The call made to Shri.Anil Kumar a government official and a friend of mine revealed a shocking fact, river pampa changed her course and now she was flowing above his house. I asked him “is it true?” he told me I can’t convince you we are running for life. Having no response from the District Administration, I requested Siva Prasad PA to Shri. Nalin Katil, Member of Parliament, to contact Alappuzha District Administration. Soon, I got a message, they are sending teams to Kodiyattukara, but I received a call again from friends saying four boats came and the current of river was so strong that they got damaged and people are still trapped. At four o’ clock in the evening the author called Shri. Murlidhar Bhinda ji, National Deputy Organising  Secretary, Seema Jagran Manch and informed about the alarming situation, he told collectively we will address the challenge, he in turn directed me to collect in puts from the ground.

The very next moment I called up the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh’s Vibhag Pracharak in Chengannur, he told me its grave and the entire two districts are getting submerged soon, he requested for choppers, then only I realized the gravity of situation. A short notice meeting of Seema Jagran Manch Coastal was called in VP House, some subject experts were also invited, Maj. Praveen explained the complexities involved and the need for expert hands on the ground, the civil administration who have never faced such an unprecedented crisis and which lacks sophisticated machinery would find it difficult to handle the situation, this was the general conclusion. A co-ordination Team comprising Co-ordinator’s Shri.Praveen, Shri. Venugopal, Shri. Vijay Choudhary, Shri.Raman, Shri Hari and Shri Hari Krishnan Col.Kini were formed. The distress phone calls had to be acted upon swiftly, so four mobile number’s were flashed on whats app group ‘Kerala Flood Rescue’. An Information Technology team, comprising Pushpender Kishore and Brijesh was formed later Shri Hanuman got inducted, the passing night saw a what’s app group, a twitter handle Kerala Flood Relief SJM, Kerala Flood Relief facebook page and a webportal – being launched, the mobile call alert wing was headed by Sudheesh & Sarang. It was just the beginning of a truth  is stranger than fiction adage turning literally true, K.V.Sreemithun & Sourabh Malhotra was supposed to provide logistical support and oversee the whole system.

As the clock ticked, the helpline became active, the distress calls seeking help began coming up and the war room in Delhi became active. Dr. Krishna Devji talked to the DIG NDRF and ensured the NDRF helpline number in Delhi would help the Seema Jagran Helpline in forwarding the details to the ground. The DG Coast Guard Public Relation Office and the Raksha Mantralaya were also given the details of the location specific inputs sent by the relatives of those who got stranded. The gushing water had already made the mobile towers crash, the electricity went off and the smart phones, the new age life line got switched off, leaving an entire area inaccessible for any inputs. The Seema Jagran Manch also tried to gather as much as logistical help requirement from Pathanamthitta District, the officers were so busy on the ground, facing the mammoth challenge, so the inputs we gauged were passed on to the higher ups asking for immediate help. The 17th was a grim day, Chengannur, it seemed the taluk was literally drowning forever, as the all the adjoining rivers began their dance in rhythmic fury, Pampa took lead, Achankovil River followed and the hapless people had to bear the brunt. The helpline Desk charge was handled by Shri.Sridattan, and its worthwhile to mention that a large number of student volunteers poured in, the girls among them talked to ladies who had various problems, which they found convenient to share with the girl student volunteers. Vijay Choudhary had briefed the alarming situation to Defence Ministry and specific distress messages were sent to the ministry along with Coast Guard PRO Office,  soon to be acted up on the ground, the NDRF, the ARMY the AIRFORCE teams reached in lightening speed to the places where 100’s were stranded. The 17th night passed in snail’s pace, giving scary thoughts as Chengannur began submerging with the water level constantly rising in Achankovil, the author had no clue where his aged parents and ailing brother vanished but had an unflinching faith in the almighty & the neighbours that they would not leave them to fate. A tweet was made in early morning 3.04 am to the PMO apprising the need of more forces on ground to tackle the situation as only trained forces could rescue aged and ailing. The 18th morning first sun rays came up with lots of hope as Shri.A.Gopala Krishnanji National Organising Secretary, Seema Jagran Manch, shared visuals of Matsya Pravarthaka Sangham in action on the flood affected areas, hundreds of Matsya Pravarthaka Sangham fishermen, fought the nature’s fury with an unparalleled courage, the son’s of mighty sea came to rescue the hapless people with their sheer grit. Kerala saw a new epoch in its history when fishermen challenged the nature’s fury with all their might and limited sources.  

