DM Team Training for Jammu & Kashmir Police Force

In 2015, the Jammu & Kashmir Armed Police Force invited SSSSO’s Disaster Management Task Force Team to conduct a two-day Emergency Response and Disaster Management Training Workshop at its headquarters in Zewan, Srinagar. Held on April 4 and 5, 2015, this unique partnership saw SSSSO’s DM personnel train 51 members of the Armed Police in rescue and recovery operations during natural catastrophes like landslides, earthquakes, floods, and storms.
Despite unseasonal rains and flooding in the River Jhelum, the DM Team members from Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab travelled to Zewan and conducted the training that included classroom sessions as well as practical exercises focusing on fire, high-rise, water-related and other emergency rescue operations.
Police personnel participated wholeheartedly in the training programme and were fully engaged in all aspects of the training, both in-class and in the field practice sessions that included a river-rescue training session over the River Jhelum that had experienced floods.

Disaster Management Training of Jammu & Kashmir Armed Police Force

Police practicing knots during the training


Tsunami (2004)

The devastating Tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004 has .. .. been categorized as a ‘mega disaster’ due to the number of casualties and extent of damage across multiple nations. The damage it caused was unheard of in recent memory of our country and indeed the world.
Services rendered by SSSSO, Tamil Nadu, in the aftermath can be the subject of a book. The Disaster Management Training that had been initiated in 2002 allowed the State Disaster Management Unit to respond immediately and perform the urgent and arduous tasks like removing dead bodies, preparing them for identification and burial, supplying basic needs like food and water to survivors and, cleaning up areas to prevent further disease. Seva Dal members were the first to report to Nagapattinam and Velankanni- coastal towns devastated by the Tsunami. Estimates indicate that the SSSSO Teams cleared more than a thousand bodies, which was an essential first activity in the rescue and recovery process. The disciplined and dedicated services rendered by the Seva Dais in the face of such a catastrophic event was much appreciated by the government officials, police, and all agencies involved in rescue and relief operations. Seva Dal volunteers were the only group allowed by the police into some sensitive areas for relief and recovery measures- especially where bodies (with jewellery on them) had to be laid out in a hall for families to claim; or unclaimed bodies had to be buried. That was the extent of trust and respect that the Seva Dais had earned during relief operations in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Estimates indicate that the SSSSO Teams cleared more than a thousand bodies, which was an essential first activity in the rescue and recovery process. The disciplined and dedicated services rendered by the Seva Dais in the face of such a catastrophic event was much appreciated by the government officials, police, and all agencies involved in rescue and relief operations. Seva Dal volunteers were the only group allowed by the police into some sensitive areas for relief and recovery measures- especially where bodies {with jewellery on them} had to be laid out in a hall for families to claim; or unclaimed bodies had to be buried. That was the extent of trust and respect that the Seva Dais had earned during relief operations in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba had instructed the state unit that in addition to rescue efforts, the team must work to restore the dignity of the survivors by providing materials to help them rebuild their lives. As a result, the state unit quickly organized kits that included stoves, kerosene, utensils, and dry rations. While hundreds of Seva Dais worked on the ground, hundreds more worked in the background to get relief materials ready for transport to various affected areas. The Tsunami relief operations undertaken were mammoth and unprecedented in SSSSO.
Members of the Tamil Nadu Disaster Management team rightly point out that service rendered by the trained Seva Dais following the Tsunami cannot be quantified or assessed in terms of a cost-benefit analysis. There is no measurement tool that can assess the value of removing thousands of dead bodies and preparing them for burial or cremation; nor can there be an economic value placed on the high degree of trust and respect earned by the team throughout the state for the level of services provided. Seva Dais operated out of love and devotion, and indeed, their lives were changed irrevocably following this mega disaster.

Following the experience with Tsunami rescue, recovery and rehabilitation, the Tamil Nadu Disaster Management team was charged up sufficiently to plan for skill training and constant updating of skills in order to meet any eventual catastrophes. Tamil Nadu’s geographic location leaves it susceptible to cyclones, storms, and floods. So, it was imperative that the team builds a group of trained Seva Dais who can be deployed to serve in any type of crises.

