Priya Dutt takes 5,000 kitchen sets to flood-ravaged Bihar

September 14th, 2008 - 2:03 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 14 (IANS) Congress MP Priya Dutt, who is camping in flood-hit Bihar’s Purnea district to distribute 5,000 sets of kitchen utensils, says that her going to the state has “nothing to do with politics” and that it’s the duty of every citizen to help those affected by a natural calamity.Dutt, who is sister of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, is distributing the kitchen utensils through a trust in the memory of her mother Nargis Dutt.

“I have visited 10 camps and have met over 25,000 people. I am here to distribute 5,000 kitchen sets - plates, spoons, tumblers, buckets and other things. I am giving them to 5,000 families so that when they move out of the camps to their villages they can at least have something,” Dutt told IANS on phone from Purnea.

At least 50 have died, while over 2.8 million people and nearly one million cattle have been affected by the floods caused by a change in the course of the Kosi river following a breach in an embankment upstream in Nepal. About 100,000 hectares of farmland have been submerged and nearly 300,000 houses damaged.

Dutt, who reached Purnea Tuesday for a five-day visit with her husband Owen Roncon and is camping in the Araria area, said it was not politics that drove her to reach out to people devastated by the floods in Bihar.

She said it was all because of her trust - Nargis Dutt Memorial Charitable Trust - named after her actress mother Nargis Dutt.

“My coming to Bihar has nothing to do with politics. How would I benefit politically by coming out to support people of Bihar? It’s the duty of every citizen in the country to help those affected by natural calamity,” said the MP from Mumbai North-West.

“I would do it even if I am not in politics. It is in my blood,” said the 42-year-old MP.

“Through my trust I have got access to help people. My friends and relatives who heard that I am coming here also helped me to get the brand new supplies,” said Dutt.

She added that she is used to living in harsh conditions as she used to accompany her father - the late Sunil Dutt, actor and politician - on nation-wide marches.

Narrating her experience, she said she was moved to see that many children don’t have any change of clothes.

“Most people fled to save their lives. They ran with only what they were wearing. I saw many children with no clothes and undergarments. I am planning to organise 3,000 to 4,000 pairs of vests and underclothes for the children.”

Joining hand with a local NGO Anhad, Dutt said she is worried about the long-term rehabilitation of the people.

“The government has a lot to do. There is no database on how many people were affected, what they lost and how many villages have been submerged. There is a need to work on rehabilitation packages right now,” she added.

Also, what weighs on her mind is the fear of a disease outbreak.

“Medical support is not so good and people are just being given cough and cold medicines. There is a need to plan for the next stage. The general hospitals are also not equipped,” she said.

Recounting an experience, she said she came across an old man who found it difficult to arrange blood for her daughter, whose liver had swollen. This was because he was unable to prove that he was one of those displaced due to the floods.

“If we had not helped him, the poor man would not have been able to save his daughter, who had three small children,” Dutt said.

Another thing that really stirred her was the sight of many harried looking young mothers and their newborn children, who looked pale. “Children are badly affected and there is no data about how many children are orphans,” she added.

“I am planning to come again. This time, I would see that there are enough medical supplies. I will also ensure that there are separate enclosures for pregnant women so that at least they could deliver their children with the help of medical support. Right now, there are just basic medical facilities,” Dutt added.

She has tied up with the Rotary Club, which has started doing research on what medical supplies would be needed when the water starts receding.

“I plan to arrange medicines. People have managed to save their cattle and in these camps the animals have been housed separately. There is a chance they could also get ill. So I would arrange medicines and fodder for the cattle as well,” she added.

(Kavita Bajeli-Datt can be contacted at kavita.d@ians.in)

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