Updates on ‘Rahat Floods- Bihar/Orissa’ and appeal for ‘Rahat Winters’ | GOONJ..a voice, an effort

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Updates on ‘Rahat Floods- Bihar/Orissa’ and appeal for ‘Rahat Winters’

“Arey sahab is baar to sukhi ghaas bhi nahi hai sekne ko”. (This time we don’t even have dry grass to burn to keep us warm) Shivering in extreme cold, 60 years old Jagdhar’s statement says it all.

We have said earlier as well that winters are going to be a much bigger disaster than the floods for millions of Bihar flood victims. With dampness all around, with water still flowing at some places through the fields and the places where people used to stay, with no roof and after losing even basic clothing in floods, this is the toughest phase for people here in Bihar.

Traditionally millions of people in this country survive in winters by burning wood and dry grass (mainly husk of leftovers of crops) BUT this time as the floods washed away the crops and uprooted millions of trees where’s the question of leftover dry husk ??. With little resistance left in their bodies, much less to cover themselves and without a proper shelter, the calamity is only becoming worse every day for millions of people.

While we, sitting miles away from the affected region, think Bihar was flooded months back and things would have settled down by now.. but come here and you will find hardly anything has settled down. With most agencies having winded up their work and relief camps being closed, people have been forced to go back to their villages without any infrastructure or support system.

In the meanwhile winters have also become a good publicity stunt for many political people, organisations and NGOs here. While some people claim themselves as the biggest agency in the media by providing just 500 blankets, district officers call some people to their office to give one blanket for each family on the basis of their cast and on Below Poverty Line (BPL) listing. Imagine the irony.. while the floods didn’t differentiate between the poor and the poorest the govt. blanket does. It’s as if the not so poor, even after losing everything, can survive the winters because he is not in the poorest category.

In the last ten years of GOONJ’s work we have been advocating among city people, to think of winters as a disaster for countless people who do not have enough to cover themselves. In the past we have shared stories on how people even dig a pit to sleep due to non-availability of clothes to survive in winters.

I am just coming back from some remote villages of Kalahandi (Orissa) and after all these visits one understands how little one is doing. Imagine countless women with no blouse or petticoat, only in a thin sari. When you ask them how do you manage in winters they tell you- they loosen up their sari and cover themselves with the extra length !!

This is just to highlight that it’s not only the flood-affected parts of Bihar but across the country the demand for woolens and blankets is much higher than supply. The regular support from many of you helps us continue our bit in Bihar and in other parts of the country.

In the meanwhile Orissa also saw one of the worst floods in the last 50 years in 2008. Due to inadequate media attention and with more focus on the Bihar floods, this disaster got very little attention from the agencies and the corporate sector.

Here are some glimpses of our work in Bihar and Orissa and some success stories on Cloth for Work and School to School programme implementation.

Do take this note as an appeal for a large quantities of woolens and blankets for RAHAT WINTERS, GOONJ’s annual campaign. We certainly need much larger quantities this year due to extensive work going on in Bihar & Orissa.

Do contact Ruchika on ruchika@goonj.org or Priyanka on priyanka@goonj.org if you want to organize a collection camp for the woolen/blankets/clothes etc in your residential/work area.

With best


P.S. – We have issued all the receipts for all the financial contribution made to GOONJ for RAHAT Floods. Some receipts are pending due to contributors’ incomplete address while many cheques have bounced.Please get in touch with priyanka@goonj.org in any of above cases or if due to postal problems you have not received the receipt.


RAHAT FLOODS campaign by GOONJ.. (January 2009)








GOONJ has emerged as one of the biggest agencies working in the flood affected areas of Bihar & Orissa.







Extensive work spread across all the worst affected districts of Saharsa, Supaul, Madhepura & Khagaria in Bihar.

a.  So far GOONJ has reached more than 175 remote villages in these districts with various kinds of relief material and other interventions.

b.     In most of these villages GOONJ was the first organization to reach material with its partner groups.

c.      GOONJ is working with over 18 partner groups in Bihar including established voluntary organizations, young organizations, Gandhian groups, youth groups & Panchayat.

In Orissa GOONJ tied up with three well-respected organizations – Biswa, Adhikar & Ekta Parishad for a wide spread reach in the effected regions.Implementation

   a.  Biggest Bihar Partnerships: with Ekta Parishad and AID India.

   b.  Biggest independent operations of GOONJ; in many villages in Kumarkhand block of district Madhepura and many villages of Saharsa & Supaul.

c.  A 15 member GOONJ team based fulltime in the affected areas is looking after the entire relief and rehabilitation campaign of GOONJ.

d.  Widespread relief operations in large parts of the worst affected blocks of Supaul district (many of these parts remained inaccessible for months after the floods). GOONJ  reached these areas (walking, by boat and motorcycles)  working together with many  Gandhian organization & volunteers. In its phased relief operations, GOONJ focused on the worst affected villages like Madhubani, Udhampur, Kalagovindpur, Mendipur, Gariya.











Providing Material

  • Over 80 trucks (15 tonne/9 tones) of material have already reached the people of Bihar & Orissa. Material includes over 2,00,000 kgs of ration, 6000 tents, 30,000 blankets, 20,000 mats, 10,000 buckets/pans, utensil sets, over 40,000 sarees/peticots, over 1.00 lakh woolens, milk powder, torches, 3000 mosquito nets,  apart from many trucks of general clothing.
  • GOONJ emerged as the biggest source for channelising clothes for different agencies working for flood victims.
  •  Need based collection of material was initiated in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Amravati, Bangalore, Jalandhar, Pune  & many other cities.
  • In addition to above-mentioned woolens 4000 winter kits have also been provided to the families. A GOONJ winter kit is designed to take care of a families long term needs. It includes two thick blankets, 2 mats and 10 to 15 woolens (2 woolen per family member).
  •  Sanitary napkin- Sent over 1 lakh napkins so far (made out of waste cotton cloth under our initiative ‘Not just a piece of cloth’) to Bihar & Orissa. This was one of the most ignored relief material in all the camps.