Such preparation has resulted in the team responding to several other disasters over the years

including the Chennai Floods in 2015, the Kerala Floods in 2018, and various cyclones including ‘Thane’ and ‘Gaja’. During the Chennai Floods, the team completed four levels of service provision:

In addition to training the members of its own team, the Disaster Management Team continues to train college students, paramedical staff, fishermen, forest department, police, fire and rescue service personnel, CRPF, RPF, Coast Guards, corporate employees, and teachers. The team has even joined the National Disaster Response Force {NDRF} to offer training programmes at NDRF’s headquarters in Arakonam.
In 2017, the Disaster Management Team from SSSSO participated in a two-day workshop on National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction {NPDRR) held at New Delhi. The team showcased unique and improvised rescue methods at the workshop and was appreciated by the participants and government alike. Following this, the 55550 Tamil Nadu DM Team was invited by the Government of Tamil Nadu to conduct a two-day Disaster Management Training to all its first responders in all the districts of the state.
Between 2002 and 2019, the Tamil Nadu Disaster Management team conducted Disaster Management Awareness training for over 1,00,000 volunteers from different institutions and professions.

In 2019, the team had an opportunity to participate in the Annual Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Exercise (HADR) in all coastal districts of Tamil Nadu on the theme of cyclones and urban flooding. The team was able to share their vast experience in disaster relief with the other participants that included the Armed Forces.

On September 28, 2019, the Commissioner, Revenue Administration, Chennai, inducted 69 Sai Disaster Management team members into the State Disaster Response Guard.


Sikkim’s AU-rounder Disaster Management Team

18th September 2011 will perhaps remain etched in the memory of every was the day an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale struck the state. The Sai Disaster Management Team worked round the clock for a week in restoring normalcy for the victims. The majority of efforts were in Ungzya, North Sikkim, which had suffered the most damage. The SSSSO OM Team’s major works included drinking water supply at several populated places, a temporary water supply line in the camp area, visits to affected areas, supplying of essential commodities, counseling, and conducting mass prayer sessions.
The state’s experience with the 2011 earthquake spurred the OM Team under SSSSO, Sikkim, to train large numbers of Seva Dais in Disaster Management so that they are ready and available for a rapid response in the event of disasters not only in Sikkim but also in the neighboring states.
The DM team conducts about six or seven training programmes annually. As a result, there is a strong group of 600 trained youth volunteers that can be mobilized to serve whenever there is a need. Volunteers are spread across six districts.

The DM Team has participated in mock drills conducted by the State Government in partnership with NDRF on multiple occasions and at various locations. The NDRF has also provided a week – long training to SSSSO Members at Namchi, South Sikkim.

The trained Seva Dais in the DM Team have had opportunities to serve the citizens in the aftermath of disasters over the years in their own state, as well as neighboring states. The comprehensive OM training has contributed to the team’s effective response to different types of disasters, whether earthquake {in Nepal), floods (West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam) or fire (Sikkim).

On 25th April 2015, when Nepal experienced a major earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale, the Sai DM team quickly got into action and initiated relief measures focusing on shelter, food, water, medicine, and clothing. A 42-member DM Team of SSSSO Sikkim, with four trucks fully loaded with relief materials worth ~8,00,000 and seven other light vehicles carrying team members proceeded to Ramechap on May 1, 2015 with due permission of the Nepal Government.

Uttarakhand Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Project

Summer is typically a busy season in Uttarakhand due to the influx of travellers from all over India. Pilgrims make their long-anticipated journey to the famed temples in this part of the country. On June 16 -17, 2013, right in the middle of this busy pilgrimage schedule, there were heavy rains accompanied by landslides and severe floods in the pilgrim centers of Kedarnath, Rudraprayag, Joshi math and Rishikesh. Enormous damage to life and property followed. Several thousand fatalities were reported. Most of the roads were damaged due to the flooding, and access to the affected areas was severely curtailed. Communication systems too were hit.

SSSSO, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, responded promptly by setting up relief camps near Dehra Dun Airport, Rishikesh Bus station and Haridwar Railway station. Over 1,500 food packets were air lifted on June 19, 2013 from Jolly Grant Airport to the Kedar Valley. The stranded pilgrims were provided biscuits, bread, cooked food, drinking water, medicines, blankets, and cell phones to enable them to call and reassure their concerned relatives.

Once the evacuation process was streamlined, SSSSO volunteers focused their attention and efforts to aiding villagers still residing in the affected areas near Chandrapuri (Bhatwari Sunar) which was totally washed off.

