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VAK's involvement among the Tsunami affected communities

i) Background Information

Vikas Adhyayan Kendra (VAK), Mumbai, with the support of community based organizations, initiated the Tsunami Rehabilitation Programme in Tamilnadu, over the Tsunami disaster that affected mainly the indigenous fisherfolk and Dalit communities of South Tamilnadu . Based on its experience in rehabilitating Gujarat earthquake victims VAK began implementing the relief and rehabilitation work in two phases.

The perspective and approach that guides VAK intervention centers around monitoring relief efforts by the state and others to ensure that relief reaches all irrespective of caste, religion, gender and age; campaign, advocacy and networking for greater participation of affected communities in the formulation of disaster management policies: designing long-term and sustainable rehabilitation and reconstruction policies that are sensitive to the cultural context and needs of the affected communities with gender and children friendly focus. Specific focus areas have been on women, children and the aged. VAK's activities are concentrated in parts of Kanyakumari district, Thiruchendur taluka that are predominantly of Dalit communities, and a few villages in Kerala.

ii) Nature of Intervention

In the first phase ( 26 th December 2004 to April 2005) of the programme VAK launched immediate relief activities in Kanyakumari district and Tiruchendur region; distributing food, essential commodities and other livelihood requirements. Meanwhile it conducted an economic damage assessment (EDA) of the affected areas, in 14 coastal villages, and found gaps and lapses in the relief and rehabilitation activities. EDA therefore recommended a people's tribunal on post tsunami responses and challenges with effect from May 2005 comprising of a panel of national level experts and academics. The Tribunal report with its recommendations was placed before the concerned State and Central Governments. Thereafter petitions received from the affected families were submitted periodically to Governments rehabilitation agencies and follow up works like inclusion of those excluded from the compensation package. The Second phase involved long-term livelihood efforts as well as advocacy and campaign to strengthen the rights and empowerment of the marginalized coastal communities.

After the first phase of programme, project implementers identified the need for social empowerment of coastal communities and programmes required for developing advocacy and social educational programmes for the fisherfolk and Dalits in the Tsunami affected Southern coastline of Tamilnadu.

The rehabilitation efforts have advocacy and development component with a holistic approach for the promotion of indigenous people's rights and sustainable development models. The main components of this program consists of developing alternate livelihood programmes for women, capacity building including social education programmes; educational programmes for youth and children, health programmes, community based ecological action programmes and mangrove forest development programme along the coastal villages are the components. Capacity building programmes included stress management aspects to address psycho-social care needs of the traumatized Tsunami victims. Campaign for fish and fishery workers welfare board, processing petitions of the excluded Tsunami victims and lobbying for compensation of the victims are the rights based activities promoted for the welfare of indigenous coastal people.

iii) Long-term livelihood rehabilitation programmes

The long-term livelihood rehabilitation programme was initiated in August 2005 through a market (analysis) survey to identify feasible income generation programme for Tsunami affected women. Tailoring and Pickle making units were identified as the viable alternate income generation programmes in Muttom and Simon villages respectively. Selected women beneficiaries have following criteria: - age group of 18 to 40 years; annual family income less than Rs 6000/-; semi-literate and illiterate; average family size of 5 to 7 members; unemployed coastal women; all are Tsunami affected families.

  • Pickle and candle making unit

24 women selected from Simon colony and Kodimunai villages attended training programme on pickle making for a period of three months, lasting for a period of 45 days for each batch. The trainees were provided travel reimbursement and a daily stipend of Rs 40 to each woman trainee. The training was facilitated by the Fisheries College of Tuticorin. The training consisted of instilling skills in diverse categories of pickle making; confidence to start women's collective enterprise for alternate income, and recovery from stress and trauma through active involvement in day-to-day activities.

The pickle making unit was inaugurated by Mr. Ajit Muricken, Director of VAK at the Simon Colony on 13 th March 2006 and production commenced in April 2006. VAK contributed Rs. 10,375 as a travel support for the participants for the entire training period. Machineries and equipments for the pickle making unit were purchased for Rs 72, 443. VAK also paid Rs. 86,875 as training fees including food for the participants. In September 2006 an additional one-day training programme was held for shelf-life of pickle products costing Rs. 1,950.

