Helping those disabled by disasters
Moneylife Digital Team 25 January 2013

Saritsa Foundation assists people with disabilities caused by disasters

In 2012, 1,503,320 Indians were displaced due to natural disasters. Each disaster leads to thousands being displaced and lives torn apart. When a disaster strikes, the poor and underprivileged are the worst affected. Col Nagar M Verma, who used to lead the 7th battalion of the Sikh Light Infantry, noticed during the rescue operations, which the army is often called to undertake, that people were clueless about routine safety measures and that even elementary first-aid could help save lives or alleviate suffering. Most often, people simply wait for government to provide succour. Delays in administrative response often lead to loss of lives or disabilities and, consequently, loss of livelihood. Many, especially women and children, remain traumatised for years. So when Col Verma retired, he put in some of his retirement funds to set up Saritsa Foundation on 5 June 2000 with the unusual aim of providing information, knowledge and training in disaster management to save lives and return to earning a livelihood.

Col Verma says that many of his ex-colleagues help in imparting training. Although there is a national policy for disaster management, in reality, there needs to be a structured framework to guide its working and constant evaluation to study its efficacy. Also, because disaster management is a top-down approach, it takes time for help to reach the grassroots. The only solution, feels Col Verma, is for people to be trained and become self-sufficient to take care of themselves, until help arrives.

Despite the initial resistance, Saritsa has make remarkable progress in the past 12 years working through schools, colleges, political organisations, NGOs, international and religious groups as well as social institutions like Rotary Clubs. But a lot more needs to be done; knowledge about safety and disasters is still very poor. Col Verma’s team works at building understanding and trust among communities, to hone skills and to sensitise individuals on how to respond to disaster situations and to promote a culture of safety. Saritsa imparts education and training for disasters such as earthquakes, floods, landslides, tsunami, droughts, cyclones, terrorism, bomb blasts, as well as chemical and biological hazards. It conducts workshops, seminars, debates, mass contacts, family conferences and street plays on issues of rescue and trains through evacuation drills.

Saritsa Foundation has established a mobile university for disaster risk reduction. It has already reached out to thousands of volunteers, including a few people with disabilities, across rural and urban areas of 18 states. At the national level, the Foundation has empowered over 0.2 million school children, orphans, women and differently-abled people, along with vulnerable citizens. Its programmes have raised the awareness on the right to life and has helped people in cultivating skills to respond to disasters using local resources.

People who have been trained by the Foundation are inspired to raise further awareness among their families and friends, and are implementing disaster preparedness plans in schools. Next on its agenda is to equip and empower 15,000 school children, women and differently-abled citizens annually. It is working towards raising funds for this initiative which, even with the use of local resources, requires administrative expenses of around Rs300 per head or Rs45 lakh. Col Verma says that Saritsa’s accounts are audited and it makes ethical and judicious use of donations. You can help Saritsa in its mission by volunteering to train people or by financial support. Donations to Saritsa Foundation are eligible for tax deduction under Section 80G of the Income-Tax Act.

Saritsa Foundation
Contact: Col Verma / Prof Smita Kadam Flat No 3, Ground Floor, Pankaj CHS, Sitaram Keer Marg, Bhandar Lane,
Mahim (W), Mumbai - 400016
Tel: 91 22 24366370, 24370138
Mob: 9323157377
[email protected]

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