Nepal Earthquake, 25th April 2015

Nepal Earthquake, 25th April 2015

On this occasion, a severe earthquake struck Kathmandu in Nepal. Sadly the result was similar and again thousands of people died and many were made homeless. Pujya Bapu and his team spent three months in the Sindhupalchowk district, providing immediate relief in the form of food for whole villages, as well as overseeing the building of replacement homes.

An earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck Nepal on 25th April 2015 followed by another one of magnitude 7.3 on 12th May. Both were followed by numerous aftershocks.

BEHT’s work in Nepal – “Signed, Sealed and Delivered!”.

Pujya Muktanandji, the visionary saint behind BEHT affectionately called “Bapu” by all his followers came to know about the earthquake at 4pm on 25th April 2015 – just a few hours after the disaster took place – and he felt a strong urge to personally go and provide immediate help to the victims.

Pujya Bapu reached Nepal on 27th April accompanied by Sanjaybhai Vaghasia, his Sevak from Chaparda and five other people from Kholapur, Maharashtra. Once they arrived in Nepal, the first thing they did was purchase needy things for immediate use:

  • Food
  • Floor Mats
  • Water
  • Blankets
  • Raincoats
  • Torches
  • Biscuits
  • Flip-flops
  • Energy Calcium powder to give to the Cows
  • Kerosene

After purchasing these items, they all left Kathmandu towards Sindhupalchowk District around 9pm on the same day and reached Chapapote. On finding out that the local people had not eaten for 2 days, Pujya Bapu decided to open a kitchen there and then. The villagers were given rations which they cooked themselves. Their staple food is made up of rice, potatoes and a few vegetables. This kitchen continued for 15 days during which about a 1,000 people had two meals daily.

Next day, on 29th April, Pujya Bapu and his team visited other nearby villages and a 2nd kitchen was opened at Chapbhanjan. Here, approximately 700 people had 2 meals a day for one month. Similarly 12 more kitchens were opened in nearby villages.

During this time the former Prime Minister of Nepal, Madhav Prasad Nepali came to know that Pujya Bapu was doing relief work and he especially came to visit Pujya Bapu. He was very impressed with the work that was being done.

There were lots of dead animals and thus Pujya Bapu hired a JCB machine to lift and bury these animals. Approximately 500 animals were buried in the next 3 days. Had this not been done then there would have been a risk of outbreak of diseases. A second JCB machine was hired to level the roads around these areas and clear the debris.

On 30th April, teams from Maharashtra and Chaparda with a total of 50 people arrived and all started their respective work. Everyday 10 villages were given medical help. The doctors checked the injured and sick and where there was a need they would be sent to Kathmandu using two ambulances, which had surgical equipment and medicine.
An old lady was buried in rubble for three days and nobody knew about it but our rescue team found her. She was very bruised and her knee was broken. She was given immediate medical attention and
taken in the ambulance to a Kathmandu hospital. Many such major cases were referred to Kathmandu Hospital.

1,000 Tarpaulin sheets and rice had been brought from Maharashtra and these were distributed to the people of nearby villages. Pujya Bapu also ordered 10 trucks of rations of dal and rice from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh district near Nepal border and 10,000 pieces of extra tarpaulin. These were also distributed to the people of surrounding villages in Sindhupalchowk district. This work took place until 10th May after which the Maharashtrian team left Nepal and the kitchens were closed.

During this period Pujya Bapu also visited various schools and villages and talked to them and encouraged them positively. He played games with children and told them short stories and gave satsang to the villagers so that they could be helped holistically after the Earthquake as everyone was in a state of shock as they had lost their homes, animals, some relatives and of course their
livelihood too.

Once the immediate relief work was completed in terms of providing food and shelter, Pujya Bapu decided to choose to help the village of Dungana Gav for which he felt an internal pull, especially so because all the villagers are vegetarians. Most of the families are of Brahmin origin and a few are Christians. This particular village was also selected as it had a Youth Club consisting of 11 youngsters who came forward and volunteered to give their support. These youngsters were placed in charge of ensuring that the building of 203 new houses for the villagers was done in an orderly manner.

Pujya Bapu got an Engineer from Kathmandu to visit and inspect the situation at Dungana Gav. On his advice it was decided to build 203 houses with the use of good quality materials that would last for years to come. Each house size is of 20 ft. x 18 ft. The materials used for roofing are colour coated 22 gauge 10ft x 3ft iron sheets. Foundations are made of cement and concrete and then 3 feet border of cement bricks. Toilet and bathroom is attached to the house and made up of bricks. It has good water supply. It has two big windows and two doors and sunlight window made of acrylic sheet.

