Gujarat Earthquake: Rebuilding Homes, Rekindling Hope

After the initial horror was subdued, many relief groups had left the region. But as the survivors were left with nothing much, MAM’s next step was to make sure that the thousands who endured the calamity were provided with a home and other basic amenities for living. Responding to a call by the Govt. of Gujarat for participating in the rehabilitation work, Amma decided to adopt three remote villages Dagara, Modsar and Mokhana, located far away from the highways and completely destroyed by nature’s fury.

One thing the MAM team had observed in the villagers was their resolute optimism. Even after going through such a totally devastating catastrophe, they were not bitter as they firmly believed that god will lift them up to prosperity once again. The project envisaged construction of about 3,000 houses with a floor area of about 500 sq.ft. and building facilities like schools, hospitals, dispensaries, community halls, temples, mosques, roads, water supply and sewage connections and providing electricity at an estimated cost of Rs. 40 crores.

The work of rebuilding homes for earthquake victims in Dagara, Modsar and Mokhana started in Aug. 2001. Internationally renowned architect and town planner Shri. Balakrishna Doshi drew up the plans. Afterwards, a team of Amma’s sanyasi disciples, Brahmacharis and a team of 800 workers took over and toiled round the clock to ensure that people of these villages get their houses without any delay. The international team included Eighty University students from Japan who were working as full time volunteers on site.

But, it was not easy to complete task because the climate had changed from bone-chillingly cold to scorching hot. “Many hired workers had left because of the insufferable heat,” says Sadashiva Chaitanya, one of the Brahmacharis Amma had put in charge of the reconstruction efforts, “and many were scared to come because of the malaria epidemic. Amma’s volunteers from overseas, however, came to help twice.’’, he concludes. At the peak period, 900 workers, many of which were Amma’s devotees, were on site and MAM had four big excavators levelling the land.

The Math worked closely with the village leaders, made sure that their concerns were addressed, namely that the houses were built in line with certain scriptural injunctions—such as that all the main entrances face east or north. The villagers were initially suspicious of outside help, but gradually they had put their trust in Amma’s team. The inhospitable conditions and the lack of infrastructure did not deter the spirit of these people and their presence in large numbers and their dedicated work resulted in cost savings and better quality of construction.