When Mahatma Gandhi raised `6K for Kerala flood relief

Vastavam web: Nearly a century ago when floods ravaged Kerala, Mahatma Gandhi had termed the misery of the people as “unimaginable” and stepped in to mobilise over Rs 6,000 to help them, records show. Mahatma Gandhi, through a series of articles in his publications ‘Young India’ and ‘Navajivan’, had urged people of the country to generously contribute for the relief of the flood-hit’ Malabar’ (Kerala). Following his appeal, people from various walks of life including women and children had donated even their gold jewels and meagre savings to help the flood-affected people.

Many had skipped a meal daily or given up milk to find money to contribute to relief fund mobilised by Gandhi, according to the journals penned by him. The “Father of the Nation” had mentioned in one of his articles in ‘Navajivan’ about a girl who had stolen three paise to contribute to the relief fund. “Malabar’s misery is unimaginable,” Mahatma had said in the article titled “Relief Work in Malabar.”

He said he had to “confess” that the response to his appeal had been “more prompt” than he expected. “It has been proved not once but many times that, by God’s grace, compassion does exist in the hearts of the people.” Many funds had been launched for collecting relief amounts and people could contribute whichever one they choose. “I would only urge that pay, they must,” Mahatma Gandhi had said.

“Roads had turned into rivers… overflowing water bodies… paddy fields inundated…people even sought refuge on hill tops in many parts,” he said. Gandhi, who came to know about the deluge from the state’s Congress leaders, had sent them a telegram on July 30, 1924 asking them to assist the relief measures of the government and also work in their own way to help the affected people.

In another telegram, the Mahatma said he was collecting money and clothes and his only thought was about people who had no food, clothes and shelter. In an article in ‘Navajivan’ dated August 17, 1924, he said, “A sister has donated her four bracelets and a chain of pure gold. Another sister has given her heavy necklace. A child has parted with his gold trinket and a sister with her silver anklets”.  “One person has given two toe-rings. An Antyaja girl has offered voluntarily the ornaments worn on her feet. A young man has handed over his gold cufflinks. Rs 6994-13 anna-3 paise have been collected in cash up to date,” Gandhiji said.

In the wake of the present floods, the state-based multi-lingual history website – dutchinkerala.com has carried Mahatma Gandhi’s 1924 appeal to contribute to Kerala’s relief fund to persuade people across the world to donate to the Chief Minister’s distress relief fund.