Letter: The grass-roots way of helping India

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The Independent Online
Sir: At 4am on Thursday, I was woken in Bombay by the earthquake that killed so many as they slept. I was in India as the culmination of a year spent looking into the worldwide work of the YMCA. It was India that expressed most sharply the reality of people meeting the daily challenges of escaping from real poverty. The suddenness and scale of the earthquake's destruction, at the very point of the celebration of Ganesh, had at first an almost paralysing effect.

Indians, like the British, are a proud people. Interference from international bodies which cannot easily understand India's complex society are resented in the same way we resent interference from external organisations such as the EC. Understanding is a prerequisite to overcoming any problem, and the best understanding comes from local people.

Indian human resources can deal with the disaster in Maharashtra, yet the enormous financial burden caused by the earthquake cannot be sustained by a developing economy. Quite rightly, the Indian government is wary of well-meaning but insensitive offers of aid.

The most effective assistance we can provide is to remove the financial shackles that are hampering local people. Indian YMCA blood banks and skilled relief teams are typical of effective services that need continued funding to meet the scale of demand.

Yours faithfully,

CLYDE BINFIELD

Y Care International

London, E17

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