Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Brickmaking Site

Today Amma, Appa, some LAFTI workers and I drove to the place where a large brick-making unit, organized by LAFTI , will start operating very soon.

On a bumpy road across the paddy-fields we reached a large area very close to the river Cauvery - a very peaceful and beautiful site indeed, where Krishnammal used to come to sit and meditate as she told me. Some 100 people from 3 villages were clearing the ground of bushes to make room for brickmaking. Water will be pumped from the close-by river and taken to the site through a pipeline.

After some cheerful singing accompanied by hand-clapping, first Amma and then Appa - who in the meanwhile had been sitting on a mat spinning - gave speeches to encourage all the people, men and women alike, to join forces and make bricks that they will use to build better and more solid houses for themselves and their families.

In every village, Krishnammal told me, here are many different political parties, each one of them trying to attract people with various programs and promises, thus dividing them without bringing any real development. LAFTI's project intends to unite the village people by giving them a program and an objective as well as a job during the summer months when there is no work in the fields - all the while encouraging their sense of self-esteem and responsibility for their own futures.

LAFTI is also encouraging the people to join the "Army of Compassion" by providing them with a uniform that they will wear possibly while working and definitely while marching to the brickmaking site as a way to identify with their job and mission as well, as to inspire more people to join them

Tonight, people from other villages are expected to turn up at the LAFTI office to receive instructions and be enrolled in the Army of Compassion . In a couple of days, once the area is properly cleaned and the water supply is arranged , the "Army" will start making bricks that the youths will then take to the villages to build houses.

After Amma's and Appa's long and passionate speeches, a pooja ritual was performed and we all pronounced prayers and shared the ritual offerings. Then mats were rolled up, and everybody stood up to go back to work, while Amma, Appa and Iwent back to Vinoba Ashram. In the next days we'll visit the brickmaking unit again - which will receive people from more and more villages - to support their good-will and encourage them to carry on with the project for their own sake and improvement of their living conditions.

The "Army of Compassion", a community-based project, has one aim: that the toiling masses should no longer live in wretched mud-huts. We thank you for your continuing support.

Jagannathan wrote two letters today, one to the District Collector, and one to "Benefactors" (that means us!) Here they are:

The District Collector
District Collector's Office

Dear Sir,

The Tsunami is a curse to mankind but at the same time by God's grace human love crosses all physical boundaries and from far and wide, irrespective of nationality, caste and greed, brings support and co-operation and we were able to experience this human love of sharing with the suffering people.

But at the same time we are also experiencing the human weaknesses of selfishness and greed: the prawn company magnets do not yet realise the horrors of prawn culture, one of the main causes for this tragedy. Prawn farming not only contaminates our Mother Earth and pollutes drinking water but it also pollutes the seawater by its daily outflow of poisonous chemical fluids into the sea. We read in the press your declaration that Nagapattinam District should be free from prawn farming. I understand that in many coastal areas the prawn magnets are greedy and preparing to start prawn culture again. Prawn culture is an evil factor in human society.

May I appeal to you to prohibit prawn culture in the coastal areas of Nagapattinam District. This ban should be immediately issued so that the prawn magnets do not start this poisonous venture again.

Yours sincerely,

(S. Jagannathan)

All the Tsunami Benefactors:

Dear Friends,

This Tsunami calamity was not only s disastrous, but at the same time by God's grace human hearts from many part of the Worlds are hastening to help the Tsunami victims, hardworking peasants and fishermen. Many of the poor families lost their children and earning members and they are very grateful that you are rushing forward to help them with temporary and permanent measures and solid living quarters with sanitary facilities. Sarvodaya workers feel proud cooperating with you so that your help reaches the poorest and the most needy people.

We know that the prawn magnets are also appealing to the World Bank and other benefactors to get compensation for their loss due to the Tsunami. As you know the prawn magnets hail from well-to-do rich people and they have reaped heavy profits during all these years by prawn culture to the detriment of the economic and health conditions of the poor peasants and fishermen. They are not only polluting their soil and drinking water and destroying trees and mangroves. But they also pollute the seawater by the daily flow of poisonous fluids from the prawn tanks into the sea.

I hope:

(1) benefactors will give their contribution to the suffering population.

(2) benefactors will not only help restoring safe and healthy housing conditions but they will also contribute to safeguard the coastal area with a green belt of mangroves, trees and other bushes, as a permanent safety measure against floods and cyclones. This permanent measure is as important as providing healthy living conditions to the poor peasants and fishermen.

Yours sincerely,

(S. Jagannathan)


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