As support for the pickle and candle-making unit VAK has also created an interest-free revolving fund of Rs 1,01,360, after two months of initial support, as working capital including operational cost and investment of the pickle unit. On its final disbursement VAK has withdrawn its financial support to pickle and candle making unit. Till date 3,600 bottles are produced by the pickle making unit after sample production. Production consists of lemon and mango pickles filled in 300 gm bottles. So far 1711 bottles have been sold with a sales turnover of Rs 27,376 @ rate of Rs 16 per bottle.

The candle making unit was started in the same center as additional income to the pickle making unit. Training for candle making is provided to all pickle making women so that they can make both in tune to the market season of both the products and to eliminate non-working season due to market conditions. The pickle and candle making unit have now more working days in a month and more wages.

The candle making unit was started in October 2006 at the cost of Rs 34,365 including Rs 18,600 for moulds and Rs 15,765 for the purchase of raw material. The first production output consisted of 687 candles and sold it for Rs 1,374 with a profit margin of Rs 687. Till date 1,822 candles of high quality have been produced, worth Rs 8,036 on the current order from 4 Churches. Since then an additional order for 5,000 candles worth Rs 45,000 from another church has been received and production has already under way.

Out come of the programme: -

16 women gained employment in the pickle and candle making unit, acquiring skills in production, marketing and management of these products. They received a stipend of Rs. 26,250 and they earned wages of Rs 22,500 in this initial production period till October 2006. The pickle unit has standing orders worth of Rs 24,000 for the current production period. The candle making unit have generated a profit of Rs 8,723 within 45 days with a stranding order of Rs 45,000 for the next two months.

If in both units women continue to earn at the current rate of income their annual family income is set to increase from less than Rs 10,000 per year to Rs 15,000 per annum. Already they have added more than Rs 1,500 in their family kitty, an achievement compared to their previous poor economic condition. In both units the women have earned a reasonable amount of wages and stipend in the first year. It has helped in supporting their family income, particularly when the current high tide season prevents fishermen to venture into sea and when the disease of Chikungunya then raging in their communities, has paralyzed many of them for weeks.

Although they have not earned the expected wages in pickle making unit it is none the less a measurable achievement considering the fact that the Tsunami affected women are either totally illiterate or at best semi-literate. They have had no previous experience as workers being preoccupied as traditional housewives within a patriarchal family structure that restricts their mobility both within and without their domestic lives.

The women working in both units have recovered dramatically from the Tsunami tragedy. The 16women are now a solid collective and their center a place of their own and a place for bonding place and undertake creative day to day activities, happy to support their families through their independent earnings.

  • Tailoring training cum garment stitching unit

On 14 th April 2005 at Muttom, a tailoring training unit was inaugurated by Ms. Margaret Sumadh, of UCC - Canada . 36 Tsunami affected women attended a year's tailoring training programme till April 2006. Of these, 24 of them received stitching household tailoring assignments using pedal sewing machines (ordinary) at the center as well as their own sewing machines at home. 12 women tailors attended the advance tailoring training programme using automatic sewing machines. Advanced tailoring machines worth of Rs 2, 23,210 has been invested in this unit including its transportation, installation with electrical accessories and fittings worth Rs 34,153. Additionally Rs 26,678 was spent in training the women in automatic purchase of furniture and electrical fittings.

Women have also been equipped with skills in export garment stitching at Chennai as well as on-site training. Experts from the Chennai based M/s Grace Garments, a garment export stitching unit, provided the training input consisting of a stitching in export garment pieces to be supplied to Germany from 15 th May 2006 onwards. Women tailors' achieved speed and skill in stitching by the second week of September 2006. So far they have stitched 10,731 pieces at the rate of Rs 3 and their income out of this production process is Rs 32, 193. During the advanced tailoring training period they have earned Rs 1,037.50 by stitching 1,218 pieces of small garments part.

