A group of Sikhs from Berkshire and the West Midlands have won hearts by volunteering to deliver essential supplies and help relief efforts in Somerset and south-west England, which have been hit by floods described as ‘biblical’ by Prime Minister David Cameron.
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Britain has been grappling with severe weather conditions since early January, ripping rail and road communication as well as cutting power to thousands of homes. Many people have been moved out of their homes to safer places.
Moved by scenes of devastation and vast fields turning into lakes, and trains stopping amid a sea of water, Sikh volunteers from Khalsa Aid, based in Slough (Berkshire), and the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Sahib in Walsall (West Midlands) have joined the multi-agency relief efforts in south-west England.
Khalsa Aid, which was launched in 1999 by volunteers and extends aid from funds collected largely from Britain’s Sikh community, has joined relief efforts in disasters and emergencies in various parts of the world, including Gujarat, Odisha and Punjab.
Ravinder Singh Sidhu, director of Khalsa Aid, who is part of the volunteering team in Burrowbridge, Somerset, said: “As British Sikhs, we are not slow in responding with financial and other aid. We want to help reach out and offer much practical assistance to the victims. We will deliver bottled water, food, warm clothing – whatever is required to help and support the services and residents.”
He added: “Most of us have no concept of what it is like to have homes or businesses flooded out; everything covered in mud, or worse, and losing prized possessions and then have to clean up the mess and re-furnish”.
One of the most graphic images of the flood damage is the dangling railway track in Dawlish, on the picturesque link between Devon and Cornwall along the coast. It was built in the mid-19th century by the iconic engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who was also a consultant to the Eastern Bengal Railway Company.
Meanwhile, MPs across party lines have called for Britain’s overseas aid to India and other countries to be reduced and diverted for the flood affected people in south-west England. India’s growing economic prosperity and its ability to have a Mars mission has been particularly mentioned in this regard. As Cameron described the scene during a visit to Somerset as ‘biblical’, his party MP, Ian Lidell-Grainger, said: “We send money all over the world. Now, we need to give people down here the hope that they will get what they need.”
Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, said: “Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that a government’s primary duty is to the well-being of its own citizens. Charity begins at home; it is not mean-spirited to say that, it is just basic common sense.” International Development secretary Justine Greening announced in 2012 that all British aid to india will end in 2015. Britain is committed to spend 0.7 per cent of its national income on overseas aid.
Daily Bale 2014