Tsunami: Coordination


Oct 24, 2004
Delhi (India)
It is a concept—a relief-multiplier, addressed to those who have the resources, e.g. ‘Yahoo!’, ‘msn’, ‘Google’, ‘livejournal’, ‘Sikhnet’ or UNESCO itself.

May I request the able leaders of the media to give this concept the widest possible exposure. Together, we can render a yeoman’s service to the millions across Nations affected by tsunami-disaster.

In addition, this will also give the participating web-site/service (‘Yahoo!’, ‘msn’, ‘Google’ etc) the status of an NGO having the best available data –sources to meet any Natural or man-made Global Disaster now and in the future, and also qualify the said web-site for recognition by the UNESCO as one of the ablest International NGOs on Disaster-Management. The running costs will be borne by the Advertisers, and may even be subsidized by the UNESCO.

Within its existing resources the web-site ought to URGENTLY create a Group named ‘tsunami’. Within this Group it should create ‘communities’—a few predetermined, and allowing others to evolve as several seriously minded netizens come together on this web-linked “common platform”.

Each community will cater to a unique aspect of this problem. Six primary communities may be:-

i) relief—including health & sanitation, on-line help (including posters on hygiene) on medicare, infrastructure, etc;

ii) rehabilitation (it includes de-silting and sanitation of the affected areas, construction of fresh shelter, selecting foster-parents for the children who have lost their parents, a one-time financial help to the families who have lost the wherewithal/infrastructure for earning their livelihood;

iii) co-ordination with the labyrinth of politico-bureaucratic structures, other NGOs and the as yet unorganized but MASSIVE number of grass-root volunteers—who are the most accessible by the victims if only we were to bring the victim & the helper together through the proposed facilitator (i.e. the web-site);

iv) data-sources-- including maps, lead-times, base & forward-supply warehouses, updated information (updated every 12 hours) on ‘who needs what, where & how soon’ and ‘location of the nearest volunteering unit/ community which has the requisite resource and how soon that help can arrive’, etc.;

v) facilitating the inter-linking of scientific minds for possible joint research and data-sharing into the possibility of predicting such & similar disasters, and minimizing the adverse effects of such calamities in the future;

vi) administrative control of the website’s usage and related legal issues.

Other communities or sub-communities may evolve over time as new needs are observed, including group-psychotherapy, on-line education, etc.

Membership to each community will be open to those who have the requisite knowledge or expertise and are willing & ready to render goal-oriented help, and to those volunteers who will provide ‘connectivity’ at the grass-root level—I shall presently revert to this connectivity issue.

The biggest—as yet unaddressed, need of the moment is to BRIDGE the gap between those victims who wish to know as to “Whom to turn to for the particular help which he/she wants?” and those volunteers who want to know “Who needs the particular expertise/help which they are relatively well equipped with, and where?” In the absence of this a bridge, such material is pouring-in as has no takers—while the URGENTLY needed material/service is not taken care of (nor perceived/conceived), and many a willing volunteers are also at hand but are aimless or rudderless without instructions from a knowledgeable resource.

It is, inter alia, these needs which will be addressed by the proposed web-site. There are many an existing web-sites who are, at present, the best equipped to bridge this gap by providing local maps, identifying the location of needy groups, type of help (both tactical & strategic) which each group needs, the location & number of Volunteers who are so situated that they can in the shortest possible time meet a particular need, the time it will take for the help to arrive, etc etc.

A business-group need not be an Industrial giant to provide a PC equipped with Internet connectivity (through the proposed website/service) in one of the relief-camps or in the worst affected areas, and there are enough computer-literate school/college students who will be willing to volunteer to operate these resources. Hope that every big business-house will provide one such resource each—in a coordinated way so that there is no overlapping. The proposed web-service will ensure all such coordination.

This connectivity can also help in locating the relatives of those children who have lost their parents, and placing those children with such relatives-- in another part of the country/region, or with foster-parents.

Even if we assume that each one of the 1,50,000 dead persons belonged to a DIFFERENT family, then the financial help announced by the USA alone is sufficient to meet all the requirements—provided the bulk of it is not spent on the pipeline itself. As late Mr. Rajiv Gandhi (the then Indian Prime Minister) said only 5% of the sanctioned funds reach the victim—the rest are either legally spent on the bureaucratic pipeline or illegally on “under-the-table-transactions”. To me the said 95% spending is illegitimate—moreso, when our citizens are passing through calamities of such magnitude.

Hence, it will be better to provide 30% of the proposed financial relief directly to the victims—who are the most interested in frugally utilising the same on the locally available resources; place 40% in the hands of local self-Governments (like ‘Panchayats’ or Municipalities in India) for spending on roads, communications, sanitation, de-silting etc. Select internationally recognized & well coordinated public-spirited organisations (e.g. Rotary International) to spend 25% on health (physical, mental & community health), education & counseling. And appoint the local Legislator as an ‘Auditor’ on all these activities, and call upon him to submit automatically a progress-report on all such activities (within his ward) to the concerned Legislature every two months.

The proposed web-site/service will act as a ‘RELIEF-MULTIPLIER’ (and not a relief-guzzler) because it will help organise the gigantic force of individual/small-group volunteers, and also reduce the ‘wasteful effort’ involved in bringing-in material to a place where it is needed the least. This site will bring in synergy, the sense of grass-root participation and an on-going public audit.

This is not merely an Article for the media, but an Appeal—an article of faith. For the web-site/service this is an humble but Noble project with far reaching consequences in enhancing the goodwill (of both the public and the local governments) for the said site/service as an Organisation which takes its social responsibility in a serious, novel, bold & compassionate way.

P.S.: Of course, ‘Google’ has made a beginning. But it has placed the ‘Helper’ and the ‘Needy’ in the same blogs—as a result, one has to traverse through the entire blog-site to find out who can offer what help.

However, technologically it is possible instantaneously to find specific information—if the information is already categorized into neat slots. For example, visiting the home-page of this site should give us the option to visit three sub-sites, viz.:

‘Help needed’, ’Help offered’, ‘Comments’.

The ‘Help offered’ sub-site should give us the option (through drop-down menus) to:

Firstly: Category of Help, e.g. ‘Relief’

Secondly: Sub-category of Help, viz. ‘Medical’

Thirdly: Level of expertise needed, e.g. ‘Qualified Medical Practitioner’, ‘Medicines’, ‘On-line Medical Consultation by local Doctors’

Fourthly: Location (geographical location—in relation to the GPS/reference-grid of the Globally known nearest city)

Fifthly: Geographical radius (in kilometres) within which the Group equipped with the needed help should preferably be available

Sixthly: Local expertise already available, ‘Qualified Medical Practitioner’, ‘Para-medical staff’, and their number

etc etc.

Similar options ought to be available for other sub-sites—so that instantaneous matching is made possible, please.

Prof. Gulshan Bajwa

e-mail: gulshanbajwa9@yahoo.com

Mobile: (91) 011-9811880999