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Humanitarian response, Health
Advocacy, Disease, Volunteer
Sadashiv Bapa Ambi
13 August 20
Name: Sadashiv Bapa Ambi
Age- 51 years
Village- Ganeshwadi, Block -Shiroul, District-Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India
Humanitarian work- Over 30 years
I think God has given me an opportunity and I feel blessed to save lives of people and animals in difficult conditions and bring them out safe. I have been doing this in all major floods in the region i.e. 1991,1994, 2005,2006, 2007, 2019. In 2019 I felt very happy as I could save 2604 people across the villages of Ganeshwadi, Kauteguland,Shershah and Kanwad , along with this 135 animals were rescued.
I have been involved in boating work traditionally and thus came naturally to assist people. The real meaning of life is to help people around you. The administration will come in at a later stage to rescue but by then people stuck in floods need to be immediately rescued. When I see people in trouble and helping them out, I feel I have witnessed God himself and the smile on their faces satisfies me the most.
In 2019 the floods witnessed was worse than the last 2005 floods, water was 8-10 feet higher
Everyone wanted to be rescued first, this happens due to fear and the other reason is that everyone wants to carry as much belongings with them reducing the space in the boat. In this time, it becomes crucial to let people know that each one of them will be rescued, no one will be left behind. Post that people were asked that at one time only 30 people should be seated in the boat and safely everyone will be rescued.
The moto- boat used by authorities usually gets stuck as their propellers can’t navigate through the sugarcane field, this is where our non-motorized boat is used to save lives of many people residing in the riverbank 4 to 5 kms away.
I received a call from the village headman to save people in Kauteguland village as 216 people were taking refuge on their roof tops. As I had just finished the rescue work in my village, I rowed 8 kms to reach Kauteguland. At the outset, I told them that at one time only 30 people will get into the boat, the rescue will remain on until each of you are moved to safer place and I assure no will be left behind. Even if it gets dark, we will use torches, battery powered lights but complete the entire rescue work. Initially, I took 30 people but needed to understand the location, while doing so, the boat got on the road which had swelled up with water and was invisible, the boat struck the electric pole and the wire snapped. I shouted out that someone hold it quick as transmission lines were done, and luckily an Ex-army man held it quickly and it went over people’s head else people seated on the boat would be struck right on their face with the electric wire. Then I decided that next time we will take a slightly different route, we found the same at 600 metres away from the initial one but while crossing there was a Karanji tree (Pongam oiltree) and a saw a Cobra perched there. I immediately told the few people who had witnessed the cobra to keep quiet and be with me till the rescue ends and no one else should be told about it. Else, people would all turn towards the snake, which could lead to the boat capsizing and the cobra could have attacked thinking it would be harmed.
One more time we were crossing between the houses but the water current was so strong that it pushed the boat and it was going to hit the wall of a house but an alert villager jumped and stopped the boat from hitting the wall, his timely intervention saved us but he injured his leg in the process. It was midnight by the time I finished rescuing all 216 people.
There is a need to form a village disaster management fund and every community member should give at least INR 10 per person to buy emergency items to assist in rescue and the government should support in building this fund at the community level to ensure safety items to be procured.
Prior to monsoons one needs to be better prepared at the community level aware of the location and in case of floods what is likely to be the water flow, in this line ensure the route is cleared off all necessary obstructions.
Once rescue is initiated it should continue till all people are rescued and no one should be left behind. In case of lapse someone’s life could be at risk.
Children/ adults should be trained in swimming only once they understand and feel the need for it and should not be pushed to learn while they are still in fear of entering the water.
People should be conscious and react to alerts and warnings of moving away from the river banks and take shelter in higher spaces provided by the government authorities and not take it casually as this is what increases the pressure to rescue more people and thereby increasing the risk.
It has built my innate ability to sense danger in any situation, any call for help makes me very alert and rescuing people has become a habit.
While undertaking rescue action the entire focus is on saving people and my family totally understand this. I often get to see them only after a couple of days and literally have to eat and sleep on the boat.