NRI messiah for flood victims

Moved by the plight of the flood-affected people in the state, Assamese NRIs based in the US have launched an aid campaign, which is bringing succour to thousands of villagers in Lower Assam. The campaign has been launched through a city-based voluntary organisation Aarohi, led by a team of young doctors. Bhaskar Thakuria of Aarohi told The Telegraph that as the first instalment, the NRI have donated over Rs 1 lakh.

Though the amount is not much given the number of villages affected across the state, Thakuria said, “We have at least been able to make a start. We hope to cover many more areas in the future.”

But why now, when the floods have receded? “For the villagers the real struggle begins much after the floods. Having lost everything, the winter turns out to be real life-threatening for the people, especially the elderly”, Amlanjyoti Borah, another member of Aarohi, said. In villages like Borbukiya, Kamarkuchi and Bordoibukhiya — all crippled by the devastation wreaked by Boroliya river — villagers have been given blankets and woollens, their health checked and medicines distributed. Like countless villages across the state, Borbukiya does not even have a health centre. Communication is a nightmare. In the dry days, patients are taken to the nearest public health centres in handcarts. “But that, too, is impossible in the rainy season when the roads turn slushy,” Borah said.

All these villages fall in the constituency of health minister Bhumidar Barman. In most of the villages, Thakuria said, drinking water was scarce. “We installed a deep tubewell in the Borsimoluya namghar premises”, Borah added.

“Though we wanted to serve villages which were severely affected, like some in Majuli or Morigaon districts, we decided against it because of the transportation costs involved,” Thakuria said.

The aid campaign was the result of the initiative of one man who mobilised funds through an appeal in the website assam.org and the e-mail discussion board of Assam Net.

Mahesh Baishya, an architect based in Dublin, California, wrote a letter to fellow-surfers of Assam Net highlighting the plight of the people.

Thakuria said the joy that spread through the wrinkled, weather-beaten face of 108-year-old Sobha Kakoti when she was handed over a blanket in Bordoibukhiya, was “worth the trouble we are taking”.

(The Telegraph, December 6, 2002)