July 05, 2005

Garden in a boat

Pugalendu says of the boat, lying there in a tiny fenced-off yard: "I think I will fill it with mud and turn it into a garden."

Why would an occasional fisherman say this of a boat that a well-meaning NGO -- its name blazoned on the side of the boat -- gave him a few months ago? It's a handsome fiber-reinforced plastic boat, smartly painted and looking so fine in this non-expert's eyes. Why does Pugalendu want to fill it with mud?

Well, one reason is that a few months ago, it was filled with water. Inadvertently, but filled all the same. Or at least, in a sense.

In Sankolikuppam, Pugalendu's village, the NGO manufactured and distributed 25 such boats to victims of the wave. Pugalendu got one -- this one that sits in the yard. So one day after he got it, he and a friend decided to go fishing in the nearby river. They planned to take the new boat out to the middle, stand up and cast their (also new) nets.

Pugalendu got in; the friend pushed the boat off the sand and leaped in himself. Within minutes, the craft swayed alarmingly and then simply toppled over. Capsized. Tossing Pugalendu and his friend into the water. They managed to save themselves, swam to shore; they left the boat to sink.

It's a bad design, see? says Pugalendu, getting into the boat right now, on land. Sure enough, as he stands there and moves slightly, the whole thing sways from side to side, filling me with alarm as I watch him. It's not heavy enough in the bottom, he says. That's why this happened.

So didn't you complain to the NGO, we ask. Yes, of course. But they said, we've built the boat and handed it over to you. Now what happens is your problem.

And how did you retrieve the boat, we ask. We also requested the NGO to help us there, says Pugalendu. But they refused that too. So we waited for an especially high wave to come in from the sea, and used that to re-float the boat and bring it to shore. (The irony of a wave helping where another wave smashed, six months ago).

So today, all over Sankolikuppam, you will find 25 boats lying idle. Nobody wants to use them. Nobody wants them. (Unless you count Pugalendu's gardening plans). The NGO spent Rs 22,000 for each boat, thus over half-a-million rupees in all for this village. All wasted.

I collected the names and numbers of the people at the NGO. When I get a few minutes on this trip, their phones will ring.

***

Postscript: I reached one of the two men in the NGO whose numbers I had, and had a brief conversation. Gist: he saing they have distributed these boats in several other villages and there have been no complaints. "They are not suitable for sea-fishing," he said. I pointed out that in Sankolikuppam, the fishermen had used the boats in a river.

He also said the boats need special training before they can be used, and the manufacturer had offered to give the fishermen of Sankolikuppam that training. "But some people are not ready to take this training," he said. When I asked why they distributed boat that require training experienced fishermen in the first place, he said I would have to speak to the manufacturer, and has asked me to call back to get their number.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

What is the name of NGO involved? It will be helpfull.
Thanks
Concerned citizen

Anurag said...

There is a deeper malaise at work here, Dilip, and a very scary one. Our education system is hollow. I have come across Elec. engineers from IITs (brilliant people, academically), who were scared to change the so called chokes in tubelights. Most people have very pedantic knowledge, if at all, even after a four or five year degree course. I can't find people who can even design good software, which is the least complicated of all designs.

It will be interesting to find out who was involved in the design of these boats, or whether a design was even procured. I know some Indian grad students at MIT who were working with ASHA or AID for some boats. :)

Anurag said...

Another thing. Maybe people who designed these boats were actually people who had earlier fabricated their own canoes using composite materials. Canoes are lighter, for speed, and their weight distribution is very even, which seems to be the description of these boats from you post.

Neha said...

There is nothing really shocking about this. I mean its just utterly sad, its the same story that gets repeated in most disaster areas.

And the porblem somtimes is not even coming from major malice being played on part of the NGO's or government, but rather incredible lack of common sense amongst the few who make these descisions!

