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Orissa Flood Relief: Housing Project

 

Click here to read the Cover story of Radio Sai's Heart to Heart Journal about the Orissa Housing Project

During third week of September, 2008, depression in the Bay of Bengal led to heavy rains & floods in coastal region of the state of Orissa in India. The embankments along the rivers Mahanadi, Brahmani and Baitarani were breached in many places thereby flooding more than 6,000 villages in 18 districts of the state leaving about 40 lakh (or 4 million) people homeless. The districts of Kendrapara, Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Cuttack were the worst affected. Relief work was slow and inadequate due to the continuous inclement weather and insufficient infrastructure. Many roads, bridges and railway tracks were either completely washed away or had become unusable. Having robbed thousands of their houses, properties, livestock, and livelihoods, nature's fury left behind a trail of devastation and despondency of unseen magnitude in recent times in the country.

Rivers breached the embankments
and submerged thousands of villages
Millions of people lost their
homes and livelihood
Damaged roads and railway tracks
delayed relief work
Sri V.Srinivasan announcing Bhagawan's resolve to help the flood-affected people

Meanwhile with Bhagawan's blessings, the members of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations in Orissa and its neighbouring states rushed to their brethren in distress with food, clothing, medicines, and other relief materials. But Bhagawan was not content with this. It was on 7th October, the sacred day of Ayudha Pooja during the Dasara festival at Prasanthi Nilayam that everyone came to know of Bhagawan's Sankalpa (resolve). Sri V.Srinivasan, the All India President of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations in his speech stated that Bhagawan was moved by the suffering of thousands of people who had been rendered homeless due to the recent floods in the state of Orissa and that He had decided to construct new concrete houses for them. The entire Sai Kulwant Hall was reverberating with applause for a long time at this spontaneous act of compassion of Divine Mother Sai for Her children in distress. Sri Srinivasan further mentioned that surveys were being conducted and plans were being drawn up at a rapid pace so that the houses would be ready at the earliest and, of course, Bhagawan was looking in to every minute detail to ensure that the people would feel happy and comfortable in their new homes. For instance, in places which are prone to frequent flooding, the houses are being constructed at safe height from the ground level. Also, agriculture being the predominant occupation of the villagers, space is being provided all around the house to shelter cattle and also to store the harvest.

Villagers welcoming members of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations Villagers welcoming members of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations Plans and execution schedule on display at the work site Seeing the plan markings on the ground

A team comprising of representatives of Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust and Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, Orissa conducted detailed surveys in various places. Beholding the messengers of hope, the flood-affected inhabitants of the villages welcomed them with great respect and expressed joy and gratitude that God had responded to their prayers for succour. Having conducted surveys and finalized the plans, the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, with the approval and cooperation of Government of Orissa commenced the Housing project with Bhoomi Pooja (ground breaking ceremony) on 30th November, 2008. As a part of Bhoomi Pooja, Nagarsankeertan (collective singing of Lord's name while going around the village), Narayana Seva (distribution of food, clothes, blankets, etc.) was also conducted. Members of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation of Orissa have been providing able assistance in many ways due to their knowledge of local people and terrain.

Bhoomi Pooja at Khandahota, Cuttack District Bhoomi Pooja at Samjodi, Kendrapara District Sai Youth doing Nagarsankeertan at work site in Manibad, Cuttack District Food preparations underway for Narayana Seva
Sri V.Srinivasan being welcomed
for the Bhoomi Pooja
Sri V.Srinivasan addressing a meeting
at the site
Blankets being distributed Happy faces all around!

Work is progressing in a planned and phased manner simultaneously in many villages in the districts of Kendrapara, Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Cuttack. Yet another saga of love is being unfolded. this time in a different setting and to a different section of people, but doubtlessly it is the same Divine Love of Bhagawan reaching out to His children.

