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Information on where and how much food is available in various areas of Chennai to aid with rescue and relief work in the Chennai flood.

Food being offered by various individuals and organizations

[table file="https://aamjanata.com/data/food-offered.csv"][/table]

Food shortages

[table file="https://aamjanata.com/data/food-needed.csv"][/table]

Regularly updated information on emergency volunteer accommodation available for disaster relief in Chennai floods. Please add updates in comments if your accommodation is listed, but is no longer available or full to capacity and should be taken off the list of available accommodation.

Mirror of data on chennairains.org

[table file="https://aamjanata.com/data/accommodation-available.csv"][/table]


I have followed news on Maharashtra drought for days. It is most frustrating that there is little obvious drought relief. The need is water. What can we do?

I am just trying to brainstorm ways how we might be able to help.

  1. Reliable information from the ground indicates that there is a full fledged private water tanker business thriving on the needs of the people. Funds donated to drought relief organizations are often scammed - either as single delivery for multiple payments or other ways. The government tankers are usually missing, forcing people to purchase water.
  2. Rampant quantities of water are being extracted from the already depleted ground water and most of this water continues to go to industries buying in bulk while the usage that gets publicized is the far less quantity for human consumption in the name of drought relief.
  3. There is a need to figure out ways of forcing a halt on ground water extraction for any reasons beyond humanitarian relief.
  4. Donating things that will help people use less water. Disposable paper plates, such as could help save on dish washing water.
  5. Simple technologies like solar water sills that might help them get potable water out of waste water?
  6. Really trusted feminists and rights workers possibly offering residential housekeeping work to women who need to get out of the place - as an alternative to some of the worse desperate solutions? I don't know. Just thinking out loud.
  7. Collect contacts for various funds and people on the ground and verify and analyze them to see who is likely to bring most impact and promote those and encourage people to help there.

We could start a community on the new Desi Pirates site for people who are able to get involved in drought to see if we can come up with solutions. The drought is going nowhere. The worst of summer is still ahead of us. Are there ways we can help lighten the burden?

Do you have ideas? Comment below. What is the most genius idea you can come up with that can help people who have little water and even less chances of more water in the near future? How can you help them cope?

Do you live in a drought hit area of Maharashtra? Or are willing to travel there to help (on own expense) if some idea needs it? Volunteer in the comments so we can keep track of you.


Yesterday, a young man and sole bread winner of a poor family lost his life in a tragic and completely avoidable accident that should serve as a warning for people to not treat nature and its risks lightly.

This is the waterfall rappelling site at Mahuli as seen from the top.

This photo is during peak monsoon. You can see the rope extending to the bank of the pool. This is for safety. The actual landing point is not visible here. It is directly below the two participants.

The actual landing point cannot be seen from here, but it is directly below the two participants you see going down the rope in the waterfall. Participants land below on a slippery ledge behind the water, and either follow the slippery ledge out to dry land (you can see the rope in the photo going to Landing A) or they enter the pool and wade through the water to come out at Landing B (shown by dotted line). In either case, participants remain roped onto the safety rope till they are completely on dry land. This means no wading through the water, no walking on slippery ledges without being roped up. The reason being that a waterfall this tall also generates whirlpools and strong undertows even in water you would normally think easy to walk through. This is known to instructors and is an explicit instruction for participants.

It is also fairly evident from the difficulty people face in wading through seemingly still water that it isn't as calm as it appears. On other days, like yesterday, with the monsoon waning, the water seems even more harmless. The flow is reduced, the undercurrents are reduced. But NOT the whirlpools, which are more from the fall of the water than its quantity. This is why it is important to listen, listen, listen to safety briefs, particularly things expressly forbidden.

This participant, against all advice to the contrary went down the "slide" from Pool 1 to Pool 2 below and got stuck in the whirlpool, unable to come out. Even as he went into the water, there were people telling him not to do it. He did not listen. Perhaps by the time he realized the danger, he was already in the slippery part and under the influence of the water. No one really knows. What they do know is that he failed to come up again, so people went to the lower pool in search of him. He was gone. Two instructors and about half a dozen participants
spontaneously linked hands to form a human chain and try to reach him, feel under the surface if they could, but to no avail.

The instructor on top got irate when he realized that the bottom of the rope had been left unattended resulting in a delay in the activity, when he realized what had happened. With the participant underwater for over five minutes by then, he called for activity wind up, realizing that he was dead, or even if found alive by some miracle, he would need to be rushed to hospital.

Police were called. Locals gathered. A local diver arrived with the police. Apparently he fishes out dead bodies from such whirlpools. Many such accidents happen. Always from carelessness. People don't realize how strong the water is. He dived into the water and got the body out in five minutes. It was intact. Complete with jeans, boots. Clearly the guy had no clue of how deep or dangerous the situation was. He wasn't even stripped for swimming and yet he had drowned in such a way that over half a dozen people couldn't even fish his body out with combined efforts and it took a diver.

