Monday, 12 November 2007

Nandigram relief - an appeal

This email just in via Arka Mukhopadhyay, Trina Nileena Banerjee and others.
From: Anjum Katyal
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2007 8:12 PM
Subject: relief for Nandigram

I just received an sms from Aparna Sen asking for relief materials for Nandigram victims (she specifically mentioned old clothes, children's clothes and rice) which can be sent to Mahasweta Devi's address, given below:
c/o Mahasweta Devi
W 2C 12/3 Phase 2, Golf Green, Kolkata 95. Ph: 24143033

We've been asked to forward the request to as many people as possible.

Do please pass the word.

I had some misgivings about the old clothes, given past learnings, but sent it on nevertheless, since the folks who forwarded it are reliable sources.

I got this reply from Amit Varma:
It might be a well-meaning and genuine appeal, but in my experience, old clothes are generally the worst possible thing to give, because even poor people don't take hand-me-downs. When Dilip and I travelled in TN after the tsunami, the roadsides were littered with colorful heaps of old clothes nobody wanted. Both of us wrote about it extensively, Dilip also using the experience of previous trips through disaster-struck areas.

Of course, in this instance this specific need might exist for some reason. But in general, it is a bad idea, and I thought it fair to share that.
I wrote to Dilip D'souza as well:
What's your take on this?

I had my misgivings about this, given my learnings from the post-Tsunami scenario, not least because of your own postings on the matter. Nevertheless, I did send it on to several others. Amit Varma echoed my concerns thusly: [Amit's mail quoted here]
If you're in agreement, you may want to post a point of view somewhere.
Dilip said:
Amit is right: from Orissa '99 to Kutch '01 to TN '04, nobody in those areas wants old clothes. It's true, this is a slightly different case -- it's a manmade calamity rather than a natural one. I think we should hold off sending old clothes until we get some more info from the trenches. Maybe we should reply to that appeal asking specifically about the old clothes. (Once we get a reply, I'll post that somewhere). I'll send a note.

Money can be used to buy new clothes.
Dilip, after this exchange, wrote to the originators of this appeal, stating his concerns, and asking for clarification. He also notes that the "phone number listed for Mahashweta Devi does not work." I had got some further queries from people I had forwarded this to, so I followed up as well. After an initial reply promising more information, Anjum Katyal sent us this:

I am sending this out to anyone in my address book who I feel would need the information, and be in a position to circulate it further. Over the past few days I have received several emails and queries about where exactly relief material is being collected for Nandigram victims. It seems that when Mahasweta Devi's phone number was called, they were being told that no materials were being collected there.

I managed to speak directly to Mahasweta di this morning and here is what she has asked me to circulate:

1. Her address IS being used as a collection and despatch centre for relief materials for Nandigram victims. For those who do not have it, it is:

W 2C, 12/3 Phase 2, Golf Green, Kolkata 700095.

Children's warm clothes, new (not secondhand) lungis and dhotis for men. sturdy saris in wearable condition, rice and dal are welcome.

2. If money is being donated, it should be sent to Account no. 24941, Canara Bank, Sealdah branch.

3. Mahasweta di has been focusing on working with a doctors' group at Nandigram. The contact person if anyone wishes to help with the health centre there in any way is Dr Devapriya Mallick, 9830510911.

Thanks and regards
Anjum Katyal

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