I wont be surprised if that NGO that distributed those boats, must have not once even thought of whether different kinds of boasts exist.The primary purpose of many NGOS in such siuation is to be there "first" and start giving out things! without really "thinking"

anyways hope the gardening plan works out for the people! :-), better make some use of free goods then let then rot!

Anonymous said...

The NGO could be Association for India Development (AID)
Has it's signature written all over it.

Neela said...

Anonymous

Are you the same Anonymous who wrote against AID in the last post on slum demolitions? What do you have against them? They seem like a perfectly sincere organization to me (from their website and what I've heard). Why are you against them?

Regards

Neela

Neela said...

Dilip

Did you contact this NGO? What did they say?

Neela

Anonymous said...

Neela,

[They seem like a perfectly sincere organization to me (from their website and what I've heard).]

From the website of Hamas or Markat-ul-Dawaz (Laskar-e-Toiba) one can infer that they too are the most pious and sincere people as they do their share of building schools, orphanages, hospitals etc - just like AID and their partners DYFI.


[Why are you against them?]
Please check aidindia.info or charitymonitor.com

For starters, you ought try writing to the AID bigges running the show from Maryland, USA and find out as to why they march alongside the Pakistani American Alliance carrying "Allah destory India" signs.

And then there's more....I'll post my correspondence with them as we go along..

Neela said...

Dilip ,what do you think about these reports about AID? I found the library funding particularly disturbing, also the Sulekha matching donor contribution seemed dishonest. If not for anything but bad publicity, AID ought to have checked more carefully on this. And are you, Arundhati Roy etc AID fellows as the articles mention?

Anonymous, I must admit that I am slightly uncomfortable with the DYFI connection. But the organization seems to be doing very good work as confirmed by various sources. Further, the charitymonitor site seems to only have reports on AID -doesnt' sound very objective to me! Seems to me that someone wants to get after AID for some reason.

In any case, this is a good discussion to have. NGOs should be upto scrutiny wherever posisble.

Thanks

Neela

Anonymous said...

Neela:

When the police go after crooks, that's not "objective" either in that they don't go after EVERYONE. Just crooks they suspect.

Same deal with AID. Please be objective in CONSIDERING the evidence. I read a lot of people saying" Oh! AID's projects are great!" But WHAT projects? I mean, once you purge the ones where money is poured into DYFI, CPI(M/L), CPI(Maoist) etc.? Could it be that u r referring to the Project where "charitable" donations (or Sulekha Matching $$) were sent to Sandeep Pandey to pour $20,000 worth of gasoline in his SUV for a political-grandstanding "Padayatra"? How many children could have been fed/ educated with $20,000, Neela? Was the Padayatra more charitable than that?

I have also read of AID projects where they were trying to stir up political agitations among the poor tribal villagers of the Narmada Vallley. Per the AID report, the villagers asked them to leave.

The ONLY big achievement I've seen on their pages is this "bicycle-powered lamp" an idiotic concept where little children are made to pedal furiously on a standing bicycle to light up - get this - at most a 40-watt bulb! I wonder if AID has heard of dynamos designed for bicycles, that worked a lotr more efficiently.

My take is that there are three types of entities in AID:

1) The completely impractical Brat-Returned-From-America, who tries stupid experiments like the above on Indians.

2) The oily Professors and kurta-clad "Om Shanti! Shanti! types who con these students.

3) The hard-core CPI(M) / Maoist and Islamist terrorist cadres who never lose sight of the True Aims:
ALLAH WILL DESTROY INDIA and
The CAPITALIST WILL SELL YOU THE ROPE WITH WHICH TO HANG HIM.

Feel free to tell me why you think AID is so great, Neela, but please note that I am well-informed and "objective" myself. Be ready to face contradiction in no uncertain terms.

By the way, all "Anonymous" are not the same. :)

Anonymous said...

Neela:

When the police go after crooks, that's not "objective" either in that they don't go after EVERYONE. Just crooks they suspect.