5 demo houses were first constructed to see if they would be adequate to live in. After the villagers agreed that they would be suitable, a further 198 houses were instructed to be built. As per today’s date, all 203 houses have been completed and presented to 203 families to live in. The houses are built at different heights because of the village terrain.

Of course, these houses were a big change from the original traditional houses, which were beautiful and built with natural materials and would consist of three floors. Ground level would be where the animals lived, first floor where the people would live and on the top floor their rations for the whole year would be stored.

In doing all the above there was a lot of difficulty in supplying the materials to Dungana Gav as the roads were very rough and only smaller vehicles could reach the village. The people of Dungana Gav, especially the youngsters, walked long distances carrying the goods on their shoulders to the village. They worked very hard to make sure that the necessary goods that came via big trucks up to Naglebhare, which is 5 kms from Dungana, were transported either by smaller vehicles or by foot and motorbikes.

Following his first visit on 27th April 2015, Pujya Bapu made two more trips of 15 days each during June and July 2015 to make sure all the work was under control. He was also in touch with various suppliers and the Youth Club members of Dungana Gav to get all the latest reports of work- in- progress. Pujya Bapu had also left his two sevaks from Chaparda namely Arjun Jadeja and Kana Rabari for three months since they first arrived in Kathmandu on 30th April 2015 to over-look the progress and give daily report on the work to Pujya Bapu.

On 25th August 2015, I decided to travel to Kathmandu, Nepal and visit the villagers of Dungana Gav and overview the progress of the work that Pujya Bapu had undertaken on behalf of BEHT and other well-wishers. Sanjaybhai, Bapu’s sevak accompanied me, as he was familiar with all the work taking place in Nepal.

Arrangements were made for us to visit Dungana Gav. I had also invited Quentin, a young Frenchman from Paris and a Founding Trustee of The Sharing Roads, who was staying in Kathmandu to join us. We went in a 4 x 4 vehicle as any smaller car would not make the journey to the place due to the terrain and the road was still very rough. On the way to Dungana, it was devastating to see the damaged buildings – homes, schools and businesses. Not much work was in progress and the monsoons were yet to follow. At one point our 4 X 4 got stuck and was rescued out of a ditch by passers-by.

When we arrived at Dungana Gav we were given a really warm welcome. I was very touched to see that all the villagers were there with flowers. These people had lost so much yet had such big hearts. Initially the plan was to feed the whole village. Unfortunately there were two deaths in the village and one was that of a young mother and wife who was only 29 years of age and had died very suddenly the day before because of high fever.

Most of the youths who had volunteered to look after the building of the houses were present including the head of the village. They gave us a tour of the various houses that were already built at different levels of the village as the village is on a hill of the lower mountain range. The new houses that were already built were now occupied and we met a lot of the villagers who were happy that they had somewhere safe to live in and were very grateful.

As we had the tour we also saw the lovely buildings, their original houses that were badly damaged by the earthquake. Can you just imagine the feeling of sadness and loss that they must carry?

In one of the houses, lived the oldest man in the village. The head of the village told me that he had a premonition of the earthquake and when it came he was very shocked and even after 4 months on he was still shaking from the shock. I visited him and said that he should feel lucky that he was safe and must let go off the fear set within him.

We then visited the family of the young lady who had passed away the previous day. Their family house was on a steep slope where the car couldn’t go so we went on motorbikes. It was pretty scary but the view of the valley was just amazing and could see the beautiful rice plantations on the different levels. The villagers told us that we must not say Namaste when people are in mourning. Thus we paid our respects. It was very sad.

Before we left Dungana we distributed toilets and aluminum sheets for the bathrooms for the remaining houses. We also visited the school and met all the teachers and beautifully dressed
children and distributed some biscuits to them. They were very happy.

Just as it was time to say good-bye, the head of the village requested me if there was any way we could help them build shelters for their animals. The animals could not stay in the damaged houses as any after- shocks would be dangerous and thus they would freeze in the approaching winter. I said to him that I am unable to promise anything, but will certainly do my best so please leave it with me. At this point I had an intuitive feeling that I will be back here soon.

On my return to London, I mentioned this conversation to Pujya Bapu and he said that if BEHT was able to raise donations than we can go ahead and help them build animal shelters. Everyday, for the next week I sat and wondered whom could we ask? Animals were as equally important as humans and they must be protected. Finally one day, I thought of someone who has animal welfare at heart and that person along with family members agreed to donate 50% of the amount needed. This generous donation along with other donations to BEHT made it possible to fulfill the request for the Dungana Gau animal shelters. The best way forward, fast and do-able, was to give 10 aluminum sheets per each family with animals and they would build their own shelter using the sheets and other natural material such as mud, cow-dung, stones, rubble, wood, bamboo and certain foliage that would last for a long time and thus the animals would be protected from rain and cold winters of Nepal.