Pile boring in progress Open foundation of a house Foundation laying in progress Foundation made of flyash bricks
Foundation made of flyash bricks Brick walls have already risen up
at Nadiabari site!
Roofing works in progress Roofing works in progress
A house in Manibad before painting Front view of a completed house View from the side View of the Living room

The construction activity that began in the last week of November 2008 progressed as per schedule and by the end of March 2009, 200 houses were complete in all respects and were ready for occupation. Though the blessed owners of these houses saw the edifice coming up brick by brick in front of their eyes, they could still not believe their good fortune. They were categorized as living below BPL (Below Poverty Line) and for generations together they had been living in huts and therefore owning a concrete house was beyond even their dreams. But if God decides to intervene, is there anything impossible? In order to express their gratitude to God for giving them this wonderful gift, they came to Prasanthi Nilayam to see Him, whom they had not seen or even heard of till about six months back. While the hearts of these innocent villagers overflowed with joy and gratitude to behold their Divine Benefactor, Bhagawan was like an eager mother waiting to welcome and embrace her children in her loving fold. Even from a week before, Bhagawan was making anxious enquiries with the officials of the Seva Organisation and the Ashram to ensure that 'His Guests' would have a comfortable journey to Prasanthi Nilayam and their stay enjoyable at the Ashram.

On 2nd March, the beneficiaries and their family members were seated in the Sai Kulwant Hall, waiting for Divine Darshan. When Bhagawan came, many prostrated on the floor and tears streamed down their faces as they tried to convey their heartfelt feelings to Him. Bhagawan then distributed clothes for all of them - White Dhoti and Angavastram with golden borders for the men folk and bright, colourful sarees for the women. That evening there was a cultural programme by the Orissa devotees called 'Pala' followed by a drama based on the life of Sabari from the Ramayana. If there was one prayer in the hearts and on the lips of all the people from Orissa, it was this - "Bhagawan, please come to Orissa and bless us all. May your holy feet sanctify our land." The people who wept after losing their huts and belongings in the flood of waters, now wept again, but this time it was the flood of Bhagawan's Love.

On 3rd March, the sacred morning of Sri Rama Navami, each family sat together, dressed in their new clothes given by Bhagawan and received the house keys and a package containing sleeping mats and kitchen utensils blessed by Bhagawan in His Divine Presence. In the evening, there were three speakers. The first speaker, Dr. Ramesh Chandra Panda, senior IAS officer from the Tamil Nadu cadre, spoke in Oriya about Bhagawan and the various projects that He had undertaken for the benefit of mankind. The second speaker was Sri Kondala Rao, formerly Chief Engineer in the Panchayat Department and now Technical Advisor, Government of Andhra Pradesh. He had the blessed opportunity of being associated with all the Drinking Water Supply Projects undertaken by Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust under Bhagawan's direction, and now he was also associated with the Orissa Housing Project. He presented a brief report on the project. Following this, Bhagawan delivered His Divine Discourse and blessed one and all.

Ladies being distributed Sarees in Bhagawan's Presence Gents being distributed Dhotis & Angavastram in Bhagawan's Presence A scene from the drama on Sabari from Ramayana Bhagawan blessing the participants with a group photo
Bhagawan blessing the house keys Bhagawan blessing the package containing articles of daily use The beneficiaries offering their grateful Pranams to Bhagawan The blessed families in the Divine Presence

When the beneficiaries returned to their respective villages, they were ceremonially welcomed by other villagers for having returned blessed from a holy pilgrimage. On 9th April, 2009, a grand 'Grihapravesham' (housewarming ceremony) was organized by the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization, Orissa for all the beneficiary families whose houses were ready for occupation. On that joyous day, the beneficiaries wore the clothes gifted to them by Bhagawan. All the houses were beautifully decorated for the occasion and the entire village wore a festive look. After singing Bhajans and performing Pooja (ceremonial worship), the beneficiaries entered their new houses holding Bhagawan's picture in their hands seeking His divine blessings. Indeed, Bhagawan had not just provided them houses, but had granted them a new life altogether!

Grihapravesham ceremony in one of the villages New Houses decorated for the occasion Pooja in progress A beneficiary family entering the house with Bhagawan's photo
Another beneficiary family entering the house with Bhagawan's photo A family is performing Pooja inside their new house Happy and grateful owners of a new house Prasadam being served at the end of the function

With Bhagawan’s blessings, about 300 houses were handed over to the beneficiaries by Sri V.Srinivasan, the All India President of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation in a brief function held at TTD Kalyana Mandapam, Bhubaneswar on 2nd July 2009. Further, keys of another 100 houses were distributed by Sri A.Ramakrishna & Sri Kondala Rao in the villages of Cuttack, Kendrapara and Puri districts on 18th & 19th of September, 2009.

