The year 2015 has been significant for a number of reasons. For the people of Chennai and parts of coastal Tamil Nadu, this year has been tragic. From homeless people to celebrities, people were rudely jostled out of their comfort zones and pushed into survival mode. Once proud, strong cities submerged into neck deep water and struggled to survive. The floods of 2015 taught us many lessons. Nobody is safe from Nature's fury. There are more important things than the ones you own, like survival for example. But the most important lesson or rather, revelation, from these floods, was that we are not alone. In times of calamity, the people of this city came together like none else and we got back on our feet just as high and mighty as the mercury on a hot Chennai day. The students of CEG were no exception. They were part of the city’s faceless saviours, the unnamed heroes.
Nobody knew what we were in for on Monday morning when it just started raining. Several days of non-stop rains later, people were marooned inside their houses, with hardly any food or water. For people like Saravanan of final year Agricultural and Irrigation engineering, it wasn’t in their nature to watch the world burn. Or in this case, sink. Although initially he had no idea what to do, as people came together, he and his buddies from the NCC got down to business. Their primary goal was to get people out of their sinking homes and into safety. They brought boats and rescued people in Adyar, Kotturpuram and Saidapet. Once the initial stages of rain were over, the next primary goal was to get food and relief supplies to the people. As supplies started pouring in, they organized themselves and delivered provisions to people in areas like Jaffarkhanpet, Rayarpet, Theradi and other parts of North Chennai. He recollects, “ The response from people was phenomenal. Everybody wanted to help in any tiny way possible. I got phone calls from people who had truckloads of supplies waiting to be distributed. There was even a peculiar call from Mumbai that offered a plane full of cargo to be distributed”.
Saravanan wasn’t the only one. Arul Sidthan, an alumnus who currently works as an associate in Cognizant, had an entire setup to pack food materials to distribute to areas like Cuddalore and Chidambaram. He spent 8 working days to personally inspect and help in relief efforts in these regions.
Amongst these saviours were the members of the Leo Club of CEG who organised a drive to collect blankets, stationery, sanitizers, etc., and helped put smiles onto the faces of 234 families living near Anna University. Also involved in flood relief efforts was the Rotaract Club of CEG which urged rotaracters to work in their kitchens centred in Kilpauk and Periyar Thidal and aid in the preparing, packaging, and delivering food to needy families.
One of the most inspiring things however, was the buzz on social media. Although people complained about little to no attention from mainstream national news outlets, it didn’t stop them from doing every little bit to help anybody in need. Like the rest of the city, students of Anna University were tweeting, messaging and sharing to get the message out to people like Arul and Saravanan who were looking for places and people to provide help to. So were CEG alumnus Karthick Raja, 3rd year Mechanical Engineering student Giridharan, and their friends whose hashtag #SaveCuddaloreAlso prompted a slew of people who offered their aid in providing supplies and donations to Cuddalore, one of the worst affected districts. Anurag Varma helped making blood donations easier by urging people to register their blood type on www.bloodpot.com.
Almost a week later, even though the rains were over, the relief efforts weren’t.
Tejal Satish, 3rd Year CSE who used Khetto, the crowd funding platform to raise money testifies. “I launched my campaign because I was in my hometown largely unaffected and safe and wanted to do something for the victims. I set up a target amount. As you could see how much of the goal had been reached every time you donated, people were eager to do so. My donors were also happy as I kept them updated with the accounts and all the bills merged as a pdf.” With the money raised and stationery items collected from her hometown, Tejal was able to give them away to the Govt. Aadhi Dravidar Welfare Elementary School which was severely affected by the incessant rains.
The Students Association of CEG decided that rehabilitation is the need of the hour. Therefore they started the ‘CEG Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Fund’. With the efforts of all students, alumni and faculty of CEG, they put together an account for people who were interested in contributing to the relief efforts. The progress they made was unbelievable. For the 1st phase they focused on Surya Nagar, Chithra Nagar and Ambedkar Nagar areas of Kotturpuram which were heavily affected by the floods where the water levels exceeded roof levels. They gave basic cooking utensils to about 500 families who were affected by the floods. In addition, kerosene stoves were given to 85 families whose houses were completely washed away. The distribution was done only after proper survey and assessment of the affected houses. Rather than focussing on short term relief materials, the objective of 'CEG Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Fund' is to provide rehabilitation which will have a long term benefit on the lives of the affected people. Notebooks for about 200 students in the Chennai High School, a Corporation school in Kottur were distributed.
The next phase was to focus on rehabilitation of Chennai Primary School, another corporation school in Kotturpuram. This school which is located closer to the river bank had been heavily affected and required infrastructural support too. With more funds received from students, staffs, alumni and people from all over the world such issues have been fixed. They are constantly in touch with the residents of Surya Nagar and Chitra Nagar and frequently receive feedback on their relief efforts from them.
This piqued the interest of several alumni as well who wasted no time in collecting funds and transferring them through the Alumni Association of CEG. Projects like Heat maps, finding the level of water in each area, collection of public data, were also undertaken by the AACEG.
The most striking factor, however, is all these people have made significant sacrifices for no personal gain which speaks volumes about their character. This is an article dedicated to them. For ones who stood their ground, in dark skies and deep waters. Without food or water for themselves, who chose to give to people who needed it more. With their own houses flooded, who sought to rescue other people stranded at home.
This is for people who made all the right choices. We cannot tell you how proud and grateful we are.