Sealed bags containing rice. wheat. sugar. dal. tea. refined oil. biscuits. rusks. candles and match boxes were provided to the villagers. These bags were often transported, individually, by the Seva Dal volunteers on foot as there was no direct access to the villages. In addition, the affected villagers were provided tents, medicines, blankets, clothes, cooking utensils, steel plates and solar lanterns. A hundred families were served in this round of Seva.

In the second round of Seva in the villages surrounding Bhatwari Sunar, 450 food packets. and dry ration kits consisting of wheat flour. rice. dal. cooking oil. sugar. tea. salt were distributed to the households. Twenty-five large tarpaulins were given to aid shelter for those who had lost their dwellings.

The third and fourth rounds of relief activities covered several villages in the Guptkashi area. Residents were given 450 solar lights and food packets. Small food packages were prepared, as Seva Dais had to walk 25-30 kms to reach the distribution point.

The extent of damage due to the floods, and the upheavals to residents’ lives were such that continuous rehabilitation measures were needed in addition to the immediate relief efforts. Severely damaged schools and houses had to be rebuilt; villagers needed winter clothing and regular supply of food items. The state unit helped several families with marriages of their daughters which had been planned prior to the deluge and flood. Families of the brides were given gift cheques of ~10,000 each, along with clothing, household items, furniture and blankets.

The relief operations demonstrated that Seva Dal volunteers are required to serve at both endsthose in the field rescuing and delivering relief materials to the affected and, those in the background who coordinate, procure, put together and transport the materials to the distribution points. The entire team has to work in a coordinated and dedicated fashion to achieve the goal of serving the distressed to the best extent possible and in a timely manner.

The Uttarakhand flood relief operation also bears testimony to the fact that the Disaster Management Team’s work does not end with providing rescue and relief immediately after the crisis event. Rehabilitation measures to restore the lives and livelihoods of the affected continues to be an ongoing activity well beyond the event.


Cyclone Fani in Odisha

On 3rd May 2019, the costal part of Odisha experienced nature’s fury in the form of a devastating cyclonic storm ‘Fani’, which made its land fall at more than 200 kms/hour near the coastal town of Puri. The four-hour long storm stranded the people of Puri, Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack to ground zero and left them with tearful eyes and little hope to rehabilitate themselves. More than 10 lakh people were impacted due to lack of electricity, food, and communication network. Fani came like any other cyclone that makes its annual visit to the coastal areas of India, but the enormity of its catastrophic effect was something which can be explained only by the ones who have experienced it.
SSSSO, Odisha, with its Seva Dais and the Disaster Management Team was well prepared for the pre-informed cyclone and tackled the situation with sincerity and efficiency. They set out in batches to different parts of the affected areas to survey the ground situation. Bhubaneswar acted as the headquarters of the State SSSSO and functioned as the nodal center for all preparations. Seva Dal volunteers worked without rest and sleep to pack the relief materials. From 5th May, the volunteers reached more than 5,000 households through different routes, and supplied dry foods and some basic utilities like flashlights, candles, matchboxes, mosquito repellents and, safe drinking water to sustain a family for a week. Due to the impact of the cyclone, the people of Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha, lacked electricity and water. The Seva Dais reached out to the people of the city with generators to pump water to the overhead tanks. Even animals and household pets were taken care of, with volunteers distributing food for them in the affected areas.

More than 10,000 affected villagers and slum dwellers in Puri District were served cooked food, wherever cooking fadlities were not available. The food was prepared and served at their shelters by the Seva Dais with utmost love and care. Further, 10,000 more were served by supplying them with adequate rations. Around 2,600 safe drinking water jars were provided to the households.

The calamity had also left the villages and their surrounding water sources polluted and unhealthy. The Seva Dal volunteers went in batches taking with them adequate quantity of bleaching powder, other sanitary items, and cleaning equipment including automated wood cutters to clear the logs from the blocked roads.

The unhygienic conditions in the aftermath of the cyclone had brought about a fear of an epidemic outbreak in the affected areas. Keeping this in view, a team consisting of more than 20 doctors, para-medica Is and Seva Dais with adequate medicines organised medical camps in the villages and provided medical amenities to the inhabitants. About 2,000 patients benefited from the medical camps.

