January 14, 2005                 2nd Magh, Nanakshahi


Press Release




UNITED SIKHS will update you as we receive reports. For Relief Team updates see: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/ghanaia/fieldreport.html


CAMPBELL BAY (Great Nicobar Island, Indian Ocean)  - The homeless in one relief camp in Great Nicobar were found to be in need of counseling, clothing and bedding and their children needed milk. Five hundred Sikh settlers have been without their staple food since the Tsunami disaster destroyed flour mills and wheat stocks on the island. The Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy enlightener scripture) was also damaged when the Gurdwara (Sikh Place of worship) was damaged by the tidal floods.

UNITED SIKHS' GHANAIA Tsunami Project Leader for South India, Esher Singh, obtained this first hand account when he arrived at Campbell Bay today. He joined the Sikh community for its first Gurdwara prayers since the Tsunami disaster. Esher Singh, who was joined by Kulwant Singh of the Sri Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle from Bombay, visited the victims in one relief camp after being briefed by the president of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Dasmesh Nagar, Paramjit Singh.

"We need about 10 tons of wheat flour and lentils per month until the situation resumes to normal," Mr Paramjit Singh said.

On hearing about the Sikh community's problems, Esher Singh arranged with the Gurdwara in Chennai to bring a Guru Granth Sahib, Rumalae (cloth covering) and canopy to the Gurdwara in Campbell Bay.

UNITED SIKHS GHANAIA Tsunami Relief headquarters has been working round the clock to find a solution to the food problems of the displaced families of the Nicobar community.

"During the tour of the relief camp, RS 450,000* was disbursed to the homeless. There are some 8,000 people in relief camps and their total needs will only be known when all the camps are visited," Esher Singh said.   

UNITED SIKHS is working with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president, Bibi Jagir Kaur, to provide supplies of wheat and lentils to the islanders.

"Bibi Jagir Kaur has directed that part of the SGPC's grain stock, which had been sent to Naggapatnam for the Tsunami victims in Tamil Nadu, be transported to Campbell Bay," said Dr Gurbachan Singh Bachan, UNITED SIKHS Director of Community Relations.

"We do not know when this transport of grain to Campbell Bay can take place but we hope it will be very soon. I have spoken to Tamil Nadu Governor, Surjit Singh Barnala who has assured me that the transport will be expedited," Dr Gurbachan Singh added.

Dr Gurbachan Singh also contacted the Chief Khalsa Divan Amritsar and the Delhi Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) for assistance.

Mr Paramjit Singh Sarna, president of DSGMC, and Bhag Singh Anki of the Chief Khalsa Divan said that they will guarantee that the supply of grains to the Sikhs in Great Nicobar is not interrupted 
Since the Tsunami disaster struck, no non-governmental relief agency has been to the island. Nicobar and Andaman Islands are India.s frontier islands where, for security reasons, the only relief work being done is by the Indian armed forces.

"Our Team's priority was divided between the relief work in Tamil Nadu and the trip to Nicobar to identify the condition of the Tsunami victims there. Our Project Leader, Esher Singh, wasted no time to get to Port Blair to look for a way into Nicobar," said Gurmeet Kaur, UNITED SIKHS project co-ordinator for South India. Esher Singh's flight from Port Blair on a civil aviation authority plane yesterday brought the first non-governmental humanitarian aid to this island.

UNITED SIKHS will not only arrange for immediate relief to the islanders but also identify mid to long term developmental projects. "We will do house to house interviews to determine the community's needs. For a start, the Gurdwara needs to be rebuilt. A new Gurdwara building was being constructed and it has been damaged."

"We will have to fill the gaps left by government aid. For the homeless, houses will have to be built if governmental aid is limited," Esher Singh said.

"In the spirit of sarbat da bhela, service to all, we will provide humanitarian aid to any needy member of the Nicobar community," he added.

Great Nicobar, one of 324 islands in the Indian Ocean, was settled by Sikhs in the early 70s when the Indian Government, in a bid to secure its frontier territory, offered land to Sikh farmers from the Panjab .

Today the 3,500 Sikh settlers on this 1,000 square-mile island are unsure of their future.

"Many of us who have lost all our property don't know if we should go back to Panjab or remain on the island," said History professor, 55 year-old Tara Singh, whose Vijay Nagar was destroyed by the Tsunami.
When asked what could be done for the islanders he said, "Apart from psychological support and financial help for families who have lost everything, you could persuade the government to compensate the victims."

"Those who want to return to Panjab should be given land or equivalent jobs in Panjab. Those who wish to remain on Great Nicobar should be given government jobs because the salty flood waters have made their land unsuitable for farming." he told UNITED SIKHS.

Please donate, even if you cannot give a lot. Your contribution will help victims directly.

You may donate online by clicking above, or choose one of the following options for your convenience:
- Donate by cheque/check payable to UNITED SIKHS, and mail to a UNITED SIKHS regional office.


Contact : gurmeet.kaur@unitedsikhs.org

Editors Note: The figure should read Rs 45,000

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