Out come of the programme: -

Tailoring unit women have learned the teaching skills to produce export garments using over lock, pad lock and double needle automatic sewing machines. 12 of the tsunami affected women have been employed in the garment unit. Tailoring training cum garment stitching unit has generated an income of Rs 33,560.50 by stitching 11, 949 pieces and with this income the unit has paid rent, electricity and maintenance of the unit worth of Rs 2,500 on their own. Garment goods transportation charge of Rs 6,365 has been paid with this income. Tea and snacks expenses of the unit are Rs 1,846. Total expenses of the unit since it started operating independent of our support is Rs 37,558 with Rs 4,000 received as advance payment from the client and a part-payment of stitched garments pending payment besides Rs 33,560.50 for stitching 11, 949 pieces. 12 women employed in tailoring training units have earned a stipend of Rs 9,000 at the rate of Rs 750 per women. Another 12 women tailors earned wages worth of Rs 26, 847 excluding the wages to be paid for their production in the last month. They have totally added Rs 2,200 to their family income which is less than Rs 10,000 per year. At this rate of income generation, they are set to add Rs 9000 per annum and their family income will reach Rs 19,000 from less than annual income of Rs 10,000. This is a measurable achievement considering the fact that they come from poor family background without any previous experience in working and illiterates.

Tailoring training and garment stitching units have now achieved sustainability as these units take care of all its expenses barring VAK salary support (to the tailoring teacher), which may discontinue after a few months. When compared to pickle and candle making unit, women working in tailoring cum garment production center have earned more wages and quickly moving towards achieving complete sustainability.

On recovering from the trauma, the Tsunami affected women have gained in confidence and hope for a better tomorrow through their engagement in garment production. A woman working in tailoring unit who lost her only child in the Tsunami notes that more than the income gained from tailoring unit it helps to forget tragic event in her life. Evidently, our tailoring training unit has slowly and steadily helped the victims to recover from the trauma over the Tsunami disaster and also helps them to earn an alternative income to support their family.

iv) Capacity building programmes

A capacity building programme has been imparted to the Tsunami affected coastal people in Computer training skills for youth, educational support for children and social leadership programmes for youth and women

  • Computer training

Computer training center was inaugurated by fisher people's panchayat and currently government's district panchayat leader Mr. Sasion on 5 th December 2005 at Muttom. Computers worth of Rs 2, 59,350 was purchased and installation charges for the unit including electrical fittings and accessories worth Rs 2,739. Additionally Rs 30, 695 is used for furniture. Totally 36 youth attended the 4 month training programme in which 6 joined higher education in different colleges on completing the course. Two of them were selected for employment abroad with a foreign firm. An NGO worker was also trained on computer skills for 3 months. In April and May, 40 students attended summer crash course along with the regular students. A total of 27 students have attended the training till date. Spoken and written English class is also conducted for them thrice a week. Books for computer students has been purchased for them and the faculty with 3 teachers are training them on desk top publishing, MS windows, internet operations, photo shop, tally and spoken English. 26 students who have passed internal exams will appear in the final examinations on December 2006 conducted by Government of India recognized center at Nagercoil, Kanyakumari district. Rs 500 for 26 students as fees is paid for the examinations in December 2006 and Rs 200 for the fees for each students is collected from the students as their contribution for the examination fees though the Computer training center did not collect any admission, monthly or maintenance fees from the students. This center is operated with free of charges for the students throughout the past one year.

Out come of the programme:

40 students benefited from the 2006 summer crash courses. 3 other youths have benefited by attending separate classes for employment. 30 students attended all the courses throughout the year. 26 youths have achieved excellent skills and they have passed internal examinations conducted by the Center prior to appearing government approved examinations to receive certificates in order to enroll in employment exchange. 4 of the students who have not got through internal examinations will appear in government approved examinations in March 2007. 3 staffs recruited as teachers belong to Tsunami affected fisher and Dalit communities and it serves as an employment opportunity for three youths from the affected communities. Of the youths 25 are girls and young women and this center has provided an opportunity for them to come out of their home and to learn a skill for their future employment.

