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Jatinder Singh: How Khalsa Aid Is Delivering Flood Relief Efforts In Punjab & Haryana
"The ever-changing demands from relief workers are best understood in just examining the needs that have arisen in the week since the floods arrived."
July 17, 2023 | 5 min. read | Opinion
Torrential rains caused extensive flooding in North West India starting just over a week ago, resulting in the loss of over one hundred lives. In response to this catastrophic event, Khalsa Aid has been active in relief operations, providing crucial assistance to affected areas in Punjab and Haryana. Not only Khalsa Aid, but the Sikh community, including other Sikh organizations and the Sikh youth, has been at the forefront of these relief efforts, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to helping those in need.
The ever-changing demands from relief workers are best understood in just examining the needs that have arisen in the week since the floods arrived. Below is a snapshot of Khalsa Aid’s seva in the first eight days.
Khalsa Aid's operations started immediately on July 9, when the flooding began in Rupnagar (Ropar). Rescue operations for individuals trapped in their homes were the immediate need. To facilitate communication with those requiring assistance, emergency contact numbers were provided by Khalsa Aid's India team so they could be contacted with the details.
Amarpreet Singh, the Asia-Pacific Director and head of Khalsa Aid India, has led India's efforts since 2014. With nearly a decade of experience managing various seva projects across the country, Amarpreet Singh was pivotal in coordinating relief work during previous natural disasters, such as the Kerala floods in 2018 and the Punjab floods in 2019. He also spearheaded Khalsa Aid’s seva during the Farmers’ Protest. Under his guidance, Khalsa Aid's India team has been actively engaged in the flood relief operations, being provided with support and collaboration from the other country chapters led by CEO Ravi Singh.
The scale of the flooding in Northwest India has been devastating, affecting millions of people. Within a few days, Khalsa Aid was delivering aid to the districts of Patiala, Sri Fatehgarh Sahib, Rupnagar, and Jalandhar in Punjab, as well as Karnal, Ambala, and Shahbad Maranda in Haryana. Due to accessibility challenges in certain areas, such as Jalandhar, the team acquired rafts to navigate obstacles when boats were impractical. Additionally, Khalsa Aid's Patiala office was flooded, necessitating the relocation of their operations headquarters.
During this initial phase, the primary objectives were rescuing individuals, especially older people and those requiring medical assistance, while also providing essential supplies such as food, water, dry milk, and mosquito repellents. By the fifth day of operations, approximately 137 experienced volunteers were managing relief efforts in various locations, including Khanauri, Devigarh, Patiala City, Jalandhar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Jagraon, and Ludhiana in Punjab, as well as Ambala, Shahbad, and Kurukshetra in Haryana. The team also explored options for paneeri cultivation (rice seedling), aiming to provide rice seedlings for over 800 acres once farming activities could resume. The floods caused extensive damage to crops and also resulted in livestock loss.
While distributing cleaning products in those areas where water was receding, the team noted that the flood waters had also damaged mattresses, so they decided to purchase an initial 1500 mattresses. This is not what may come to mind immediately with respect to what aid needs delivering, but with teams on the ground doing assessments, it is these types of needs that get identified.
The overwhelming response from donors within India prompted Khalsa Aid to establish 11 drop-off points in Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi. Concurrently, discussions began to expand the hotline team to manage the increasing volume of calls and ensure efficient responses from the rescue teams.
On the seventh day of operations, the helpline experienced a surge in calls, and approximately 20 volunteers were also stationed at the drop-off points. The team acquired 12 dewatering pumps deployed to remove water from affected areas. Additionally, two sites were identified for paneeri cultivation, expanding the scope of Khalsa Aid's future agricultural support. Ration packets were also dispatched to Sri Fatehgarh Sahib, while cattle feed distribution was initiated in Haryana.
Khalsa Aid's relief efforts prioritize immediate assistance to flood-affected individuals and communities while also considering long-term support for their rehabilitation.
As the floodwaters recede, the team has focused on sanitation fogging exercises to combat public health concerns from mosquito bites and the distribution of OTC medicines, especially for those with skin conditions occurring from wading through the flood waters.
Two recent breaches, at Rorki village and another at Chandpura Dam in Mansa, have resulted in the river’s embankments giving way on the Punjab side, and a team has been subsequently sent to deliver aid.
Currently, approximately 176 dedicated volunteers are managing operations in districts across Punjab and Haryana, including Sangrur, Mansa, Feorzepur, Sri Fatehgarh Sahib, Patiala, Jalandhar, Ludhiana in Punjab, and Karnal and Ambala in Haryana.
Khalsa Aid's relief efforts remain ongoing as the team assesses evolving needs. Discussions are underway to provide kitchen utensils for families in need, acquire additional mattresses, and expand the fleet of boats. The organization is also identifying centralized distribution hubs for the donations received at drop-off locations, ensuring efficient delivery to those in need.
Khalsa Aid acknowledges the challenges inherent in conducting relief work in disaster zones. The presence of debris in floodwaters often necessitates time-consuming obstacle clearance, and the team must also navigate encounters with displaced wildlife, especially snakes, including two that decided to make our Patiala office their home.
Fogging operations and mosquito repellent distribution are essential to combat the increased presence of mosquitoes. Tarps have been provided to those without shelter, offering temporary relief from the elements.
Khalsa Aid thanks the Sangat for their trust and support, allowing our teams to carry out seva across Punjab and Haryana. The resilience and mutual assistance displayed by local communities during these difficult times are heartening.
Khalsa Aid continues coordinating with local groups, market associations, local government bodies, and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to provide comprehensive assistance where required.
To stay updated on Khalsa Aid's ongoing relief efforts, please follow us on social media.
As the floods persist, Khalsa Aid remains dedicated to providing aid and support, offering hope to those affected and striving to alleviate their suffering during this challenging period. If you have family and friends in India needing assistance, or wishing to drop off aid, please ask them to contact us at the links provided herein.
Jatinder Singh is the National Director for Khalsa Aid Canada. You can find him on Twitter, IG, and FB at @jindisinghka
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