South Africans start relief fund for Bihar flood victims

September 4th, 2008 - 11:43 am ICT by IANS  

Durban, Sep 4 (IANS) Leading South African Indian businessman Ranjith Ramnarain and a dozen community leaders here have started a relief fund for the victims of the Bihar floods. Visiting film stars from India, including noted actor in Bhojpuri films Ravi Kishen, have lent their support to the fund.”Many South African Indians, myself included, have family in Bihar, from where many of our forefathers came. So, although there has been no appeal for funds or assistance, we have started a committee to show our concern and solidarity with the many who have lost everything in the devastating floods,” Ramnarain told IANS.

“I have family in Patna and other places in Bihar who are wheat and rice farmers, and like many other South Africans, we were also very concerned about the fate of our families there in the wake of the floods.

“We were very fortunate that someone from there eventually made contact with us to advise that our family members were safe, but they have lost all their possessions, like so many others there too,” he added.

As concern grew in Bihar about water, sanitation and food for the estimated 2.5 million people affected by the floods, Ramnarain said he had made contact with government officials there to decide how money raised here should be used.

“I am expecting a response by Thursday, so that we can decide a course of action to ensure that the funds go to those people who are in dire need of it and do not fall into the wrong hands,” he said.

In just three days, 137,000 rands ($17,500) have already been raised and pledges of further donations were still coming in.

Ravi Kishen, who has been in Durban for most of the past month shooting for the film “Lucky” along with Sanjay Dutt, Imran Khan and Shruti Kamal Haasan, gave the fundraising venture his blessing and support before heading for Namibia Wednesday to continue shooting for the film there.

“On Ganesha Pooja day here (Wednesday), everyone at all temples have been praying for the safety and well-being of the Bihar people in their plight,” Ramnarain said, adding that a special meeting had been scheduled for Thursday evening at the Durban Hindu Temple here to secure pledges from concerned community organisations.

Ramnarain, the chairman and a trustee of the Durban Hindu Temple, is a renowned philanthropist who walked long distances to school barefoot because of poverty before becoming a self-made millionaire from a transport business, from which he has ploughed back profits over many years into a wide range of community and religious activities.

The floods in Bihar started after the monsoon-swollen Kosi river from Nepal breached flood defences and changed its course.

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