Shri Venugopal, Col. Kini, K.V.Sreemithun and Sourabh Malhotra met Prof. Richard Hey, Hon’ble Member of Parliament, who despite his ill health showed an impeccable style of functioning, which was result oriented but totally away from the media glare, an example, rare to see in today’s political scape. Prof. Richard Hey, took up the request to the ministry that the Naval Air Base has to be opened up for ensuring better connectivity and the same request was heeded by the ministry soon. The Hon’ble Minister Suresh Prabhu was kind enough to declare the schedule of flights soon to  Kochi. On 18th , Hon’ble Prime Minister conducted the aerial survey and was apprised of the crisis, the central team machinery acted with unparalleled swiftness, the helpline was continuing its efforts without rendering an ear to rumours & discussions. The Hon’ble Minister on ground, Shri.Alphons Kannamthanam, made tireless efforts with his rich experience of past to make things really work  on the ground, especially when the State Apparatus took long to come out of the shock it received in the aftermath of nature’s fury. August 19th  came up with lots of smiles, more rescue on ground, the people were amazed at the speed with which the central forces reached the stranded people and rescued them from difficult terrains where other’s could not reach due to strong currents, if they had not reached these precious lives would have lost . As soon as the messages were flashed to NDRF Head Quarters, Delhi Helpline and Coast Guard Public Relation office, the chopper’s reached the place or else the boats reached for rescue, this happened for whole flood affected areas in Kerala. IIMC provided the much needed in puts by giving the up dates on the flood situation from various districts.The help  line was not a pre-planned idea, it came on the spur of the moment but it helped out several thousands who got stranded in the floods. The 20th Morning saw messages for food and clothes, the sevabharthi volunteer’s reached out to the needy whenever the messages flashed here in distant Delhi, the helpdesk was joined by Shri Viswanathan too.

The Hon’ble Minister for Health Shri J.P.Nadda informed a team comprising Venugopal, V.R.Raman and K.V.Sreemithun that already a medicine consignment has been sent to Kerala and requested specific requirements which was  given in writing, the same would be sent soon in addition to the previous consignments, Dr Praveen and Shri K.A.Suresh Kumar helped in making list of medicines.The happy news poured in with friend Sajith’s call, connecting the author to his father and mother, a lost world was being regained here, thanks a lot to all those who worked tirelessly to save them. Words won’t be enough to thank those who helped out in operating the help desk, the Public Relation Office Coast Gurad, the NDRF DG, DIG, the Defence Secretary’s office, Ministry of Home and the forces on ground, the constant support from PMO guiding details of Army Officers on the ground, the same was published on web portal, the un paralleled help which poured in helped in this rescue   mission which happened miles away from Kerala, away from all media glare, the mission has now been renamed ‘Rebuilding Kerala’. The mission is now providing the relief materials to the camps, hats off to all organisations in Delhi, Judges, IAS Officials Army Officials, Trader’s, Students,Teachers, Police and the common man, the Seema Jagran Manch Karyakartas worked tirelessly, to see the mission accomplished.

We haven’t mentioned certain names here for keeping in mind their official privacy concerns, thanks to them, without them the mission would have never been completed. We remember the heroic efforts of forces on the ground to help the victims, we are indebted to all of you. It’s worthwhile to mention that when Siji Samuel was injured in Venmony on 20th ,  the chopper reached within 10 minutes of receiving call in Delhi Help Line, and took him to hospital, all data given by Adv Robin Raju was acted upon where victims were trapped in various places in Chengannur & Chalakuddy, the mission was guided by a single motto  to help, we had no time to see the religion, party , gender and other affiliations of those who sought help..Let us come together to help.

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