Sunday, August 29, 2010

Floods in Pakistan

As of now a whopping 20 million people have been affected by floods that are still ravaging Pakistan. An estimated 5 million are homeless and the numbers continue to rise. The news is essentially off the radar for Indian news agencies. Both the Hindu and the Times of India run stories that are buried deep inside the newspaper.

As the primary 'enemy country' in the eyes of most Indians (just as India is, in the eyes of many Pakistanis), this is not very surprising though I am disappointed that main stream sober newspapers like the Hindu have not been more proactive at least in their reportage. However the poor, the homeless and the ravaged (like their counterparts in India) have nothing to do with terrorism, the Taliban, the al-Qaeda, or their many off shoots -- they are just trying to survive this horrific disaster made worse by a completely incompetent civic administration.

The Indian Government, in a remarkable pusillanimous move offered 5 million rupees dollars (a rupeedollar per homeless!) with some promise of more at a later date. Our Pakistani counterparts in a even more churlish mood, asked the Indian Government to route it through the UN. Surely both countries can rise to the occasion for once and not let our past colour the accessibility of civilian aid. However, overall international aid has also been slow in coming, which some news agencies have attributed to Pakistan's "image deficit".

For those who have been living on Mars and don't know what is happening, you can check here and older stories available on the same page. The BBC has been running a series on Pakistan Floods on TV and the extent of the horror became apparent to me after seeing one of these. Here is a series of special reports from the BBC. The BBC also has a story on why external humanitarian assistance has been so tardy (no, terrorism and corruption are only two of many other causes).

Now I come to the main purpose of this post (it was not just to pontificate). Here is a list of donor agencies you can contribute to. If you are worried that your money may fall into the 'wrong' hands, try one of the international agencies like Oxfam . This is what they have to say

Oxfam works closely with partner organizations on the ground, which helps ensure that our response to emergencies like the Pakistan floods is swift, effective, and culturally appropriate. But we conduct careful checks before accepting any local organization as a partner. We have well-developed financial reporting procedures, and we monitor and assess the work we fund to ensure that aid is being delivered in a fair and responsible manner. Neither Oxfam nor its partners has allowed its resources to be diverted to extremist organizations.
I have not been able to find any Indian agencies involved in this. If you do know of one, please let me know -- it would be easier to contribute to those. But I suspect Indian aid agencies would have trouble getting visas to go to Pakistan for relief work.

There is now a Wikipedia page on the Pakistan Floods but it may not reflect the latest situation.

The Indian Government has commendably now hiked the aid to 25 million dollars, making it next only to the US and UK. Let us hope it actually reaches those for whom it is meant. Wonder what happened to all those oil-rich sheikdoms?

9 comments:

Arun said...

Its 5 million dollars, I think. Not a lot better, anyway.

Rahul Basu said...

Arun: Thanks, it's been corrected. It may not be much better but after going through the donor list on Wikipedia I noticed that many of Pakistan's fair weather Islamic friends haven't done that much better (in fact much worse)! The largest aid has come from US, UK and China.

N. Sukumar said...

During the earthquakes a decade ago, some Indian scientists channelled their contributions through physicist Prof. Pervez Hoodbhoy, who was leading some relief efforts at the time. I'm not sure if he's doing so now.

In the US, the public is tired of hearing about Pakistan and Afghanistan, and instead worried about jobs and the local economy. The State Department argues that helping Pakistan is in US strategic interest, but I think this line of reasoning is a mistake. We should help the people of Pakistan to the extent we can for humanitarian reasons - and for humanitarian reasons alone. None of this so-called strategic thinking claptrap! The Taliban and al Qaeda will always find ready recruits in Pakistan, no matter what. A few blankets are not going to buy their hearts and minds, any more than a few bombs are going to scare the daylights out of them.

A friend just returned from Afghanistan, where she had been regularly visiting every year and helping with eye camps, digging wells and women's education. One of her friends (who was leading the eye camps that conducted half the opthalmology care in the entire country) was just murdered by the Taliban. They say they found a bible in his pocket. Strategic thinking is pointless. One follows one's individual conscience and does what one has to do.

Anant said...

Good post. Nothing better than people-to-people contact, which the two Governments seem to loathe.

Rahul Basu said...

Anant: This has nothing to do with people to people contacts. Even if we contribute, it would be to some international aid agency. And now that the Indian Government has raised the aid to 25 million dollars, I don't think we should sneer at the Government to Government contacts. Nor do I find any evidence of the 'loathing' for people to people contacts that you claim, at least not from the Indian Government side. For example, various Pakistani musicians and music groups visit India quite frequently (of course with some hiccups over visas but that is clearly to be expected).

Anant said...

Rahul:

I guess my sound bite was not very clear. I found it ridiculous that our Government should offer only 5 million dollars and even more ridiculous that the Government of Pakistan would not accept it directly. The sense in which I meant people-to-people contact was that it would be ordinary people of India contribution to the well being of the ordinary people of Pakistan, albeit through aid agencies. It is true that one would find it hard to justify that there is active loathing of p-2-p contact from Governments, but it is clear that there is really no encouragement, considering that these are actually fraternal people's. There are still families that marry across these national boundaries where there are a fair number of problems for visas, permits, stay extensions, etc.. I would like to dream of a day when there are open borders between these countries. Dream on buddy...

vbalki said...

Re Anant's final line about open borders: surely we'd then miss a hilarious sight---the carefully orchestrated, ceremonisl chest-thumping that is held daily on both sides of the Wagah border,
at about the maturity level of posturing monkey troupes:-)

Bala

vbalki said...

The Pakistani Govt. has now said officially and quite unequivocally that there is no way help from Indians can be accepted directly, whether it is from individuals, the Indian Govt., or NGOs.

Raj said...

Rahul, its time to consider growing a beard......