In 1924 Kerala suffered deluge on account of terrible flood which was widespread and resulted in massive loss of life and property. It was the worst ever flood in the State. To provide relief to the victims of flood Mahatma Gandhi issued an appeal to the people on 17th August 1924 in Navjivan under the caption 'Relief Work in Malabar'.
The text of that letter is reproduced below.
RELIEF WORK IN MALABAR
I have to confess that the response to this appeal has been more prompt than I had expected. It has been proved not once but many times that, by God’s grace, compassion does exist in the hearts of the people. Many funds have been launched for this work. People may pay their contribution to Whichever fund they choose; I would only urge that pay, they must. Malabar’s misery is unimaginable. If a man expecting death survives, he dances with joy. He forgets hunger, thrist, heat or cold in the excitement of having survived. Our brothers and sisters in Malabar are in this predicament. Those who are dead are gone. The survivors are simply happy because they are alive. As days pass, their misery will increase, not diminish. We are humble creatures before God. We have the power to crush an ant and that makes us arrogant; Whereas God has a thousand times more power to crush us like ants and He does exercise that power on occasion. This action of His is, however, not “violence”, because He is omniscient and an ocean of compassion. Since we cannot pierce His mystery, we call Him the creator, preserver and destroyer of the world. He, in fact, neither creates nor preserves nor destroys. We know not what law governs our birth, life and death.
Whatever it is, as long as we desire to live, it is our natural and inescapable duty to help others to live.
Readers will be glad to know that some brothers and sisters are missing a meal every day, some have given up milk or other things and they are contributing to the Fund. What is thus saved. Even children have joined this work spontaneously. A handsome amount is likely to be collected in this way. A small girl had stolen three pice which too she paid to the Fund. A sister has donated her four bracelets and a chain of pure gold. Another sister has given her heavy necklace. A child has parted with his gold trinket and a sister With her silver anklets. One person has given two toe-rings. An Antyaja2 girl has offered voluntarily the ornaments worn on her feet. A young man has handed over his gold cufflinks.
Rs. 6994-13-3 have been collected in cash up to date.
The following amounts were deposited with the Bombay branch:
A gentleman—Rs. 5; Dahyalal Harivallabh Joshi—Rs. I0; Vishveshwar Manilal—Rs. 101; a gentleman—Rs.1.
I trust that the collection will continue at the same rate at which it has started.CLOTHES
Clothes are coming in large numbers. It is difficult to estimate their value. These clothes are most welcome on this occasion. When there is a cloud-burst, it is not possible to think of swadeshi and paradeshi2. Therefore I intend to accept any clothes that may be offered. I do not have the nerve to say that I will not clothe a naked man in foreign garments. If India had been overflowing with khadi by now, I would, indeed, have said this. As long as I have not acquired this power, how can we, who are ourselves loaded with garments, be fastidious while clothing the naked? I have lost sight of the distinction between co-operation and non-co-operation on this occasion of distress relief. I am prepared to serve under Government officials in the work of feeding the hungry; and I advise the non-co-operators to do the same.
It does not mean that we should also attend meetings convened by the Government. We are not interested in these things. We should only perform the soldier’s job. If we collect funds, we should modestly extend relief without coming in the way of the Government to quarters where the Government has not reached or does not wish to reach. If the Government wills, it can extend abundant help. The entire work is so enormous that there is enough scope for private enterprise and private charity. Private enterprise alone will not be able to meet the challenge; but whatever is left undone by Government aid can be undertaken by private relief alone. I am considering in consultation with Vallabhbhai3 how best to utilize the funds. Much depends upon the amount of money collected.
If anyone’s contribution is not acknowledged in Navajivan, he should write to me. The intention to acknowledge all amounts is still there. In case of very small amounts, I intend to publish only the totals. Those who wish to remain anonymous, may kindly let me know their wish.
If the donors of clothes remember the following instructions, it will be convenient to accept and forward the gifts:
1. Used clothes may be washed before they are offered.
2. Torn garments may first be stitched.
3. All clothes may be properly folded, bundled and labelled with the name of the donor and the number of garments.
We are not giving away these clothes to beggars. These, people, like ourselves, belong to clean and tidy middle-class families. I do hope that the same love, care and courtesy will be shown to them, as we do while giving something to our own brother or sister. Indeed we should show consideration and care while we give even to a beggar. It does not take much time to wash unclean clothes, stitch torn garments or to fold them all properly. It merely tests one’s fellow-feeling.STUDENT OF MAHAVIDYALAYA
Readers are aware that students of the Mahavidyalaya have offered yarn; but, like the pupils of Shraddhanandji1 during the South African campaign, they have also donated manual work. About 75 students put in Work as labourers at the college building which is being constructed for them and they paid to this fund the wages they earned. I congratulate the students and hope that they will often undertake such manual labour which is the true way of utilizing the education acquired by them.WHERE TO GIVE?
At Ahmedabad, the donations can be forwarded to the offices of the Provincial Committee and the Navajivan or to the Ashram. In Bombay, arrangements may be made with the Provincial Committee or the donations may be forwarded to the branch office of the Navajivan on Princess Street. Wherever money, yarn or clothes are forwarded, I Would advise the donors to take a regular receipt.
[From Gujarati] Navajivan, 17-8-1924
# Provided by Satya Narayan Sahu. # Mr Satya Narayan Sahu was OSD and Press Secretary to the late President of India Shri K.R. Narayanan and served as Director in the Prime Minister's Office and Joint Secretary in the Rajya Sabha Secretariat. The views expressed by him are personal.