Monday, 30th October 2017

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Kerala street vendor sets an example

In flood, a bag overflows

By K.M. Rakesh in Bangalore
  • Published 13.08.19, 2:45 AM
  • Updated 13.08.19, 2:45 AM
  • 3 mins read
Wooden logs float on the Chaliyar river as remnants of the flash flood, in Malappuram district, Kerala on Monday, August 12, 2019. (PTI)

A Kerala vendor who ekes out a living by selling clothes on a pavement has donated his entire stock for flood relief, opening bag after bag of brand new garments to volunteers he had invited to his small warehouse.

Naushad’s Id-eve gesture has won wide praise at a time some people have been running a vicious online campaign discouraging donations to the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund for victims of the deluge that has left 80 people dead and 61 missing.

The campaign essentially alleges that donations to the fund last year, when floods killed 480 people in Kerala, had been misused for the chief minister’s travel abroad.

Naushad (Picture sourced by correspondent)

On Sunday, the day before Id, empathy seemed to have triumphed over such cynicism when Naushad opened his warehouse on Broadway Street in Kochi, Ernakulam.

“That’s all right. God will give me,” he said when told his warehouse would soon be empty.

The 49-year-old’s gesture may have gone unnoticed had Malayalam film actor Rajesh Sharma not posted the story on Facebook.

“He brought us here (to a small warehouse) and asked us to take whatever needed. He wouldn’t stop giving even when we told him it was enough,” Sharma said in a video on his Facebook page.

The video went viral overnight. On Monday, other film stars like Jayasurya and Ernakulam collector S. Suhas thanked Naushad on the phone for his act of kindness.

While Kerala observed a muted Id because of the floods, social media celebrated Naushad — Id greetings on Facebook featuring sketches of the vendor done by several upcoming artists.

Naushad, who lives with his wife and son, a plus-two student, on Vypeen island in Ernakulam, has been selling affordable garments on Broadway Street for several years.

Footage aired by a Malayalam channel shows Naushad, who also has a married daughter, helping volunteers fill bag after bag of new garments he had stocked for Id.

“I will get my wages from God,” he tells the channel. “Two other groups had come here to pick clothes…. I know all these will reach the deserving people.”

Kerala’s second flood in a year has left a trail of destruction with 80 people dead and 61 missing, mainly in landslides. More than 2.5 lakh people have been moved to 1,639 relief camps, with the northern districts of Malappuram, Wayanad and Kannur the worst hit.

“It is our duty to help now,” Naushad says. “This applies to everyone to help others.”

Asked if he was not losing money, Naushad says: “There is no loss for me. I did not bring anything when I came here (to the world). I won’t take anything when I leave.”

The Telegraph could not reach Naushad. His phone was constantly busy.

Netizens were unstinting in their praise. “It’s by filling the bags with love this man named Naushad gave a slap on the face of those who smilingly said, ‘No one is donating anything this time’,” commented Binni U.M. Binni, a social media user.

The reference was to the anti-donation campaign. In a post on the Kerala BJP’s Facebook page, a Netizen had called for contributions “to SEVA Bharati only”. The Seva Bharathi is a voluntary organisation of the Sangh.

Others thanked actor Sharma for posting the video. “Brother, the world would not have known about this kindness if it weren’t for you,” commented a Netizen named Habib Khan.

Public works minister G. Sudhakaran lauded Naushad’s kindness. “The words and deeds of this humane man is a great message for society. Id greetings to everyone,” the minister said.

Thousands of people celebrated Id in Kerala’s relief camps, singing and sharing meals. As flood waters began receding across the state, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan instructed all district collectors to ensure that everyone in the camps was accommodated till their homes were habitable enough to return.

Where houses have been damaged or washed away, the collectors, Vijayan said, should find alternative temporary accommodation for the victims.

The collectors informed the chief minister that the water in all the dams was down to safe levels.

In neighbouring Karnataka, also affected by floods, the toll rose to 45, with more than 10 people still missing. Belgaum has been the worst hit, with 12 people dead.

Some 3.2 lakh among the 5.8 lakh people evacuated to safety are housed in about 1,200 relief camps across 17 affected districts.

Former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to declare the floods a national disaster.

The JDS leader has sought Rs 5,000 crore as interim relief from the Centre.

Although the rains eased in Karnataka too, all the 10 major rivers were in spate. The discharge from 15 major dams filled to capacity has been flooding low-lying areas.