Acts of kindness by the Kerala diaspora are extending much-needed relief to the state as it struggles to overcome the worst natural calamity in its history. After a few GCC rulers made offers of contributions, the expatriate community in the Gulf is on a mission to extend help to its flood-hit brothers and sisters. Driven by the need to support Kerala, they are engaged in collection drives and fundraising for the rehabilitation of flood victims.
In the UAE, at least 60 tonnes of commodities were collected through daylong drives, while rehabilitation plans are being chalked out by various organisations.
"Thirty tonnes of commodities have been sent to Kerala. The rest of the goods will be transported soon," said Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) Dubai unit president Anwar Naha. Apart from volunteers, who collect essential goods, special counters in various Emirates are now receiving generous contributions. The offices of Kerala Pravasi Sangam, Abu Dhabi Sakthi and Sharjah Indian Association are collecting contributions.
"We exhorted all pravasis to become part of the mission to help Kerala. And they rose to the occasion by cutting down on Bakri Eid and Onam celebrations, and allocating more time for relief," said CK Krishnadas of the Kerala Pravasi Sangam. Efforts by Keralites struck a chord with other communities too. "They joined the Malayali expats here and together made collection drives an affair with public participation," says Kerala Pravasi Welfare Board chairman PT Kunhimohammed.
Taking a cue from social media campaigns by Keralites, Arab celebrities including Emirati vlogger Khalid Al Ameri made appeals on social media to help Kerala.
"Apart from Arabs, we were supported by non-Keralite Indians, Europeans and the student community," Naha said. Some local companies even offered free cargo transportation, while others announced special rates to Kerala airports.
As per a rough estimate by the Department of Non Resident Keralites Affairs, UAE and Saudi Arabia are second homes to more than eight lakh and five lakh Keralites respectively, while Oman has around two lakh expatriates from Kerala. Around 1.5 lakh Keralites work in Qatar, while Bahrain and Kuwait are home to more than a lakh Keralites each.
In Qatar, Keralites are on a mission to amass 50 tonnes of commodities that will be distributed to flood victims in camps. More than eight lakh people in 14 districts were shifted to relief camps across Kerala. Meanwhile, the collection drives received various products ranging from toys to beverages.
"The response was overwhelming. And some of the Keralite merchants here asked volunteers to take whatever they wanted while they sought help. One of the merchants here contributed three loads of blankets to the volunteers," said Faisal M Niyas, a Keralite media analyst in Doha.
On top of this, cargo company ST Cargo lent its support to Keralites by announcing free transportation while Qatar Airways also joined the party by expressing its readiness to carry 50 tonnes of goods without charge. In addition to KMCC and Kerala Pravasi Sangam, functionaries of Samastha Kerala Sunni Students Federation (SKSSF) and Samskriti Samskarika Vedi have also been active in collection drives.
Commodities from Qatar have begun to be sent to Thiruvananthapuram and Calicut airports, from where they will be taken to district collectorates.
Major cities of Saudi Arabia including Jeddah, Dammam and Riyadh are also witnessing special drives by Keralite expatriates. Along with various chapters of KMCC, Keli Samskarika Vedi in Riyadh and Navodaya in Dammam and Jeddah have been actively involved in drives. "At present, Saudi Arabia is busy with the hajj. Still, expatriates are holding drives and getting support from all over the country," said Haneefa Munniyoor of Kerala Pravasi League.
According to Krishnadas, Keralites in Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain are also making efforts to extend a helping hand to the flood victims. After doing their bit for relief activities, expatriate organisations here are all set to shift their concentration to rehabilitation.
"We are chalking out our plans to ensure rehabilitation of victims, whose houses were washed away in floods and landslides," Naha said.
As per figures released by the disaster management state control room, a total of 380 homes were completely wrecked, while 4,363 houses were partly damaged due to the calamity. VPS Healthcare chairman Dr Shamsheer Vayalil has so far offered Rs 50 crore for rehabilitation and rebuilding works, while prominent NRI businessmen like MA Yusuff Ali also came forward with sizable contributions.
Updated Date: Aug 24, 2018 16:40 PM