Between Us


Editorial Consultants
E. J. Kalwachia
Anil G. Verma 
A. C. Patankar
I.P. Singh

A. I. Buvaneshwar (East)
F. K. Khapoliwalla (West)
Dhruv Sharma (North)
Vinod Kumar (South)

Nariman Bacha
S.R. Marolia

Copy Editor
Delshad Kumana

Assistant Editor
Rashna Ardesher

B. K. Karanjia

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Bharatlal Chaudhary
C. Karunaharan

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Founded, edited and published by B.K. Karanjia on behalf of Godrej
& Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd.,
Mumbai-400 079. For private circulation only.

Missing Disaster Centre

n the following pages are stories, sometimes heroic, always compassionate, of how Godrej employees, top manager, doctors and staff of the Godrej Memorial Hospital, and workers in the Canteen, stood up to and survived the worst disaster to hit Mumbai in a long time. Of course the industrial garden township, Pirojshanagar, was flooded, but unlike the rest of the city, it wasn't drowned thanks largely to the fact that Pirojshanagar is a self-contained, self-sufficient township with adequate infrastructure. It provided an object lesson, if not on disaster control, at least on disaster survival.

Which brings to mind a sad irony that might well be described as the master of all ironies. Way back in 1975 Godrej donated to the Indian Red Cross six acres of land, then worth Rs. 30 crores, for the purpose of building a much-needed Disaster Centre. As a foretaste of the future, and as often happens in India, it took the Government 21 years merely to inaugurate the Centre. Former Chairman Sohrab Godrej expressed serious dissatisfaction with Government machinery for delaying vital projects such as this Centre. Even David Delapraj, Regional Director of the International Red Cross, emphasized the urgent need to train volunteers to set up the Centre as soon as possible.

At the formal inauguration of this facility by State Governor P.C. Alexander in October 1996, great promises were made. The Centre would cater to Maharashtra and surrounding areas. It would serve as a depot for supplying food, medicines and blankets, and would provide other facilities like ambulance services, collapsible boats and tents. It promised also to train field-level workers from Maharashtra and other states, providing them accommodation on the campus. But, in his inaugural speech, the Governor sounded a discordant, almost prophetic note: "The Disaster Relief Centre should not become a disaster."

Alas, none of these promises have been kept. When Terrible Tuesday struck the city, the Centre, difficult as it is to believe, hadn't even been installed 30 years after the land was gifted! If only it had been installed and had started functioning, how much suffering could have been avoided, how many lives would have been saved! If only if only the "ifs" of our despair, our desolation!

It is not known what caused this intolerable delay on the part of the Indian branch of one of the world's greatest humanitarian associations. However, we have heard it said that Terrible Tuesday has served as an alarm to the Indian Red Cross. Hopefully, better late than never, the Indian Red Cross will fulfil the promises made when the land was donated and achieve the laudable objectives for which it was gifted.

B.K. Karanjia