Abu Dhabi: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. This was proven by a group that I am a part of called the “Our Irinjalakuda”, a Facebook group based out of Irinjalakuda in Thrissur, India.
During the recent Kerala floods, the group with around 60,000 members and about 200 active volunteers formed a team and got to work. None of them were experienced or experts in disaster management. But, they lead, took orders, guided and acted forgetting their caste, creed, political party or ideologies.
The momentum they generated to coordinate this activity triggered and transformed to the group’s first relief support operation in the Alappuzha district, which was one of the heavily affected areas.
A small team left with a pickup truck, loaded with essential food and medicine supplies, to personally distribute to and support those in need. However, they didn’t know what was in store for them over the next few days.
All the dams and rivers started overflowing and the water level started increasing. As the paddy fields got flooded, the bridges and roads started collapsing and transportation became absolutely impossible.
Temporary disaster control centres were quickly formed. Members took different lead roles and were supported by local students. The effective use of WhatsApp and Facebook came to prominence at this point when electricity was cut and there was no radio or disaster management communication systems in place.
Jithesh Ambady, one of the members of the group, created a support group on WhatsApp, which became the lifeline of supplies for not only Thrissur district, but also to all the badly affected areas in Kerala.
He told Gulf News: “My mother and sister’s family are all witnesses and victims of this natural disaster. I was able to understand from them, the critical moments of seeing death passing right in front you. If I was able to do anything about it, it was all because of the good friendships I have. With the small time frame that we had, whatever we were able to do for the needy is the result of the priceless relationships we hold.”
He efficiently utilised the public transport buses. With the support from their staff, they transported essential medicines and food supply in the initial stages and later cleaning aids.
Dr Rose Anto, another member of the group, said: “The relief efforts taught us many things, but most importantly that humans should be interdependent and must keep an eye on social causes, always. If united we are strong.”
Those who were stuck outside of the town as well many non-resident Indians sprung into action, coordinating these activities by keeping vigil at night when those on ground took an hour or two for rest and regrouping.
The youth came up with several ideas and collaborated with the government authorities in the rebuild process. Teams were formed and spread out to each village and carried out cleaning operations and relief support.
Before the government system started their action, this relief group thought well ahead and sourced items for cleaning, disinfecting and also formed small teams to support restoration of water and electricity.
The team also started to clean the affected homes and scan them thoroughly for snakes or other reptiles. They worked in coordination with Snake Wild Animal Rescue Association (Swara).
All these activities were systematically done keeping the local authorities informed and taking them along to oversee, so that there is absolutely no fund or material mismanagement.
The disaster management outlined above is just one example. There are several other groups from all parts of Kerala that deserve merit. At the end of the day, everyone was united, stood together and worked their way around during those extremely difficult days. All are heroes and they proved that working together works.
As the government works on the rebuilding process, questions are in plenty from the general public on how we can cut costs and function efficiently. The government could introduce a mandatory and major cut on the allowances for ministers and support staff and reduce their numbers.
Apart from that, there are several commissions and bodies, which are consuming enormous funds from the government. Why not dissolve them once and for all and save costs?
There are also a large number of advisors for several ministers who are pampered with huge payment and government facilities. Why not reduce them and let the government come out with an open online portal for public to provide free and professional advice?
Each government minister and all higher authorities are luxuriously pampered with at least one or two police escort cars and personnel when they move around. Why don’t we implement a permanent stop to this?
All the above questions, if answered, could lead to quicker rebuilding of our beautiful Kerala.
— The reader is an Abu Dhabi resident.
To news reports published in prominent newspapers Khaleej Times and Gulf News have created lot of confusion and fear among NRIs based in UAE.
On 24th July 2017, Khaleej Times came out with the news below:
NRIs urged to apply for Aadhaar Card
Filed on July 24, 2017 | Last updated on July 24, 2017 at 08.29 am
Non-resident Indians (NRIs) are advised to apply for the Aaadhar card to avail of state benefits and for hassle-free transactions in future.
According to a manager of the NRI section of State Bank of India (SBI), the government has not exempted Indian expats from the Aadhaar card.
Jose GL, NRI section manager at SBI’s Varkala branch, Kerala, told Khaleej Times:
“My advice to NRIs is to apply for Aadhar Card, as there is a chance for the government to make it mandatory for expats as well. Without an announcement, the government has now asked everyone to link their Permanent Account Number (Pan) with Aadhaar, for income tax returns. There is no doubt that Aadhaar will become compulsory and beneficial for several transactions in the coming years.”
Today, 26th July 2017 Gulf News have come out with a totally contradictory version of it:
‘NRIs not eligible for Aadhaar ID card’
Published: 14:32 July 26, 2017
If banks, or any Indian institutions, demand that Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) produce Aadhaar for official transactions, simply inform them that NRIs are not eligible for the identity card issued to residents of India, a top Indian official told Gulf News on Tuesday.
“Just tell them that we [NRIs] are not eligible for Aadhaar, therefore, don’t force us to produce it,” Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), said in a telephone interview from New Delhi.
Whether to apply for an Aadhaar, the thought has now become aa dar (upcoming fear) for expatriates here.
Who to follow and what to do is very important and appreciate responsible newspapers should do necessary homework before publishing such important formation of high importance.
Appreciate to have a clarification from the Indian Embassy authorities on which of these reports are to be followed by all.
Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi
26th July 2017
I feel it is advisable to have regulations for seat belts continue to be applied for all seats in the school buses that are on our roads (‘New drivers to get two-year licence, starting from July 1’, Gulf News, April 17). The advantage factors I find behind such an enforcement of safety regulation are many. First and foremost, at any given point in time, the student is safeguarded from impacts due to sudden braking.
