India

Practising Principles of Catholic Social Teaching in the context of Shelter Assistance Programme for Cyclone Gaja affected

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Caritas India is committed to social justice and instilling the dignity of poor and vulnerable who have been victims of disasters. The Cyclone Gaja damage assessment report (12th December 2018) sent by State Office, Tamil Nadu has focused on the conditions and causes for vulnerabilities, substantiated with qualitative and quantitative data based on the village visits in the affected 34 blocks coming under 7 districts and having triangulation with the completed IAG assessment. This has guided Caritas India to design the response mechanism. The collaboration with United Way Bangalore (UWB) has enabled Caritas India to start facilitating the shelter assistance to 87 most deserving families. It has been a herculean task to select from among 4163 fully damaged and 7673 partially damaged households. Hence stringent criteria had to be applied in the selection. To begin with a detailed Implementation plan was worked out.

As the first step, the Manager of Caritas India Dr.John Arokiaraj, with the support of Thanjavur Multipurpose Social Service Society staff team identified the most affected 2 Panchayats viz., Easanoor and Thiruvaimoor Panchayats in Keezhayur Block of Nagapattinam District. The DRR Desk of Caritas India steered by its team leader Mr.Anjan Bag prepared a damage assessment tool to have focused intervention and maintain systematic documentation process. The pretesting of the tool enabled for modifications and effected context-specific, qualitative information for the response plan.

As the first step, the Manager of Caritas India Dr.John Arokiaraj, with the support of Thanjavur Multipurpose Social Service Society staff team identified the most affected 2 Panchayats viz., Easanoor and Thiruvaimoor Panchayats in Keezhayur Block of Nagapattinam District. The DRR Desk of Caritas India steered by its team leader Mr.Anjan Bag prepared a damage assessment tool to have focused intervention and maintain systematic documentation process. The pretesting of the tool enabled for modifications and effected context-specific, qualitative information for the response plan.

The field accompaniment of Chellapandi who has gained good acceptance in the community is an important factor for hassle-free selection of beneficiaries and community ownership of this programme. Periodical updates and data filtration by Ms.Larina, Programme Officer, DRR Desk are instrumental in tracking the progress of this time-bound 6 months project.

Physical validation of preliminary list of shelter beneficiaries, conducting PRA at village level to prepare preliminary list, finalization of the shelter design given by Architect Joanne Christy, identifying the site for constructing the prototype shelter, conducting medium level soil test with the professional support of Professor Malliga from EGS Pillai College of Engineering, meeting with District Collector and obtaining permission to proceed with the project and identification of local contractors who know local language and ground realities are the important processes that were part of the shelter assistance programme.

There are quite a few value additions seen in this project. They are: Communities selecting the deserving beneficiaries, application of shelter damage assessment tool and rating of the house damage applying weightage method and correlating with vulnerabilities; When the weightage for each of the house damage indicators are multiplied with the rating for each parameter, the level of biasedness becomes zero; As part of linking the project with the government programmes, petition to issue patta and construction of toilets for the selected 87 households and permission to take soil for landfilling for free of cost has been approved by the authorities.

To bring in more accountability and transparency to the project, a consultation meeting was held with 6 contractors on 10th September 2019 at Nagapattinam. Dr. John Arokiaraj along with Anjan, Chellapandi, and Sulakshana facilitated the meeting. It was chaired by Fr.Sushil, Administrator, Caritas India who with the technical guidance of Shelter consultant Mr.Prabeen finalised the shelter design specifications. Fr.Sushil explained about the quality standards, timeline and good practices to be followed. He said “ We are bringing back hope in the lives of people who are devastated. So let us give our best. Make the foundation strong, leave provision for future expansion and ensure quality”. The plan is to enable the beneficiaries to have safe and dignified shelter before the North-East monsoon encircles.

The analysis of shelter beneficiaries final disaggregated data proves that all the Catholic Social Teaching principles like Human dignity, rights and duties, Option for the poor, Participation, Economic Justice, Stewardship of Creation, Solidarity, Role of Government and Promotion of Peace are practiced. There are 87 beneficiaries from 10 villages, 74 having completely damaged houses and 13 with partial damages. All of them come under the BPL category and they work as agricultural labourers. In terms of social stratification, 11 families come under SC Christian, 67 families belong to SC Hindu, 5 families belong to BC Hindu and 4 families are falling under MBC Hindu families. 17 widows, 3 PWDs, 5 elderly /separated and 14 families who have completely lost their houses and with 2 or more girl children are given prioritised attention once again proving that inclusiveness is the Mantra of Caritas India.