  • Educational support programme for children

Educational support programme for children was started in October 2006 at Muttom with 122 children attending the evening classes. These children belong to 6 th standard to 9 th standard. 3 educated part-time teachers have been employed to impart classes in English, Tamil, Science, Mathematics and Social Science. The classes are conducted at St. John primary school, Muttom, for the welfare of the Tsunami-affected children from 6 to 8 pm after the formal school attendance on all school working days followed by an hour's recreational sessions before the evening classes.

Outcome of the programme:

Prior to the implementation of this programme, children's success and focus in education was very poor, according to the school teaching staff. 3 teachers recruited from Tsunami affected communities not only teach the children but also gained employment to support their poor families. Children attending educational programme are improving their learning skills apart from the programme serving as a trauma-care exercise for the children by keeping them creatively occupied learning and playing along with the 64 children of relatives and friends from their village. One child said that they have gained in confidence and no longer remember Tsunami and deaths of relatives and friends. Thus, such efforts in rehabilitation are paying dividends in psycho social care.


  • Social Leadership Training programme

Social leadership training programmes for women and youth was organized on 25 th to 30 th October 2006 at Muttom and Kodimunai in 3 groups. 25 youth of computer training center attended a two days training programme at Muttom. 24 out of the 25 in this youth group are young women and girls. 20 women from pickle and candle making unit and women from the self-help group with federation leaders of Kodimunai and Simon Colony attended this training in the second batch. 20 women from tailoring training center and health workers attended the third batch of this training programme. Totally 64 women and boy attended this social leadership training programme.

This social leadership training programme was conducted for 6 days with 2 days for each of the three groups. The training programme was conducted for women lacking of leadership and communication skills, apart from problems of dowry, domestic violence, no social awareness on social issues and knowledge of the outside world. Mr. Daniel Meshack, a trainer in leadership and in women development conducted this training programme for a fee of Rs 27,200.

Outcome of the programme:

The leadership-training programme opened up their mind to a new world. It involved meditation and a learning process in communication, leadership, team building and a concern for social issues. They were exposed to social issues socio-economic and political analysis. This raised their awareness on tahe means to tackles social maladies like dowry, caste discrimination and illiteracy.

  • Health programmes

Health workers are involved in treating patients in their respective villages. Earlier 17 health workers have attended a Health workers orientation program on 5 th to 14 th May 2005 at Asha Nivas, Vagamon. They have also attended separate week long training in the past year at the same place (9 th to 16 th May 2006). Dr. Mercy and her colleagues trained the health workers on understanding and need for immediate trauma care, rapid treatment skill, first-aid help and medication during natural and other disasters. First aid, yoga, native medical care, ayurvedic & siddha medical treatment methods, simple and low cost healthcare treatment are the other core areas in this educational training.


Outcome of the programme:

In the past 1 year, they have treated over 5,000 patients holding 3 health camps at Muttom, Simon Colony and Kodimunai villages. 8 part time volunteers working as health workers are the work force behind the health programmes and Totally 5 doctors have attended 3 health camps. In the past one year Rs 60,000 worth of medicines were distributed to patients in their village by health and community workers. Health workers have monitored Chikungunya patients in their villages and campaigned on the use boiled drinking-water, symptoms of the disease and measures on modes to avoid water stagnation that breed mosquitoes in and around their homes. They have distributed Government prescribed medicines to Chikungunya patients working in villages lacking in government health care facilities. They are treating victims who still in temporary shelters even 2 years after the disaster.

  • Coastal Ecological Action programmes

A mangrove forest development programme has been designed to protect coastal region and the marginalized communities. Mangrove forest development and tree planting programmes launched so far stress the need for enhanced community participation with a greater role to local communities in developing and preserving mangroves and other plantations in the coastal villages.

There is a need to build broader consensus among the community for long-term sustainable ecological programmes. Land measuring 3,484 sq ft has been purchased for Rs 1, 16, 885 including purchase and registration cost in March 2006. One fourth of the land area has been filled with red soil and plangtaed 165 saplings surrounded by barbed fencing. In the first phase 165 saplings distributed to households for planting that included Neem, casuarinas, cashew, teak, mango, guava and naval saplings. In the second phase 2,772 saplings were purchased. In total, plants worth of Rs 20, 915 have been purchased till date. Formal consultations on raising community planting were conducted with the District Forest Officer. Ecological awareness meetings were also conducted for three villages at Simon Colony, Muttom and Kodimunai villages on 22 nd , 24 th and 26 th August 2006. In these meetings women self-help groups were provided motivational skills to carry out tree planting and maintenance. Resource persons stressed the need for community participation of ecological programmes in villages, need for mangrove forest and green cover along the coastal areas as a disaster prevention measure and role of women in developing household plantings and community plantings.

