Threats or Thieves, Volunteers Endure

From threatening calls by a resident to an ambush by people desperate for relief materials, workers in the field are braving it all for greater good

Published: 10th December 2015 05:42 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th December 2015 05:42 AM   |  A+A-


CHENNAI: If there’s something this monsoon has shown everyone, it’s that the city’s youth would not helplessly wait for the floods to cease. Refusing to remain shackled indoors by fear or helplessness, hoards of them took to dirty swamps, flooded streets and dangerously inundated areas, ploughing through danger to aid the stranded. City Express spoke to a few of these spirited youngsters who caught glimpses of things they never saw before.

“I was passing Pallikarnai on a distress call when my bike stopped because water entered it. I noticed a group of men fishing by the roadside, but the moment they saw me, they started packing up. As I approached them, they picked up their belongings and fled. Three others, who were fishing nearby also ran away after seeing me. Only then did I notice the sign board that said fishing isn’t allowed,” recounts Karthik T, who has been carrying supplies to inundated areas since the rains started.

The TASMAC outlet that remained open, even as the skies took on several shades of grey, caught the attention of many. “We were trying to get water across to these completely submerged houses near Aliamman Temple. The people there had no access to food or water. Though men would go out and return with food and water, their families kept asking for water bottles, citing a shortage. Only then did we realise that these people who the braved six-feet-deep water, were using it to dilute their booze. They used the food as a side-dish. We convinced them to stop abusing the limited resources,” recounts Vignesh Rajagopal from Mylapore, who volunteered in several parts of the city with his friends, even in neck-deep water.

Human fallacies cropped up in times of need even from the side of companies that could have refrained from hiking the prices of food, which was the need of the hour. Priyanka Mani tells us how she fought with the manager of a popular chain of vegetarian hotels as the cost of food was hiked during the flood.

“We needed food urgently for about 150 people, and we (volunteers) had collected enough money. We intended to get food for people in a middle-class locality from a well-known restaurant near ECR. But the prices were hiked up. A dosa and curd rice was priced at `100. They refused to budge even when I explained that we needed the food for relief work. It became pretty ugly after that,” she recounts. “It’s one thing to not provide a discount, but it’s totally different to hike prices when there is a dire need.  Can’t they not think of profits for at least a few days? I almost got into a brawl.”

Between witnessing swarms of desperate people grabbing their belongings, looting their cars, and even threatening them with dire consequences if no aid was given, volunteers narrate incidents that made them feel fortunate, made them spring into action, and made them see fear unlike that of any flood.

“Only hours ago, I got a call from Urapakkam where residents threatened to commit suicide if we didn’t send help. It was the strangest and scariest phone conversation of my life, and thankfully we managed to send help across,” recounts Vijay, who runs a camp in Mylapore.

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