Feeding the masses during COVID-19 Lockdown

Although hydrological and meteorological events are more frequent, occasionally other unforeseen events require a rapid response to impending disaster and suffering. COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown in March 2020 resulted in a massive humanitarian crisis in the country. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers left the cities where they toiled, often walking several hundred kilometres to reach their homes. Many more who stayed were left without livelihoods, incomes, and even basic necessities to survive in the cities. The crises were sudden, as they often are, and care providers like SSSSO had to swing into action almost immediately to alleviate the suffering of the masses.

In every state across India that required assistance, the state units of SSSSO provided basic necessities like food, water, dry ration/groceries, quick eats like biscuits and fruits, footwear, masks, sanitizers and medicines. Massive community kitchens were set up in several states to serve fresh cooked food to the poor, wage workers, stranded citizens, and migrant workers passing through on their way home. Pandemic-specific items like face masks, PPE kits, face shields, soaps and sanitizers were provided in many of states. The mobilization of volunteers, materials and resources was on an enormous scale, as required to meet the needs of large swathes of population in distress due to the pandemic and the crisis in their living situations.

Key features of the Covid Seva were distribution of food packets and/or cooked meals to individuals, as well as provisions to households through distribution of Amrutha Kalasham (dry ration kits comprising of materials required for preparation of full meals at home).
A critically important service was the provision of food packets and hot meals through massive community kitchens to migrant workers, and others in cities and towns that were in deep distress due to the lockdown induced loss of livelihoods, wages, food, and shelter. The immediacy of the need demanded that Sai Samitis swing into action and provide food to the needy in railway and bus stations, city and town centres, roads and highways where migrants were walking home. Nearly 20 lakh citizens were served food over the weeks following the lockdown in March 2020. Hygiene products and footwear were other essential items provided in many states.

Seua Dals in Action - Hallmark of Selfless and Silent Service

The need for quick mobilization and action to serve the distressed in the wake of COVID-1 9 demonstrated the pan-India level grassroots bench strength of volunteers built over decades by sssso.
While the actual number of volunteers deployed is unknown, it is safe to say that lakhs of volunteers worked across India with the hallmark ‘Love All, Serve All’ motto of the Organisation and the characteristic silent Seva that SSSSO promotes. The number of persons served, and costs associated may give a glimpse into the magnitude of operations; but the real value of the service is in the countless hours of selfless service rendered by the silent Seva Dal volunteers across the country. They served at railway stations and bus stops, highways, hospitals, and quarantine centres in the urban areas and remote rural villages to ensure that no one went hungry during the lockdown. All this happened in the middle of a pandemic, with considerable concerns of personal safety. Their yeoman service during these testing times was acknowledged by many, including the media and officials in various state governments.
A testimony to the efforts of both SSSSO and Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust in alleviating the suffering of fellow citizens during the pandemic was the invitation by Sri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, to both organisations to join him for a discussion on disaster rescue and relief measures, along with several leading spiritual organisations. SSSSO was represented by Sri Nimish Pandya, All India President. The Central Trust was represented by Sri R.J. Ratnakar, Managing Trustee.

Way Forward

After two decades of capacity building, rescue, and relief operations in the aftermath of major and minor disasters in India, the Disaster Management Initiative under SSSSO is poised to scale up its Disaster Preparedness activities in the next few years.
As of 2019, the DM Team has trained 47,142 Seva Dais, nearly a fifth ofthe total strength eligible for training. Some of these were re-trainings/upskilling of existing volunteers. The plan is to train all Seva Dais on the state rosters by 2022. In addition, re-training of district level teams is planned, to ensure that volunteers are ever ready for deployment in the event of an emergency. Reviewing and upgrading DM equipment at the state and district levels is also on the cards.
Disaster preparedness training will also be imparted at Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Jyothi schools across India. This will include training on first aid for teachers and senior students, visual displays on techniques of saving lives in an emergency, health and hygiene practices, sanitation (including clean school premises and toilets), and availability of a first aid box at each school.
Since response to disasters is occasional, trained Seva Dais will also be required to work regularly towards enhanced resilience in villages and communities. Weekly Grama Seva in the allotted villages will comprise of:
The focus in the years leading up to the centennial birthday celebrations of Sri Sathya Sai Baba will be on training youth members at every Samiti. The National Initiative on Disaster Management aims to make every member of SSSSO capable of and committed to the task of being a first responder in his/her home, locality, workplace, society, and community, thus becoming an asset to the nation.
error: Content is protected !!