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January 02, 2005
Seven days later... in Tamilnadu (02/01/2005)
A Report from the NGO-Community Group-Donor-TN Government Information Exchange and Preliminary Assessment Meeting
January 2, 2005

The Purpose of the Meeting
Information sharing
Team work to avoid duplications
Partner with govt agencies where appropriate
Defer critiques
So that we can all focus on the gigantic tasks ahead

Questions for the Group
Has the Emergency Phase of Relief come to an end?
What should Civic Groups/NGOs focus on in the Second Phase of Relief?
What do the Rehabilitation Needs of Affected Communities look like at this early stage?
Should Implementing NGOs on the ground form a nodal umbrella group to work with the affected communities, the government, and the donor agencies

Anticipated result of the Meeting

Besides discussing unfulfilled emergency needs, discuss specific recommendations in the following five areas (subgroups were formed and met for this purpose):
Counseling Support/Health/Adoptions
Shelter Needs Assessment
Long-term Rehabilitation Needs (especially Fishing Families) and Govt. Policy
Central Information Clearinghouse;
Andaman & Nicobar Islands
For Questions or Comments, please contact Raju Rajagopal at 098401-73650 or one of the following telephones or emails or contact the sub-group leaders listed below.
Telephone: 044-5204-1505 or 094444-51268

For a story on the meeting, please click here.

There was a good Information Exchange meeting today in Chennai, organized by Bhoomika Trust, and attended by over 150 people and 50 community-based (fishing community groups), women's groups, NGOs, corporates, donor agencies, and others (see full list attached). Some had flown in from different parts of the country, and from the US and other countries. The Tamilnadu Government Officer on Special Duty, Relief and Rehabilitation, in-charge of NGO and Donor coordination, Mr. C.V. Sankar stayed with us through most of the meeting, listening to us and answering questions. He assured the group that his office was open to anyone and we could also e-mail him. He or someone deputed by him would be available at the Real Image office every day at 7 PM if need be to meet with NGOs/Community Groups that wanted to talk to him. Extensive Q & A with him conveyed the serious intent of the government in closely coordinating with community groups and NGOs in this hour of crisis. (His presence at the meeting was the result of an earlier meeting that Bhoomika, along with Balaji Sampath of AID, had with the Finance Secretary and the Relief Commissioner of Tamilnadu.

Mr. Sankar's contacts information
Telephone: 044-5551-5898; 098410-55955.
T.N. Govt website:

Sushma Iyengar of KMVS and Abhiyan, Bhuj, has been paving the way in a similar fashion with the senior officer in Nagapattinam, Shantha Shiela Nair. Many of the recommendations from NGOs have been readily accepted by her, we are told. A daily briefing has been started in the Collector's office, chaired by Ms. Nair.

Notes from the Interface Meeting, contact details of all the attending organizations, and the agreed-upon action items are appended here and will be up later today at, Check out the website for the details. However, we wanted to share some highlights to try to paint a picture of where things seemed to be seven days later, so we could all think about how to direct the overwhelming response from all over the world and channel people's desire to help, in a productive manner. These notes have been drawn up hurriedly and therefore any omission is regretted. Updates or corrections to the

RELIEF NEEDS-Observation by Bhoomika
Emergency needs are not required anymore from the NGOs
Cooked food is definitely OUT (except community kitchens)
Used clothes are collecting in huge volumes on the roadsides unwanted
Water sachets are in abundance
In effect there are no evidence of any major gaps in relief reaching the needy (Of course, there are bound to be some which NGOs are trying to locate and fill).

Bhoomika turned down a plane-full of milk sitting on the tarmac in Netherlands, because the support and logistical demands of receiving and distributing such well-meant donations will drain more volunteer resources than reasonable, especially when milk is available in plenty locally.

We do not think there is any point in sending medical or food supplies or clothes from overseas. This assessment has been confirmed by the latest input from Bhoomika volunteers who have been in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam since Jan 3rd and have attended several coordination and town hall meetings there. But some gaps do exist such as women's needs in some villages.