The venue Sri V.Srinivasan arriving at the venue Bhajans in Progress A beneficiary speaks
Sri V.Srinivasan addressing the gathering Felicitation of people who helped in the project Distribution of house keys Distribution of clothes
The beneficiaries count their blessings Expressing joy & gratitude to Bhagawan Beneficiaries partaking of Prasadam Plaque at Kendrapara
God's bounty Front-view of the houses A happy family A contented housewife
Sri A.Ramakrishna & Sri Kondala Rao being received at Bilipada Sri Kondala Rao lighting the lamp to commence the function Distribution of keys & clothes View of completed houses at Rahamba

On 29th October, 2009, on the occasion of the Orissa Disaster Preparedness Day and the National Day for Disaster Reduction, the Government of Orissa decided to express heartfelt gratitude to Bhagawan Baba for the various activities undertaken in relation to flood relief and reconstruction. In a special function held at Jayadev Bhavan, Bhubaneswar, the Honourable Chief Minister of Orissa, Sri Naveen Patnaik felicitated Sri K. Chakravarthi, Secretary of Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust and conveyed his sincere appreciation as he handed over a trophy and certificate to him. Sri Chakravarthi then visited many sites of the Housing Project and inspected the progress of work.

Felicitation by the Honorable Chief Minister of Orissa Felicitation Certificate of appreciation given by the Orissa Government Sri K. Chakravarthi IAS(R) inspecting the houses at Khadikera

There is an interesting incident that took place in Billipara village that deserves a special mention. The villagers watched with wonder their houses taking shape before their eyes. However, there was one issue that troubled their mind. The village deity Goddess Jageswari that they had been worshipping for generations was still housed under the shade of a tree and there was no structure worth calling a temple around it. How could they show this irreverence to the very God who provided them their new homes? Can we not come together and build a temple in our village, they thought. Soon enough, a Sai devotee came forward to provide the building materials and the villagers enthusiastically built the temple with their own hands and sweat of their brows. What seemed impossible to the poverty-stricken villagers earlier now became possible. Within four weeks, a new temple sprung up from nowhere. Truly, there is no limit to what Love can achieve!

Makeshift temple for Goddess Jageswari Temple under construction Temple after construction New Temple for the Goddess

On the 5th November, 2009, in the final phase, around 100 houses were handed over to the beneficiaries of Khadikera, Nirmala and Billipara of Puri District at a function in Puri, the district sanctified by the holy temple of Lord Jagannath. The Trust also constructed new classrooms and got old classrooms repaired and painted at the schools in Billipara of Puri District and Samjori of Kendrapara District. Overall, around 700 houses were constructed in 16 villages of three districts of Cuttack, Kendrapara and Puri, and handed over to the beneficiaries in a record time of less than a year! The beneficiaries of the munificence of Bhagawan had only prayer to make their benefactor, nay, the Universal Benefactor… It was a prayer with their hearts filled with love and gratitude to their Lord… “Lord, please come and bless our home state of Orissa with your Divine visit.”

Bilipada School work-in-progress Billipada School outside view Samjodi School outside view Samjodi school interior view

 

District S.No. Name of Village No. of Houses
 
I Cuttack 1 Manibad 39
2 Jharkata 12
3 Khandahota 55
4 Rahamba 118
5 Sithal, Kulasahi 20
6 Keutapatna 31
  275
II Kendrapara 7 Nadiabarai 28
8 Pentha 31
9 Samsara 24
10 Samjori 22
11 Tikhri (Naldia Palanda) 25
12 Tikhri (Malika Sahi) 34
13 Mahanangala 35
  199
III Puri 14 Billipara 113
15 Nirmala 34
16 Khadikera 78
    225
  Grand Total 699

 

Jai Sai Ram!

Click here to read the Cover story of Radio Sai's Heart to Heart Journal about the Orissa Housing Project