By Swatee Jog
The unprecedented floods in Karnataka and Maharashtra stunned everyone and took them by surprise. The waters did not spare anyone. If the some were left devastated by the collapsing mud houses and their belongings being washed away, others were left stranded outside their homes, grappling with a situation where they were rendered homeless in spite of all the trappings of a comfortable life that they were used to. The situation in the rural areas is still grim. Not just the people, animals are stranded too. Owners come for a few hours every day, just to feed the cattle. Roads blocked, schools shut, fields devastated, the misery was unending. Houses are still inundated with a feet of water and where it has receded, it’s the slush that needs days to clear out. Amidst all this, it’s the tremendous help that shines like a bright star. Not just locals, but those from faraway places pitched in with just one objective- to help!
One such example is that of Poojya Charukirti Bhattarak Swamiji of Shravanbelagola Jain Matha. Belgaum has had a long association with the Shravanbelagola matha. In fact, in the Mahamastakabhishek ceremony held last year, it was Vinod Doddanavar from Belgaum who was appointed as one of the National Secretaries and only one from South India, who played a major role in the successful conduct. Hundreds of devotees from Belgaum had contributed to the function and volunteers rendered service. Jain holy men observe the four months of monsoon as Chaturmas where they abstain from traveling. But Poojya Charukirti Bhattarak Swamiji broke his decades old tradition and moved out of Shravanebalgola to head to Belgaum. He was joined by Poojya Bhattakalank Bhattarak Swamiji of Sonda matha , Swastishri Devendra keerti Bhatarak Swamiji Humcha & Swastishri Laxmisen Bhatarak mahaswamji, N.R Pur.
Belgaum played a crucial role in the massive relief work done by Swamiji and his team.
It was a hectic week for the team at Belgaum as the Ghataprabha waters inundated the newly constructed Shanti Bhavan at Yaranal, Tk Hukkeri, where Acharya Vardhman Sagarji Maharaj is observing his Chaturmas this year. 42 Jain Munis and Matajis were relocated at three different places as waters occupied each place in quick succession. They are currently housed at the Morarji Desai Residential school at Hosur near Hidkal dam. The Belgaum team has been managing the massive relocation of the 150 member team at Yarnal, shifting the materials, people, arranging essentials and then cleaning the slush at the Yarnal, Shanti Bhavan once the waters receded.
No materials were sent from Shravanbelagola to Belgaum for the relief kit, but instructions were given to procure all basic necessities that would suffice for a family of four for a week. A week ago, Vinod Doddanavar and his team sprung into action. Within hours of the instructions from Swamiji, material was ordered and delivered from Belgaum traders. Classrooms at Bharatesh were emptied and volunteers gathered, including several students. The team worked with precision to make the kit with high quality goods packed in. 5 kgs of rice, 5 kgs wheat flour, daals, sugar, all spice powders, tea powder, candles, match boxes, cooking oil, salt, toothpaste, soaps, mustard was packed in the kit, sufficient for a week. 50 students and volunteers worked for three days to pack these kits that weighed a good 14 kgs. 3000 such kits, worth Rs. 25 lakhs were prepared in just three days. Assembly line packing, labeling, dispatch in smaller vehicles was done using latest technology.
Swamiji traveled to Belgaum district the very next day and then began his travels. The Matha has already donated Rs. 10 lakhs each to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund of Karnataka and Maharashtra. With his team in tow, he personally traveled to places like Hukkeri, Yaranal, Ainapur, Athani, Raibag, Gokak, Konnur, Ugar, Shedbal, Kumbhoj, Teradal, Alagur, Jamkhandi. His visit to the worst affected areas like Manjari,Chandur, Kallol, Tirth, Saptasagar, Yedur, Darur, Chandur Tekdi, Sadalaga, Jugul, Mamgavati, Shahapur, Gundwad, etc. has lent a huge sense of confidence among the affected families.
Visiting the flood affected regions, interacting with the people, handing over the kits and inquiring about their needs, he has relentlessly put his efforts where his heart lay. The team starts at 7 in the morning and continues till around 8 in the night. One can see him immersed in understanding the plight with the only objective of thinking how to help solve the problem. What comes from the society is meant to be used for the need of the society, he said.
On the way were some experiences that would stun an onlooker. People who has lost their belongings, houses collapsed, kids with lost toys, elders with lost medicines and unable to recall names, miscreants spreading rumors of a dam burst and villagers dying of heart attack with fear, robberies in abandoned houses and a grim sight everywhere. But Swamji approached every village, listening to the problems and instilling confidence with his remarks of ‘Don’t fear, we are with you’. In such times, it is words like these that make a great difference.