Mata announces Rs1b relief aid
BY ASHRAF PADANNA
AMRITAPURI (Kerala): Kerala-based Mata Amritanandamayi Math has set apart Rs1 billion (Dhs83 million) for rehabilitation of the tsunami victims in southern India.
This is the largest private initiative to rehabilitate tens of thousands of people displaced by the killer waves. The Math has also offered to adopt all the children orphaned by the tsunamis.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had pledged Rs1 billion each for the southern states that he visited last week.
Announcing the package at a rare news conference at her ashram here on Monday, Amritanandamayi said a major portion of the fund would go to Kerala. Worst- hit areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh would also benefit.
The Math proposes to reconstruct all the houses that have been destroyed by tsunami across Kerala if the government permits. These houses will be built according to the specifications of the government. The two-room houses will have a kitchen, a small veranda and a toilet, she said. Around 5,000 houses are reportedly destroyed in Kerala when coastal villages were wiped out killing nearly 200 people. The waves had also ravaged Alappad panchayat where the Math is situated.
"We request the government to undertake the renovation and maintenance work of houses that were only damaged. Nonetheless, we request that the charitable projects proposed by the Math must not affect or stop any aid or privileges promised by the state and federal governments," she said.
She said there would be no discrimination on communal or caste lines. "I have no religion or caste. My God is people like you," the "hugging saint," who has devotees across the world, especially in the US and Europe, said. The Math had already given Rs1,000 each to the affected families for buying kitchen utensils. The ashram is feeding some 13,000 people everyday. Besides, 370 families who lost their dwellings are accommodated at the ashram's engineering college at Vallakkavu. The Math is also prepared to provide free education to those children who have lost both parents in the calamity. "We will also provide counselling for the shattered children," she said.
Asked why she could not predict the calamity, she said she was only an ordinary human being but she was very sad the previous day and could not sleep. "I was praying when the sea surged and water gushed into the ashram. I personally went to the coastline and led the relief activities though woman venturing into the sea is believed to be bad omen," she said.
She said she believed the natural calamities were triggered by overexploitation of nature because of population explosion. "Nature's fury can be expected anytime. Birth control is the only solution," she said.
The Mata is camping at the ashram since the tsumani attack last Sunday cancelling all her other programmes. Some 1,500 foreign disciples are also helping her at the ashram.