Secondly, when it is normally enforced on a daily basis it will become an automatic habit, which will be carried on to their private travel with friends and family. They will be leading the way as ambassadors of road safety.
It may also reduce the driver distractions that happen often in the school buses where children run around or jump on the seats, ignoring the request of the supervisors and drivers. It may thus reduce the bullying that might be happening in some cases.
Safety education is something children should be reminded of every moment. It is because we tend to take some small points lightly, thinking that we know it or “it will not happen to me” that many accidents occur. So, why do we miss out on the opportunity of a road safety education opportunity for children? Teach them young and travel with them safely throughout!
From Mr Ramesh Menon
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Readers write to Gulf News about issues affecting them and their community
‘Instant fame’ is not worth endangering yourself
This is an extremely important move from Dubai’s Environment, Health and Safety Control Authority (“Local order against daredevil selfie takers”, Gulf News, March 21). They are curbing the recent craze of ‘selfie-adventurists’ doing dangerous stunts on top of high-rise structures. Not only is this a death-defying act, but also creates negative motivation for others to follow and receive ‘instant fame’ on social media.
In fact, people don’t just perform these kinds of stunts in Dubai alone – it happens everywhere. In one of my trips to Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah, I witnessed a family encouraging children to jump repeatedly from the guard rails for a picture-perfect opportunity, while someone else kept clicking pictures on their camera. This happy excursion could have become tragic any time one of them fell down the side of a steep slope. I hope there will be more awareness programs to constantly alert and remind people of any imminent danger. Safety should be our priority at all times.
From Mr Ramesh Menon
The trend of unauthorized and unprotected stunts and filming them and publishing them for fame has increased recently and become a menace. Authorities should come out with strict rules to punish those who do such dangerous acts without appropriate protections and approval and supervision of necessary protective authorities. These photos and videos may encourage youth to follow them without a second thought about the impending danger if they fail or falter. Safety should never be compromised and this indeed is an unsafe situation, which should never be encouraged.
To read it, visit Gulf News online
Read the corresponding article related to this comment.
It is a highly unbelievable and a one-off situation what the people of the state as well as those who love the Tamil people are witnessing now (‘India’s top court shows the way in fighting graft’, Gulf News, February 15). First and foremost, we are living in an era that should have freedom to express our constitutional rights and thoughts and not just follow the whims and fancies of anyone who claims to have confidence or power or even access to power.
Wonder why the educated Tamil people, men and women, sit quiet and say nothing on this issue. They had more of a voice and mass to express and unite themselves for the Jallikattu Festival issue than for a situation like these pseudo rulers.
Who is forcing Vivekanandan Krishnaveni Sasikala to remain in politics, if she feels that it’s hard for a woman to survive in politics? Sit quiet and be comfortable at home and enjoy the money that has been quietly earned over the years rather than perish with more greed.
Without strong sentencing and monetary punishment, which surprisingly was not handed out in this case, the process may continue to happen considering the timeframe for such verdicts.
From Mr Ramesh Menon
To read it in original, visit:
The good and the bad
I am impressed by the quality of the news content coming out these days. In terms of the The Views, the editorials always stand out. Community reports of Gulf News have to be given a special mention as it reaches the issues addressed by dedicated residents that reach the authorities and achieve results. Gulf News should devote a day or two to encourage young writers from schools in the UAE to address the issues they feel important.
Kudos to the cartoonists and photographers of Gulf News as they do a good job to portray the message with intended effect. Weekend Review is so elaborate that one may need more than a full weekend to complete the contents. Of course, there are some negatives, too.
When it comes to major events related to the sub-continent, we tend to see the responses of a select few from the business community, which is becoming an overkill. Please do also try to cover more news from Abu Dhabi and other emirates so that readers from these areas do not feel they are left out.
The online version of Gulf News is highly attractive, however, updates have to be consistent and up to date. Indexing and tagging of the news items has to be accurate so that readers can search and obtain them quickly.
Of course, an improvement in coverage is seen these days, but expect more from Gulf News.
From Mr Ramesh Menon
To read it in original, visit GULF NEWS online
You will find at least 20 to 25 unread messages out of which, you will get a minimum 15 pictures or video forwards! What do you do if you are travelling or if you have a huge contact base in your phone? The odd members who don’t think about the inconvenience that can be caused to the receiver when he forwards pictures and videos. It spoils the significance and benefits of using the platform.
If a person is so fond of disseminating information through WhatsApp, my suggestion is to first upload the voluminous files to either a blog or YouTube channel and then share the link. The receiver can, at his convenience, look at them and it remains there permanently for later referrals. Whereas, if you end up sending too many photos or videos, imagine the situation of someone who is traveling and has limited connectivity and storage capacity? The inconvenience caused will prompt the receiver to exit from such groups or block the sender.
For me personally, WhatsApp is an efficient communication medium, but people are not using it diligently. So much so that recently I had to prepare a warning poster and share it as my keynote on phone and social media to inform my contacts to be considerate on their WhatsApp messages. I also had to exit from four important groups due to the excessive volume of non-relevant pictures and videos being shared to members by some individual members.
From Mr Ramesh Menon
To read it in original, please visit Gulf News online
It is a time of anticipation and excitement as India, my home country, and UAE, my home away from home, field their largest contingents to the Rio Olympics. From the Indian team, expectations are high on the 12-member shooting contingent, badminton, wrestling, tennis and archery team members along with boxing and the men’s hockey team all set to keep the Indian flag flying high at least a few times through their wins. Meanwhile, for the UAE it is all the more prestigious as there is a woman athlete representing the country in swimming along with the overall 13 athletes who will represent the country in six different disciplines like cycling, judo, weightlifting and athletics. Best wishes for the safe conduct of the event and let peace and harmony prevail with everyone enjoying the individual and team events.
From Mr Ramesh Menon