Same deal with AID. Please be objective in CONSIDERING the evidence. I read a lot of people saying" Oh! AID's projects are great!" But WHAT projects? I mean, once you purge the ones where money is poured into DYFI, CPI(M/L), CPI(Maoist) etc.? Could it be that u r referring to the Project where "charitable" donations (or Sulekha Matching $$) were sent to Sandeep Pandey to pour $20,000 worth of gasoline in his SUV for a political-grandstanding "Padayatra"? How many children could have been fed/ educated with $20,000, Neela? Was the Padayatra more charitable than that?

I have also read of AID projects where they were trying to stir up political agitations among the poor tribal villagers of the Narmada Vallley. Per the AID report, the villagers asked them to leave.

The ONLY big achievement I've seen on their pages is this "bicycle-powered lamp" an idiotic concept where little children are made to pedal furiously on a standing bicycle to light up - get this - at most a 40-watt bulb! I wonder if AID has heard of dynamos designed for bicycles, that worked a lotr more efficiently.

My take is that there are three types of entities in AID:

1) The completely impractical Brat-Returned-From-America, who tries stupid experiments like the above on Indians.

2) The oily Professors and kurta-clad "Om Shanti! Shanti! types who con these students.

3) The hard-core CPI(M) / Maoist and Islamist terrorist cadres who never lose sight of the True Aims:
ALLAH WILL DESTROY INDIA and
The CAPITALIST WILL SELL YOU THE ROPE WITH WHICH TO HANG HIM.

Feel free to tell me why you think AID is so great, Neela, but please note that I am well-informed and "objective" myself. Be ready to face contradiction in no uncertain terms.

By the way, all "Anonymous" are not the same. :)

Neela said...

Dear This Particular Anonymous Who Doesn't Like AID,

I don't know much about AID other than what I have read. Till you came along, I read glowing things about them, so I had a good impression of them. Now you obviously have a different story to tell. I don't quite know who to believe, so I'll suspend judgment.

Anyway, thank you for your information.

Neela

Neela said...

Dilip

Did you find out what the NGO had to say in defense of their boats?

Regards

Neela

Anonymous said...

OH, Its AID. I stopped donating them when I saw there foot soldiers were more concerned about Pakistan than Indians. I saw them spending money to have together with Pakistani. Why I should donate to people who are least concerned about Indians. They have 2-3 projects are going on for last 5 years, none I can even verify now, majority of them are overlapping. There overhead is 65% and now founders of Aids are more interested in politics and showing their face in front of camera or pitching for or against some political party. I feel they are no more charity organization but cover for Maoist etc. Even there founder attended award ceremony for Maoist. They used to very proud of there association with DYFI , but after US declared Maoist etc terrorist organization, they have removed there association from their website, but even now they support Indian communist and PWG. In US colleges initially we were fooled my false pamphlets and pitch for donation, now I stay away from them in campus and advise others to do so. Before they eat up our scholarship money, I stopped donating them.

Concerned citizen,

Anonymous said...

Concerned citizen,
Thank for information because they are planning to organize fund raising event before 15th Aug. I will stay away from them. Is it possible to expose them? We need blog or website for this purpose.
Thanks again,

Vinay.

Anonymous said...

Concerned citizen,
Thank for information because they are planning to organize fund raising event before 15th Aug. I will stay away from them. Is it possible to expose them? We need blog or website for this purpose.
Thanks again,
Vinay

Venu Gopal Rao said...

Neela,

Please note that Mr. D'Souza ends the blog post with:

When I get a few minutes on this trip, their phones will ring.

I don't know about you or the D-man.... but it takes me a lot less time to call a person using my mobile than to say boot-up a computer, log-in, create a post and the host it on the blog.

Or maybe their phones did ring, but given the nature of this specific NGO, they could have used the charity rupees or petro-dollars to buy personal cell phones and converted their shoddy office phones into desk ornaments by planting some bonsai plants in them.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Should have taken care of this a long time ago, but anyway. For the benefit of all those here, the NGO concerned is not AID.