Skip to main content

Kutch earthquake and value of map: Why it was more strategic resource than food

By Gagan Sethi* 

On the morning of January 26, 2001, when the earth decided to shake itself a bit on Gujarat soil, little did one know that a disaster of such huge proportions would be the consequence. For serious urban planners the message was: Don’t mess around with nature. I remember being told, “People don’t die because of an earthquake, they die because of poor quality of housing.”
It may be difficult to accept, but this is entirely true. Yet, the paranoia of earthquake-resistant housing remains only with those who experienced the shake-up; the learning hasn’t yet gone to other states of India. Housing stock being built still does not yet factor the earthquake.
Though this learning is uppermost when I think of the earthquake year, the story I narrate is a little different. I left for Kutch the same day afternoon after ensuring that my family was at a safe place, at my father’s farm house.
Kutch was calling. We had a huge contingent of staff and programmes there, but had with no idea of the tragedy. I had to be there to assess what was needed to be done. My driver Rocky, on whom one could rely to take one through the riskiest of roads, was my valiant charioteer.
We were one of the first to cross the Surajbari Bridge, where the road was broken down. As I neared Bhuj, the scene was scary; anything visible as a building was lying scattered. The power of nature, which mocked at the wonders of human engineering, had won. I was getting prepared to face an unpleasant situation. I just hoped none of our staff or their near and dear ones were injured or, worse, killed.
I reached Bhuj in the evening and went to the park near the Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS) office, where people of the surrounding area had huddled up. I met Sushma Iyengar and Sandeep Virmani there, and they suggested that the reports they were getting was that the damage was huge and to respond to it we would need a strong support system from Ahmedabad. Till such time the network in Kutch would have to handle out things on its own.
The interaction gave birth to the Citizens’ Initiative, with a secretariat at Janvikas in Ahmedabad. The first request we received was to ensure that volunteers had wherewithal to do their work – plus detailed maps of Kutch.
I was left wondering: What was the need for a map? However, one doesn’t question things, especially when the requirement comes from the ground. The next day we worked hard, and with the help of a planning group called EPC, we got prepared nearly 500 maps of talukas, roads and villages, which were immediately sent to the volunteers, who were to carry out relief work in Kutch.
The maps helped the Kutch Abhiyan, a network of NGOs, the most. During the first few days, it became the preferred point of contact for hundreds of groups, well-wishers, funders, and aid agencies. A major reason of this was that, they were able to get information of the damage, and would physically map out the requirements with the help of the raw maps we had sent.
I have never seen the value of a map which was more strategic resource than food. Disaster relief needs mind, might and material. The mind is to think simply and a map to help direct thousands of volunteers who came with just the milk of human kindness. The map was their simple useful tool to direct relief so that relief got evenly distributed.

*Founder of Janvikas & Centre for Social justice. This article first appeared in DNA

Comments

TRENDING

There is need to distinguish between RT-PCR positives and clinical cases of Covid-19

Insisting on the need to distinguish between RT-PCR positives and clinical cases of Covid-19, an open letter by 20 doctors and medical professionals: *** Firstly the virus has gone through the Indian population enough and is now well established as an endemic infection which shall keep causing flu like illness in only few people as most will not even develop severe symptoms. The ICMR had already called for the suspension of testing anyone not having any symptoms (Jan 2022). Children have been shown to tackle the virus much easier than adults. Children also do not pass Covid infection to others that easily as adults do to children. Schools have opened and no single outbreak or incidences of severe disease have been documented. Therefore healthy children must not be tested for Covid anymore unless the treating doctor in hospitalised cases requires it. Calling people (children or adults) with RT-PCR positive report as “cases” is faulty. A “case” is a person who has disease and presents wi

Musician and follower of Dr Ambedkar? A top voilinist has this rare combination!

Some time back, a human rights defender, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, who frequently writes for Counterview, forwarded to me a video interview with Guru Prabhakar Dhakade, calling him one of India's well known violinists.  Dhakade is based in Nagpur and has devoted his life for the Hindustani classical music. A number of his disciples have now been part of Hindi cinema world in Mumbai, says Rawat. He has performed live in various parts of the country as well as abroad. What however attracted me was Dhakade's assertions in video about Dr BR Ambedkar, India's undisputed Dalit icon. Recorded several years back at his residence and music school in Nagpur, Dhakade not only speaks candidly about issues he faced, but that he is a believer in Dr Ambedkar's philosophy. It is in this context that Dhakade narrates his problems, even as stating that he is determined to achieve his goal. A violinist and a follower of Ambedkar? This was new to me. Rarely do musicians are found to take a

Define Dalit not by caste but action, belief; include all who oppose inequality

By Ajaz Ashraf* Dalit rights leader Martin Macwan’s endeavour has been to redefine the term Dalit and delink it from caste, best exemplified by the headline to this interview. An academician of repute, he financed his studies by working as wage labour. During his college days, he joined a group of non-Dalit intellectuals, comprising a professor each from the Christian, Parsi, Muslim and upper caste Hindu communities, to work with Dalits. Their work invited a backlash. On 25 January 1986, the reactionary landlords of the Darbar community in Golana village, Anand district, gunned down four of his colleagues, wounded another 18 and set houses on fire. This prompted Macwan to establish the Navsarjan Trust, which aims to skill Dalits and expand their consciousness regarding the systemic oppression of which they are principal victims. On 25 January 2002, on the anniversary of the Golana massacre , he led a march through rural Gujarat. His experience of the march had him write a book wherein