The State Disaster Risk Reduction Congress, first of its kind in the country, took place on 22 -24 April 2010. It had been very long 10 weeks of preparation, that yielded fruits. As State Coordinator of the State Inter Agency Group, I had to go about creating sub-committees, negotiate with organizations for fund raising for the event, and ensure that every thing perfect in order.... With over 60 speakers and three venues, over 600 participants and over 50 dignitaries, and the huge exhibition by 20 organizations and National Disaster Response Force, the entire Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata gave a new look. The sun was inclement. It certainly hit on my body, as the last seven days were almost sleepless, and spending the days in hot and humid weather. A little shop at the stadium run by two blind people (they are couples) gave me some relief, as I drank almost five to eight bottles of Nimbooz (of Coca Cola) that cooled me down, with the lemon flavor.
Meanwhile, the death toll in Uttar Dinajpur where a devastating storm had struck had gone up to 43, and the government said over 100,000 houses are fully damaged, and the number of people affected by the storm was placed at 700,000. On 15 April I had called for a meeting of the State IAG and we sent a team of professionals to do needs assessment. Several organizations have started responding to the needs of the affected population, although it is severely insufficient, and the support given by the government is terribly short of fulfilling people's needs, and is mired in political battle. (In picture, a child at play in the midst of rumbles....never realizing the damage that surrounds it!)
As soon as the Congress was over on 24 April evening, immediately I left for Raiganj to visit the affected areas and to assess the level of response. And my visits, rend my heart.