The participant had come with a girlfriend. The group kept her from seeing the dead body then and there. She was devastated, but like everyone else who cautioned him, helpless against the will of someone "having fun". The instructors were taken in for questioning by the police, let go when it was clear that the accident was not because of their carelessness.

What remains behind is a devastated family without its breadwinner, traumatized girlfriend, horrified group of participants, some of whom completed the activity they came for, others not, all plunged into a macabre rescue, then retrieval operation. Instructiors whose professional reputations now have an accident, even if not their fault in an industry where your reputation for safety is everything.

I spoke with Hemant, the chief instructor for a long while. What could be done to prevent such accidents? He thinks it cannot be stressed enough that participants follow safety briefs. It is easy to come on a trip and feel invincible in the moment and dismiss what seems like childish suggestions to stay in one place, avoid something, wear helmet, not stand under the waterfall, etc but those instructions are there for a reason and they are there because instructors know the activity and location and want to keep participants safe. It is possible to violate them and be unharmed that time, but that doesn't make it safe.

It is possible to stand under a waterfall and not be hit by a falling rock, but that doesn't mean that rocks stop falling or the next one won't get you.

When I did my mountaineering course, I was irritated that the girl's course was designed easier than boys. My remark to the institute was that an avalanche doesn't care about the gender of those it buries. The forces of nature are beyond the capacity of man to overcome when it comes to raw power. There is no bravery in making a show of it. Famous mountaineers have reputations of safety, not stunts.


If I can direct what you think, I can control your conclusion.

It is like blinkers on a horse. A horse able to see only in one direction is less likely to stray.

Whether I say "Think of a pineapple" or I say "Don't think of a pineapple" I can guarantee that the image in your mind is that of a pineapple. The dissent is an illusion.

If what you are shown is limited, the choice you make based on it is hardly free.
If what you are shown is limited, the choice you make based on it is hardly free.

Today, we have become so comfortable with blinkers, that we are uncomfortable with unlimited possibility. We need one aspect to evaluate and we need to arrive at a clear conclusion. Multiple perspectives bother us, particularly if they don't lead to same conclusions. Conclusions that need a trade off bother us - we have been conditioned to feel humiliated by less than perfection.

Some examples:

Government distributed bubblewrap instead of blankets to save money and prevent sale for money leading to people still shivering in the cold. People saw it as an insult to the poor to be given a cheap alternative. Questions about where the tax money goes, insults to the government about wrapping them in bubblewrap, etc. Predictable.

But there are actually a gazillion things to consider before deeming this appropriate or inappropriate. Does it work? Will it last the winter or how often will it need replacing - too frequent replacing will mean no savings or possibly greater expense? What about the environment (plastic)? What about windy conditions? What about younger people who may suffocate? And so on. An overall conclusion needs much thought.

This is a relatively low impact conclusion. The recent debate on the FDI in Retail is one where the debate was clearly on one track - economic opportunity. Dissent was about lack of opportunity. But what about social implications, political implications? Impact on rich poor divide, unemployment, lack of accountability in privatization, abdication of reform, quality control, examples of the impact of big retails in other places....?

The nuclear reactor protests, dam protests, whatever. Most debates follow one established track, form opposing camps, get flatlined by stalemate.

Creative solutions are the need of the hour. And creative solutions don't happen from banging head on wall. There is an art in knowing when to flow around obstacles, when to compromise, and when to pick a battle to fight. That art lives in an agile mind, free to think in diverse ways, interested in thinking "unapproved" thoughts with unknown results. Such a mind is quick to abandon something with high resistance and approach from a direction of common interest, low resistance and constructive solutions.

Part of the corruption in the country is a corruption of thoughts. Stupid people suit exploitative leaders. If I can bring up something I want done in a way that guarantees you measure it based on aspects I am prepared to defend, all the dissent in the world is actually my plan for getting my idea passed. At the very least I can make the dissent look uncivilized and against public interest and override it.

It is instinct that makes us oppose something. We register aspects in diverse ways, but if our thinking is limited, we are not able to express them in the blinkered view. Our arguments look stupid, and we are set up to fail. Yet, we cannot abandon them, because we experience their importance, even if we can't convey it.

Result? Stalemate. Lack of progress, sabotage of change, attacks on people threatening the status quo.

We have crises on every aspect a country can be in trouble in - economy, health, energy, human rights, security, agriculture, unemployment, education, media, censorship, terrorism, intelligence.... and more.

Our country is entering a dark, dark phase. And it is not just the economy, it is democracy itself. With diversity dead, democracy is rendered meaningless. Unless we are able to work functionally with diversity, we are going to stagnate to our death. It is a make or break time, and this is the great struggle facing all citizens of the country - how to break free of the limited perspectives and deprivation oriented defensive stands and really engage with all stakeholders to create solutions rather than victories at the cost of others.

For that, we need to take off the blinkers. I think this is urgent and important.