I wake up in the morning with a phone call from an unknown number. I was awake till early in the morning, and this call did not really made me happy. Anyway, I answer it.
“Yes. Who is that?”
“Can you come to Nepal as soon as possible? We need your help here. Alok this side.”
And I am still thinking what to reply. All the visuals I saw on the news come to my mind. I am unskilled. Not really sure of how to take care of the situation. Somebody told me that there are chances of epidemic invading Kathmandu and nearby areas. How really can I be of any help in a disaster zone?
And I reply, “When shall I come?”
After having a long conversation with Alok, I visit Facebook, and saw a long and detailed report by Alok, himself, from Kathmandu. He, along with two other friends, had left for Nepal a day before. It was a long, detailed and an extremely different report than what I have been hearing from all the news channels. Alok writes in Hindi. Here I have translated the report for the readers.
Here is the translated report:
I am in Nepal right now. There is no electricity here neither basic means to communication. Thats why I took at least 24 hours to ‘settle’ myself here. Presently I have a makeshift mobile connection, which doesn’t have a network. But you can contact us on +977-9849983946. Till the time I am able to establish a better communication system here, I request my friends in India and abroad to look out for some means of communication in their individual capacity. I am writing a basic report, by which you can get a sense of what you can do for here. And yes, please do not be in any illusion that governments have been able to do much. If governments would have done their work properly, then there would not have been many problems.
Presently we are in a friend’s home in Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu. For past three days, whatever relief work has been done, we could not witness that in the areas our team went to. Biggest hurdle in this, which I think, is the failure of means of communication in the area. Roads are broken and roadways are completely shut. The quakes at a regular interval are also disrupting the rehabilitation process. The capital city is still facing problems of electricity and water. And with time the limited stock with people is also dying. The stock of various food materials in the market are also going to finish pretty soon. Water has become a big problem in many areas. The pipelines that supply water to Kathmandu have broken and the water tankers are unable to provide enough water to the people. Drinkable water is most easily available in form of packaged drinking water, which is costly and limited to cities only. Two big rivers of Kathmandu- Bagmati and Vishnumati- are no better than Delhi’s Yamuna. People are forced to drink contaminated water which will eventually lead to epidemic. People are not staying in the homes as most of the houses are either destroyed or in a condition that a small tremor will make them fall. On Sunday alone 28 tremors were felt, many of which were serious on the Richter scale. We can say that people are homeless despite having homes and are forced to stay in open areas even during hot days and really cold nights. The moment we came out of the airport, we could see people sleeping on roads every where. We could see countless people sleeping away from their homes late in the night. We are staying in a printing press, and despite this being a safer place, we have faced numerous tremors with fear. People have parked their cars in open areas and have kept their essential commodities in it. When we talk about the international support, without doubt Kathmandu has received it more than other affected areas in Nepal. Other parts of the country need more support compared to Kathmandu, and they have received less support. Army has provided most of the support as roads to other places are closed due to land slides. This is one important reason why support from civil societies and NGOs are limited to this city alone. As the roads are closed, shortage of milk, vegetables, grains et cetera can be seen in the city. One can see long queue of Indians at the airport who are waiting to leave the country with their family members for days now. At the time when I am writing this report, as per the available information, almost 3000 Indians have been rescued by air forces safely outside of Nepal. But when you look at the larger population of Indian living in Nepal, this looks minuscule. Based on my experience of past 30 hours, a huge population of Indians (which must be in lakhs) is still waiting to evacuate Nepal, many of whom are vendors and labourers from Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and West Bengal. As there is just one airport in Nepal, this becomes a bigger problem as only well to do families and urban citizen can use airways. Though I do not have any evidence, but based on the conversations with local people, many of whom are tea vendors, pan sellers, vegetable vendors, I can say that only those who were in contact with higher officials were evacuated first. The common people want to go home by the roadways but as the roads are not operational, they are either stranded at the borders or forced to live in tents in the cities. Presently it is impossible for them to go back home. Till the time the national highways are opened, it seems impossible for them to go reach their homes safely. As chances of epidemic is probable in Nepal, people want to leave the country as soon as possible. Swine Flu has reached Nepal, and along with many injured people in hospitals, many swine flu patients can be seen as well. In the coming days this may become the most serious problem in the country, and if the local administration and international agencies do not look into the matter then Nepal will have to be ready for yet another tragedy. Apart from all this, I also want to state that, based on my conversation with local people, there is nothing effective about the local administration in Nepal. Due to non-availability of a strong government, the police is the most affective machinery in the administration, which is less in number and not well trained. There are few units of Red Cross society and United Nations which have been working as alternative administration before the tragedy, and even they do not look very well prepared to tackle the present situation. There are limited hospitals and if we have to save Nepal from the upcoming epidemic, then medical agencies from across the globe will have to contribute on a war level. Along with heath services, basic necessities like ‘drinkable water’ has to be made available. In most of the areas in Kathmandu, water was made available once in a week even before the tragedy. So the entire capital city has been facing the problem of shortage of water for years. If this will not be tackled then it will certainly invite other epidemic.
After the devastating earthquake and various tremors that followed it, the debris is so much that it looks really difficult for it to be cleaned in coming few months. In such a scenario, if the international agencies are looking forward to anything then they must look into this first. I would like to invite India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to send in volunteers of the Swachch Bharat campaign (Clean India campaign) to make Nepal a clean nation. This will be a very intelligent initiative by him. We cannot see any agency or government really concerned about cleaning Nepal presently. Due to shortage of petrol and diesel and due to many people being injured in the city, many government officials have not reported back to work, and similarly many vehicles teams which were supposed to clean up the city have not reported since the earthquake. This may continue for coming many days and the situation will worsen with every delay.
There is much needed to be done. In such a time, people from every strata of life can be helpful. We decided to create a team of volunteers and act as a bridge between the various humanitarian organisations and the people in remote areas near Kathmandu. We have planned to write reportage from the disaster zone, get them printed and distribute it to the humanitarian organisations present there. We will be printing a newsletter from Nepal. Apart from distributing the reportage in Nepal, we will be publishing it here on LokMarg everyday, so that our readers can also understand the gravity of the situation.
We hope best for the Himalayan country.
This article was first published on May 4, 2015 on LokMarg.com