Innovative initiatives

a. Disaster wastage as resource: GOONJ has officially tied up with Saharsa district administration to look after the vast quantities of clothing received by it during the floods. (estimated about 30 trucks load).

b. Sujni Project; GOONJ is developing centers in Bihar to convert old waste cloth into Sujni. Apart from protecting people from extreme cold it will generate large-scale employment in the region. Each person will be given raw material for three, they will keep 2 Sujni and give back one to GOONJ. In the next phase people are paid also to make extra Sujnis and this has come up as one of the major income generation activity for a number of women. NEEV, a Jamshedpur based organization, has sent 600 Sujnis to Bihar made out of waste cloth provided by GOONJ.

Mobile Medical boat; On 7th September, GOONJ introduced a heath camp 15 km away from land, in village Sukhasan. A mobile medical boat was also initiated to meet the immediate needs of people trapped in water. This new experiment supported over 2000 patients. So far, it has prevented 10 deaths by reaching in time for things like snakebite and diarrhea cases. It has also proven to be of immense use in relief supplies and evacuation.

CHEHAK- Apart from supporting the education initiatives by our partner groups, GOONJ has initiated its own centers called Chehak to provide a joyful atmosphere to kids.

Implementation; Four such Chehak centers with approximately 800 kids are already operational withparticipatory approach of involving villagers and village level committee to run these centers.







VAAPSI – aims to bring back livelihood.

– GOONJ has identified various village level skilled/unskilled professions; right from setting up a barbershop, Dhaba, Manihari etc to generate employment on a large scale for which Livelihood Kits are being developed to start work.

– These livelihood kits will act like an asset for people in future. Many who used to work as bonded labor can immediately start something of their own with these kits.

– In this new venture, Adobe has granted us financial support of Rs. 48 lakhs.

Over rupees 3.00 crores and a large scale purchase (as per GOONJ’s requirements) by many  organizations and groups including Mumbai Group of Friends, Shri Neminath Jain foundation, DSP Merill Lynch, TCS, RBS, Orange, E&Y etc.

We have spent about Rs. one crore so far primarily in transportation and relief supplies. Some of the biggest monetary contributions have been from: Colgate Palmolive- 31.60 lakh, Sonata Software  Ltd- 16.60 lakh, Shell India- 10.00 lakh, Axis Bank- 11.00 lakh & Arpan Foundation- 12.00 lakh

Countless organizations and individuals have made a commendable contribution to GOONJ’s floods campaign. Many have gone out of their way by making a lot of physical effort in buying material as per our lists. Some of the case studies, important figures, photographs etc. are up on www.goonj.org

Saraswat co-operative Bank Ltd contributed Rs. 7.00 lakh for a vehicle for Goonj’s fieldwork in Bihar.

Some commendable contributions

- Well known artist Subodh Gupta & Bharti Kherorganized an online auction of their & other well known artist’s work and raised about 1.6 crore for GOONJ’s flood relief work.

– Mumbai Group of Friends, an informal group of friends, motivated many organizations and individuals to contribute over 70 lakh rupees worth of new material and cash contribution for GOONJ.

- Nemi Narayan Trust of Mumbai contributed many trucks of material. A team of 40 people traveled to the flood affected areas with the GOONJ team members.

– Dr. Avinash Shaoji of Prayas came up as a big friend of GOONJ during this campaign. In many smaller  cities of Maharashtra he mobilized people in a big way. Over 7 truck load of relief material was sent to  Bihar & Orissa from this part of the country.

     –  The Doctors & Chemist Association from Pandharkawada (a small town in Yavatmal district, of  around 30,000 population) took the lead in collecting relief material following Dr. Shaoji’s appeal. The local Schools, colleges & the local public was involved in an awareness rally resulting in collection of nearly two truckloads of cloths. After closing their dispensaries & shops, the doctors & Chemists used to work beyond midnight, sorting & packing the collected material. A large number of volunteers spent long hours in sorting material as per GOONJ guidelines.

–   Ms. Bhairavi Jani & M/s Safexpress supported GOONJ.. to transport the material to the effected regions.

– 1298, TNT & IOC got together to organize a drive in Mumbai and sent huge quantities of material to Saharsa.

– Mehekar, a small town in Buldana district, organised a rally and collected a truckload of material.

- Well known dancer Mallika Sarabhai’s organization Darpana became a successful collection center in Ahemedabad during the campaign. ‘Dream a dream ‘ at Bangalore & Aham Bhoomika at Bhopal were also some of the few very successful collection points for GOONJ..

-  Carrefour Foundation made a timely contribution of about 40,000 meter of new cloth for making cloth sanitary napkins with which we are able to generate over 1.5 lakh napkins.










Even though Orissa was also affected by one of the worst floods, it hardly got any attention from the media and the rest of the country. As a result very few agencies reached there. Unfortunately by declaring/describing these as normal, annual floods, very little is being done.

GOONJ has reached over 20 trucks load of material so far. We are committed to a long-term operation/involvement especially in view of the impact of ongoing winters.

For more pictures please visit- http://www.goonj.info/Chehak1.php

To listen to the audio interview on Bihar floods please click http://www.638387.org/audio/anshu.asp

Anshu Gupta (Ashoka Fellow)
Founder Director
Tel:- 011- 26972351, 41401216
Add- J-93, Sarita Vihar, New Delhi-76
Website:- www.goonj.org

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