Ecological action programme for community leaders were conducted at Kesavan Puthen Thurai, Helen Nagger and Mel-Midland. In these three meetings, village elders, neighbourhood society (church clubs) and members of traditional fisher people's panchayat have attended. In these two meetings, community participation in planting and maintaining tree groves in the coastal village streams confluence points with sea.

Coastal Ecological Action Network meeting was conducted at Nagercoil on 31 st October 2006 . Community based organizations working along with coastal villages of Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts attended this network meeting. Representatives from Arulagam, ATWT, CARE-T, CCS and ECHO attended took part in this meeting organized by VAK. This meeting identified 24 villages along the coast line where a collective community planting programme can be launched in the next phase. The network identified the need to plant 21,250 saplings in 24 coastal villages and to conduct following activities:- Planning meetings with village leaders, Ecological awareness programme-SHGs, village leaders and school students, street plays to develop awareness on ecological issues and need for mangrove forests, follow up meeting- site identification, groups responsible for growth of the trees, Village resolution and approval of sites and developing groups responsible for growth of trees, site for waste recycling, developing water harvesting structures, Pre planting sessions with groups & number of saplings, Water harvesting measures and organic fertilizers and lobbying local panchayats for water harvesting structures, Tree planting a small function, Monitoring the growth of plants, Household survey on tree plantation and Planting trees for village household use.

Outcome of the programme:

So far 1,400 plants have been planted in Simon Colony, Kurumpanai and Muttom villages. Tamilnadu coast's traditional mangrove plants like Casuarinas, Pungai, Neem, Polaris, kumil, magilam, naval, illupai and punnai have been planted in community grooves as well as in houses and schools. Ecological awareness meetings helped to make women groups think seriously about the need for developing mangrove forests in protecting their villages and future as a disaster mitigation effort. Ecological action programme for community leaders assisted us in building community consensus on developing mangrove forests in their village and Mapping of the villages' eco system and identifying suitable lands along the coast for developing community grooves with fencing. Our intervention in terms of awareness building on ecological issues is something new unheard of in other sources, although it is a topic among those involved in Tsunami disaster rehabilitation. These meetings exposed the gaps in dissemination of information about the importance of mangrove forests and its link between day to day living of coastal people. The outcome of these meetings stressed the need to build the community consensus and ecological awareness among the community leaders and low literate population (majority of the people in fishing villages. It is not possible to develop and maintain mangrove forests without these repeated exercises with adequate follow-up meetings.

A Coastal Ecological Action Network formed under the facilitation of VAK should initiate a network based ecological action programme in the next phase.

v) Campaign and Advocacy

In the first phase of the immediate relief and rehabilitation and people's tribunal on post tsunami rehabilitation stressed the need to develop long-term campaign and advocacy programmes as a part of the rehabilitation effort with the aim to develop overall economic and social development. Fish and fishery workers welfare board in Tamilnadu has been identified as a major tool for economic and social empowerment. A separate campaign forum is formed exclusively to fight for Fish and fishery workers welfare board in Tamilnadu. According to this campaign the marginalized along the coastal area of Tamilnadu constitute a population of more than 1.5 million with a livelihood based on marine products are an endangered section of people facing natural disasters as well as man made developmental disasters. Traditional fishing communities and Dalits are involved in fish and fishery work. Some vested interests have entered the coastal villages after the Tsunami disaster when the government rehabilitation agencies along with the revenue officials divided the coastal communities during the early phase relief and rehabilitation. It is important to foster inter-community harmony among these two communities. They are united by their link to common source of livelihood, dependent on fish, seashell, salt, pearl, seaweed and other marine products as well as fish related livelihoods like fish processing, fish selling, seashell collection and limestone production, inland fishing, fish market workers, ice plant workers and fish transportation workers. Campaign for fish and fishery workers welfare board in Tamilnadu is a coalition of community organizations working for the coastal communities, trade unions, leaders of traditional fisher people panchayats, activists and individuals and platform for marginalized communities.

