Saturday, June 25, 2011

Flood Struck

Natural disasters seem to chase human kind everywhere. Incessant rains started on 16 June continued till 19 June, and there was flood like situation in several parts of the State of West Bengal. According to government reports nearly a million people were affected, and at least 30 persons have died so far due to landslides, flood and lightning. On Tuesday, 21 June evening, Mr. Nasir Ateeq from Unicef Kolkata office called me and requested that I help out the coordination process. Since the need of the hour is to have a needs assessment organized immediately, I was in Kolkata on Wednesday, and helped to put a team together along with the State Inter Agency Group, Unicef, CARE, World Vision and few other NGOs. And on 23 - 24, we were in Bankura and Purba Medinipur districts of West Bengal doing Emergency Needs Assessment (ENA). By late evening of 24 June, the ENA report for distributed for wider audience and for appropriate action by partner non-profits and government.

Though the days were tiring, yet I was happy that I could contribute to the welfare of the people in whatever little way I can and I could. (The image below shows the southern part of West Bengal, and the blocks affected by floods.)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Laser Sharp

The nation is obsessed with the debate on an anti-corruption bill, known as the Lokpal Bill. Under this, there will be a committee of eminent persons, outside the jurisdiction of the government, with powers to prosecute any corrupt public servant in office. The pro-Bill group, led by a social worker Anna Hazare (a male) want a stronger Lokpal (People's Guardian) who will cover all the 120 million government workers, will have the authority to investigate, prosecute and punish any corrupt person. The government, which wants the Bill, has certain reservations: a) To watch, monitor, investigate and prosecute such a large number of persons, the Lokpal will need a huge army of persons. How can we have such huge army of persons who are answerable to no one? b) The question today is about corruption in high places. So, the corruption in lower places can be controlled by strengthening existing laws, and the Lokpal can take care of corruption in high places, from the level of Joint Secretary and above, including Ministers in the Cabinet. c) Even if a system of Lokpal is made, an all such facilities such as investigating agencies are placed at the disposal of the Lokpal, since the Lokpal itself arises out of the premise that the existing persons are corrupt, how can we expect them to become pure because they are placed under the Lokpal? and, d) The Prime Minister must be except from the purview of Lokpal so that government is not destabilized and the existing Parliamentary procedures are good enough to monitor the PM. The PM can be brought within the ambit of the Lokpal once his tenure is over. This would protect the office of the PM.

I go with the government. That doesn't mean I go with the corrupt.

In Bed, not so Good

It was 7 June. I was traveling to Aminpur, a little known tribal village in the outskirts of Bolpur to meet the children and their families, because along with some friends I help for some of their education. It was a real hot day, and I was traveling on a motorcycle. Suddenly, the motorcycle began to give trouble. Soon I had to push it around until a mechanic came and got it repaired. By then I had sweat profusely, and was coughing with the sweat settling in my body. By evening I had a fever, and on 8 June it was 103 F, and I was flat in bed. A visit to the doctor revealed that I had some severe viral infection, and was put on antibiotics. The first round of antibiotics brought the fever down in 3 days, but the cough and cold continued to persist, with severe pain in back of the head. Finally, I had to start another course of antibiotics. Finally, now the fever is gone, and my plans of going to Tamilnadu for a holidays shattered, I am planning for the next round of Polio Immunization scheduled for 26 June. Hope every child gets immunized this time!