On behalf of BEHT, once again, I went to Dungana Gav on 22nd December 2015 to distribute the aluminum sheets. They were extremely grateful. This time we managed to feed them a delicious meal. Approximately 600 to 700 people from the village and surrounding area enjoyed the meal.

I also took food round to the most senior man whom I had met in my first trip. He spends all his days in the house and in his bed. He said to me that he is only waiting for God to receive him as he is now totally fed up. I joked with him that if he eats some food then it may happen faster!.

Thoughts about Nepal after the Earthquake

I have witnessed with my own eyes that things are very difficult in Nepal. I have seen queues and queues of vehicles waiting to get petrol. Petrol is very scarce and is 5 times more in price plus one could only get it if one had influence and that too only on the black market. Travelling has become very difficult and expensive. People have to walk for hours to get anywhere. There is a shortage of gas and people have to turn to using wood which means lots of trees are being cut. There is no electricity for almost 9 hours per day.

Food and clothing is very expensive and not everyone can afford it. There is shortage of medicine and thus health is affected. It is a vicious circle of catastrophe. With the change in the
government nothing seems to be easy and no one knows if the situation is going to get any better or worse. People are actually living on the edge.

In the midst of all this, what Pujya Bapu has managed to achieve in the space of 8-9 months is highly commendable. As the saying goes “Where there is a will there is a way!” BEHT and the people of Dungana Gav and others who have received help from Pujya Bapu’s actions are very grateful to all the donors of BEHT who helped in making this possible.

They have conveyed a message to you all that they are very happy that help came to them as none of the nearby villages have been helped. Pujya Bapu was like God sent and an angel. They feel very lucky. If the houses were not built for them so quickly then they would be sleeping in the open, under tarpaulins and would be most uncomfortable. They are also very grateful for the shelters help given to them for their animals. They thank you all from the bottom of their hearts and wish you all well and hope you continue to help the needy.

Above photograph is an example of shelters already built.

Therefore, the job has been done. “Signed, Sealed and Delivered!” A Big “THANK YOU” to you all who took part in making this happen.

It is such a shame that so much fund has been collected by various organizations throughout the world but where has most of the fund gone? It is a mystery!

Here is a slightly edited version of what a local young person living in Kathmandu, whom I had met during my second visit, had to say:‘’A poor country plagued with political and administrative instability for decades, with no visible development. Marred with debt, corruption, inertia and tussle for power, one could simply say that Nepal could not afford to bear any disaster however miniscule.

However, nature’s fury hit Nepal at a time when it was at its weakest.  An earthquake of magnitude 7.8 hit the central region of Nepal primarily including places like Kathmandu, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchowk, Rasuwa, Gorkha, Dhading, Makawanpur etc robbing thousands of people of their lives and hundreds of thousands of people of their homes and belongings. Villages completely wiped out, avalanches making a village of 200 households look like a dry river bank, the sight of thousands of people crying out in the open without a roof or morsel of bread to eat, Nepal reminded one of an apocalypse had anyone seen one. It left a beautiful country like Nepal crippled. The government which itself was lacking sturdy legs was clueless. The love and support shown by other countries, NGOs, even common citizens made the sight of trucks and choppers carrying tarpaulins, corrugated sheets, rice, cereals and emergency supplies going villagewards a common one.

20 days is a short time, but without a home it is a lifetime.

Until then, people had been hearing how much Nepal was endeared by people the world over. Just like the proverb “A friend in need is a friend Indeed”, the response after the earthquake was overwhelming. One would hear from different media about the amount of donation raised by the government from different countries. Of course the damage was catastrophic but the help was no less significant. Homeless were not hopeless, for they knew that the administration had the money that would bring them back their shelter. People waited weeks with hope that the government would come up with a solid plan for reconstruction. And just like an iron bar in open air, hopes of people living under tarpaulin sheets in open air turned rusty. The administration kept up its legacy of disappointing the citizens.

For the namesake, a few sheets, few bags of rice and few medicines were distributed here and there. Money ran somewhere, or it froze or it evaporated or it landed in the bank accounts of a few, whatsoever happened but the help didn’t reach the ones that needed the most. Nepalese are known for their bravery, resilience and ability to accept whatever that comes. That’s what they did; they silently kept on with their lives inside their broken homes and torn tents.

Despite the heartbreak, the wreck and the devastation, the hope of promulgation of new constitution acted like an oasis in a desert. The constitution was promulgated for Nepalis, but it was Nepalis themselves who had to pay a big price. A new episode of suffering started with the protests in the Terai regions. The worst was yet to come when the Indian government decided to impose blockade of fuel and supplies. Nepalese people have been suffering since September to this date, which makes it 3 months and counting of insufferable, uncomfortable and suffocating lifestyle.” R.K.

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