We have conducted a notice distribution programme in 32 coastal villages and 2 sea shell collectors' hamlets covering more than 25,000 people directly and explained the need for Tamilnadu fisher people welfare board in the model of neigbouring Kerala State and 25,000 notices were distributed through other NGOs in neighbouring districts. This occurred during State Elections when the campaign oraganisers met candidates of several political parties. The marginalized people living along the coastal area of Tamilnadu constitute are an endangered section of people facing natural disasters as well as man made developmental disasters.

The second phase of campaign for fish and fishery workers welfare board was launched on 7 th August 2006 simultaneously in 8 Tsunami affected coastal districts of Tamilnadu. Signature campaigns were conducted in 52 villages in 8 coastal districts. VAK facilitated the campaign with the support of coastal civil society organizations of Tamilnadu. A signature campaign was conducted till 18 th August 2006 and the first phase of campaign with a demand for establishing separate fish and fish workers welfare board culminated by submitting 26,000 signatures to Chief Minister of Tamilnadu. A delegation of fish and fishery workers met Local Administration Minister, Labour Minister and Fisheries Minister separately and handed over similar petition with same demand. They also met General Secretary CPI (M), General Secretary CPI, leader of State Legislative Party of PMK, President Congress I ( Tamilnadu State ), President Viduthalai Siruthaigal (Dalit Panthers), leader of State Legislative Party of MDMK, State Organizing Secretary DMK and President Fisheries Wing of AIADMK.

A blue print on legal precedence, schemes and financial moDalities of fish and fishery workers welfare board has been developed by the campaign organisers and reviewed by experts in finalization the draft report. Rs.119,309 has been spent so far for this campaign till October. The funds are used for press meets, press releases, distribution of pamphlets, signature campaign, fish and fishery people's delegation meetings with political party leaders, Ministers, MPs and Assembly and individual meetings with officials and Ministers by campaign convener in the past 6 months.

  Outcome of the programme:

The out come of the campaign is generally positive and received full support from most of the political party leaders. 26,000 signatures were collected from coastal fish and fishery workers. Mass mobilization took place along the coast to support our demand. This demand for separate welfare board for fish and fishery workers was raised in assembly session by two members of the assembly. The campaign team received an assurance from local administration and labour Minister a demand to be considered in the next fiscal year. Coastal region MLAs have shown keen interest in this campaign since they largely depend fisher people's political support to them. These are positive results emerged out of first phase and it should be taken ahead for more concrete result.


After the completion of second phase of actions under Tsunami relief and rehabilitation, there is need for other activities and focus on Coastal Ecological action programme, Campaign for fish and fishery workers welfare board in Tamilnadu and Capacity building programmes for women and youths.

The Phased withdrawal of our intervention in livelihood and health programmes will be the priority area in third phase.

Already a women's managing committee for pickle and candle making unit and tailoring unit has been established and is under registration. The powers of management of these units are partially transferred and the process of community ownership of these production units has been initiated. The computer training center will incorporate partial fees structure and move towards its sustainability. Campaign for fish and fishery workers welfare board in Tamilnadu is set to initiate following action:- Lobbying with State and Central ministers with renewed petitions, Lobbying with political party leaders to adopt resolutions in their respective State conferences and requesting their district level leadership support for the campaign, Lobbying with coastal panchayat election candidates by getting their signatures to support the campaign (a separate petition to CM with signatures of the candidates demanding separate welfare board), Lobbying with coastal MPs, MLAs; Panchayat presidents and passing panchayat resolutions to support our demand. Coastal Ecological action programme should further enhance its activities by implementing Coastal Ecological Action Network recommended actions under VAK's facilitation.





Vikas Adhyayan Kendra
D-1 Shivdham, 62 Link Road, Malad (West), Mumbai 400 064 INDIA
Tel : 022-2882 2850 / 2889 8662. Fax : 022-2889 8941