Bhoomika coordinated earthmoving machinery and light towers for body and debris clearing. We are currently evaluating additional needs in the area. Several large groups like Caterpillar are standing by to see to the additional needs.

Second phase of relief underway

Ration Kits (10-days' cooking supply), vessels, stoves, mats, NEW lungis, sarees, bedsheets, etc. are being shipped out everyday. 7 villages with such needs were identified on Jan 3rd. Also several villages have requested community kitchens to be set-up and rations as of Jan 3rd evening. Chennai market is practically empty of aluminum vessels, stoves, and rice in bulk- only a temporary shortage perhaps!. No price hike in evidence and many supplies are coming in FREE and unauthored as well.

One telling experience about the fishing villages, which left one Bhoomika volunteer--who had worked very hard for two days gathering ration kits for the displaced people of Pulicat (Island north of Chennai)--deeply disappointed: The Panchayat leader turned his loaded truck of rations back! Reason: they did not want to distribute ration kits unless they had enough for ALL their families (we had 200 kits and they had 2000 families housed temporarily in marriage halls).

Their advice: 'We are being fed now by community kitchens, but please bring the rations back for ALL of us when we get back to our devastated island to rebuild.' Looks like some of the fishing communities have strong Panchayat leadership. We have now started to ship rations and store it temporarily in the location so that they will be available to the community when they start heading back to Pulicat.

Comments & Recommendations

Some groups reported discrimination in supplying relief supplies to Dalits in camps. The Government representative asked for specifics (where, who, etc.) This may be sent directly to Mr. C.V. Sankar or to Bhoomika Trust to be forwarded to him.
Strong recommendation to the government to: appoint ombudsmen in the affected areas for grievance redressal.
The group also strongly recommended that the government specify a formal date by when the Relief Phase will come to an end and the Rehabilitation phase will begin. The objective is to shift people from the 'receiving doles' mode to 'get-back-to-work' mode (Based on the Gujarat experience, this is important, as Sushma Iyengar says, "The mistakes made in the initial 25 days tend to get repeated." And at some point, "The need to help overwhelms the need for help." This may already be happening, as some of the enterprising villages have already put up signs on roadsides with arrows "Way to Tsunami Affected Villages," and have become excellent tour guides already for numerous agencies delivering aid directly."
Still some level of confusion on medical supplies. While Bhoomika has observed from field reports that most medicines appear well stocked in the field, there were some reports of shortages of basic material like dressing etc. Bhoomika is checking this.
Some reports of looting to which the Government's suggestion is for convoys and they are willing to provide escorts.
The Government explained that it is not preventing NGOs from delivering aid, ONLY THAT THEY REGISTER first at the Collector's office so as to avoid duplication.
For Bhoomika Trust
Raju Rajagopal
Important Information
•  A Report from Cuddalore-Nagapattinam
•  Impact of Tsunamis on Agriculture & Fisheries
•  Recommendations for assessing the long term impact in tsunamis - hit areas
•  People behind the Project
•  Information from the Affected Areas
Special Groups
•  Counseling and Support/Health/Adoptions
•  Shelter Needs
•  Rehabilitation Needs
•  Information Clearinghouse
•  Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Bhoomika Trust
Christian Counseling Center, Vellore
Abhiyan/KMVS and Janvikas, Gujarat
The Banyan, Chennai
Indians for Collective Action (ICA) USA
Association for India's Development (AID) USA
Smile, Chennai
Samanvaya, Chennai
People's Watch Tamilnadu
SIFFS Tamilnadu Fishermen's Society
T.N. Government
TN Relief Committee of Jamiat-i-Ulema Hind
COVA Hyderabad
Jamaat-E-Islami Hind
Save the Children
World Vision
Die Zeit
TN Muslim Munnetra Sangam
Pirantha Mann Charitable Trust
i-flex solutions
Asha for education
Hand in Hand Sweden
Charity Focus USA
Direct Relief International
Indian Social Institute, Auroville
TN Women's Collective
Plan International
Gujarat Sarvajanik Rlf Committee
Round Table
Fisher Movements Center
ILP, Christian Aid
Physicians for Peace, CRY, HID Forum
American Group PshychoTherapy Assoc
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