From Rs 1,000 in cash to free ration: Help pours in for Amphan-hit areas

Written by Atri Mitra
| Kolkata |

Published: June 17, 2020 12:34:23 pm

NDRF, Cyclone Amphan, COVID-19, Odisha, NDRF COVID-19 Volunteers took pictures of damaged houses and shared them on Facebook and WhatsApp, requesting people to loosen their purse strings. The response was overwhelming. (File)
With many experts advocating that direct cash transfer can better help people and an economy tide over a health or natural crisis, an NGO in the Sunderbans, through a crowd-funding campaign, has transferred Rs 1,000 to each of 1,105 families of Mousuni Island in South 24 Parganas district ravaged by super cyclone Amphan last month.

Many houses in the island with a total of around 5,000 households suffered damage and their livelihood destroyed in the cyclone. At least 86 people were killed in the cyclone, and the Bengal government pegged the damages at Rs 1 lakh crore. Kolkata, Hooghly and North and South 24 Paraganas are among the worst affected districts.

What prompted NGO Tepantorer Swapno to directly transfer cash to people? Its secretary Jyotirindra Narayan Lahiri said many affected people were unable to get government relief and that is when they decided to chip in. Another reason was to bypass slippage.

First, volunteers took pictures of damaged houses and shared them on Facebook and WhatsApp, requesting people to loosen their purse strings. The response was overwhelming.

The NGO collected bank passbooks of 1,105 families in the island for the cash transfer.

“Even people staying in other countries expressed eagerness to help. We had initially decided to help 100 people, but we have so far covered 1,105 families. Each family was helped by one individual. We have already distributed more than Rs 11 lakh,” said Lahiri.

“We just worked as a medium. Our main aim was to put money in people’s hands. This will also revive their local market,” Lahiri said, adding that Swapno has been working in the Sunderbans since cyclone Alia hit the islands. The NGO also publishes a magazine, Sundarban Charcha.

On the other hand, another organisation, Quarantined Student Youth Network, has distributed tarpaulin and ration to people affected by the cyclone and coronavirus in the Sundarbans. On the back of contribution by many Good Samaritans, the network has distributed tarpaulin to 5,744 families, distributed ration to over 10,000 families. One of its kitchens is delivering food daily to Amphan-hit people in the area. Debajit Kumar Thakur of the network said, “We started kitchens during lockdown. We are now running 26 such kitchens in the state. Over one lakh people benefit daily.”

There are individuals too who are doing their bit.

Sana Ahmed, a public relations professional, requested film personalities like Usha Uthup, Riya Sen, Raghu Dixit and Adil Rashid to wield their social media clout for relief work. They obliged, following which many people sent money to Ahmed. “I have contacted three NGOs through which I will distribute relief to Amphan-affected areas,” she said.

Another such individual is Niladri Sengupta, an alumnus of Scotish Church College of Kolkata. He and his six friends have collected over Rs 2.5 lakh and arranged ration for the Sunderbans. Sengupta said, “We have already sent ration to 700 families in Jharkhali and very soon will send more to 1,000 families in Kakdwip and Kultali areas. The ration packet has rice, potato, oil, onion, pulses, flour, sattu and puffed rice.”


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