January 18, 2005                                  6th 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 Shiromani Gurdwara Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has diverted its surplus grain at Chennai to Great Nicobar in response to UNITED SIKHS.call to help Tsunami victims in great Nicobar, who are at risk of malnutrition and disease. UNITED SIKHS has started preparations to build a kitchen facility to provide langar for everyone on the island from next week. When the UNITED SIKHS Tsunami Relief Team arrived in Great Nicobar last Friday our Project Leader, Esher Singh, visited the relief camps and found the Tsunami survivors living in poor conditions. 600 refugees were sharing a toilet facility. Food, clothing and bedding were scarce. The relief camp refugees who had lost all but the clothes on their backs, had been eating rice and lentil soup since the Tsunami hit the island and morale was very low.


.It is a matter of time before disease starts spreading due to poor sanitary conditions. We have to build them houses. Time and Tide is against us as after April the island will be cut off from the world for 6 months when the monsoons set in,. said Esher Singh.


.Mr Surjit Singh Rakhra who is the man behind the shipment of SGPC.s Langar supplies from Panjab has been very responsive in providing status of the first container of supplies that has left for Gt Nicobar. I apprised him of the conditions of the people in Campbell Bay and our Langar plans. He said he would provide all the Langar supplies for up to 3 months. We will just have to provide him the list of requirements,. said Gurmeet Kaur, from Atlanta, who is co-ordinating the UNITED SIKHS relief efforts in South India.


.We are very pleased with the swift response we got to our phone calls to SGPC president and Governor of Tamil Nadu, Surjit Singh Barnala . she added.


Esher Singh is heading for Panjab tomorrow to brief community leaders on the acute problems he saw on the island. He has photographs and video recordings of the devastation and interviews with families about their conditions and needs.


.The problems in Great Nicobar have to be solved quickly and it needs the intervention of community leaders. I hope to meet Panjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, SGPC president Jagir Kaur and  Pinggalwara  Director, Inderjeet Kaur.,. said Esher Singh.


.The government has given the islanders permission to cut forest trees and build their homes. But all building facilities on the island have been destroyed and every nut and bolt has to be flown in from Chennai because the jetty has been destroyed,. Esher Singh  said.


The survivors who have lost everything are having a hard time proving their losses to the administration. .The police refuse to accept a report until the survivor has advertised his loss in the Press,. said Esher Singh. .This is unfair as they have no means and ability to do it. We need to get them assistance to deal with such administrative and legal matters,. Esher Singh said.


Esher Singh left Great Nicobar for Chennai on Saturday to purchase supplies to build the Langar facility and to engage a lawyer to help the survivors. .We are also looking at the possibility of setting up a saw mill to help the islanders build their houses quickly and cheaply. We are looking for carpenters and builders who can volunteer their time,. he said.


.I will be receiving a shipment of supplies including Gutkaes (prayer books) and the 5 kakkars in Chennai which have been sent for the Sikhs in Great Nicobar by the Sikh community of Pune, Bangalore and Indore,. said Navneet Singh, UNITED SIKHS Team Leader in South India.


UNITED SIKHS has recruited more volunteers to help the islanders. The volunteers who arrive this week include a housing developer from California, Judge Singh, who will advise and supervise the construction of houses. Joravar Singh from the UK will help in running the langar facility and help in construction work. Hargobind Singh Khalsa and his friend Satbir Singh from Virginia are making preparations to leave for Great Nicobar. Hargobind Singh will provide counseling for children and also help in any administrative work whilst Satbir Singh,a carpenter, will help in the construction of houses. .


The North American Sikh Medical and Dental Association (NASMDA) president, Dr Gurmit Singh told UNITED SIKHS that he has appealed to his fellow members to volunteer their time and resources at Great Nicobar.


.I am very interested to counsel the survivors at Gt Nicobar and am waiting for my employer.s go ahead. Two more of my colleagues who are counselors are also keen to join,. sadi Dr Simran, a psychiatrist and NASMDA member from Ohio.


Navneet Singh is preparing a plan of the relief and rehabilitation programmes for the islanders . Navneet, who is a management Consultant from Atlanta, says the UNITED SIKHS team will prepare a comprehensive proposal to win the support of the government and the community. .The UNITED SIKHS team will return to Great Nicobar with supplies and more volunteers on Sunday,. said Navneet Singh.


Great Nicobar, barely 60 nautical miles from the epicentre of the Tsunami in Aceh, is one of worst hit islands in the Indian Ocean. Until UNITED SIKHS landed on the island last friday, no non-governmental organization had visited it because the only aid allowed onto the island was by the armed forces of India. On arriving, Esher Singh rang the UNITED SIKHS team on the mainland and a rally of phone calls to SGPC and the Governor of Tamil Nadu, Surjit Singh Barnala, began criss-crossing  the continents.

Esher Singh reports that the inhabitants of Great Nicobar had had industries, agriculture, shops and big houses. After the Tsunami, there is nothing left. Huge machines, trucks, cars, bicycles are buried in sand . rusting, and many machines have been washed away into the ocean.

The Gurdwara which is in the center of Campbell Bay is completely damaged even though there was a huge wall 5 kms from the Gurdwara. The back waters hit the area and caused extensive damage. .One can imagine where there were no walls to stop the water what must have been the intensity of the waves and the damage they caused. This area between 11-31 kms is totally exposed to the sea and it is here that maximum damage has taken place. said Esher Singh in his twice daily Status Reports he files to the UNITED SIKHS Relief Team Headquarters.





The UNITED SIKHS team of volunteers to Indonesia have been riding the waves on the ships sailing under the stewardship of GLOBAL SIKHS to the Aceh province. Dr Susheelwant Kaur of Wolverhamptiopn, UK, is based in the hospital in Pulau Weh and Gurpreet Singh, a paramedic from Canada, is helping in the rescue and relief mission. Project Leader, Jagdev Singh, and Vickram Singh , a psychologist, said that the people of Aceh will never forget who a Sikh is from now on. .We have been waved at and welcomed by the villagers, wherever we went,. Jagdev Singh said.  See Field updates on our website.

The UNITED SIKHS Team Leader for Sri Lanka heads for Colombo tonight and will be joined by the rest of the team members by Friday. Their aim is to work with children who have survived the Tsunami. The Team will head for Batticaloa, the district worst hit by the Tsunami. They also hope to locate a Udassi Mat gurdwara in a place called Dibar in Batticaloa . So far all official help to locate the Gurdawara has failed. If the Gurdwara is located the Team.s relief project will be linked to it.

The UNITED SIKHS Team in South Thailand has been working with survivors in Krabi. The medical members of the Team, Dr Baljinder Singh and Sagina Hanjrah from Ontario, Canada, have been spending long hours attending to survivors. Inder Kaur made and served langar whilst Team Leader Jasvir Kaur, both from Chicago ,distributed supplies to the survivors. The project leader of this Team, Amarjeet Kaur of Bangkok said that the most important work that needs doing in Krabi is counseling.


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