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Archive for the ‘news’ Category

Some background information on Urban Poverty

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

We thought some of our readers and members would like to know more about urban poverty issues in India.

Here’s a wonderful newsletter which lays out many of the relevant subjects in a thorough and in-depth way. Please take a look and if you have any thoughts, we’d love to hear them!

Some topics that are covered in this month’s newsletter include:

Sustainable, Equitable Transportation Policy and the Rickshaw

Chronic Poverty in India with respect to the Millennium Development Goal”

In addition, you can check out the Urban Poverty blog at

More at Searchlight South Asia

As a side note, blogging is open to any Sangam member who is interested. Just contact us!

Sangam is coming back!

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

To all of our members, readers, and supporters -

It has been a long year. A little over a year, in fact. Sangam has been under the radar – off the map, even – for a while now, and we, like you, have been wondering what was going to happen next.

Sangam India is a group that rose from the roots up – from a group of friends with a dream to an organization achieving real goals. We connected with other organizations, we made new friends, we succeeded at some things and we failed at others. But most importantly, we learned. And we still believe in our cause.

After our break, we are restarting Sangam from the ground up. We will be completely retooling and restructuring our structure and our methods to provide a better basis for our future projects. As usual, for such an overhaul of an existing program, we will need manpower, ideas, creativity and most importantly, passion.

Please stay tuned for regular updates, and as always, let us know if you can help.

News Articles: Slum Fires in Chennai

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

The People’s Union for Human Rights, an activism group, has recently come out against the government with charges that the recent spate of Chennai slum fires may have been an intential doing.  In the last few months, over 400 houses have been destroyed and five lives have been claimed.

The Express reports:

CHENNAI: A fact-finding team that was formed to investigate accidental slum fires in Chennai this year says these slum fires, which claimed five lives and destroyed over 400 huts, could be politically motivated.

“…What is surprising is that in all these slums where the fire accidents happened, the slum dwellers ere being forced by the government to vacate the place. This eviction proposal was for various developmental projects, including the MRTS project, Vyasarpadi flyover, widening of Vyasarpadi-Basin Bridge Road, Malar Hospital-Nandambakkam Road, War Memorial-Maduravoyal road,” said Madhumitha Dutta, activist, who was part of the 12-member team. While the causes for the fires are still under debate, the rehabilitation activities by the government are nothing short of deplorable, she added.

You can read the rest of the article here.

The Times of India carried the story in a similar article:

Addressing mediapersons here, Prof A Marx of the People’s Union for Human Rights alleged that many slums in the city were catching fire for inexplicable reasons. “Hundreds of houses have been destroyed in such fire accidents in the past, while property worth lakhs of rupees have been laid waste. Majority of the accident victims are daily wage labourers belonging to Dalit and backward castes,” he said.

After distributing relief material and providing an immediate financial assistance of Rs 2,000 per family, the state government left victims to fend for themselves, was the activists’ contention. In some cases, victims were offered relocations sites, such as Kannagi Nagar in Thorapakkam, and Nallur and Kanndapalayam near Perungulathur, but without providing basic amenities such as drinking water, electricity, schools, health posts and sanitation.

It is worth noting that the slum from MGR Nagar mentioned was the slum where we had been working for over a year before it was destroyed by a fire on June 15th, 2009.

We hope this issue of slum fires comes to people’s attention and the reasons and that the causes for these frequent occurences come to light.  In our new project in MGR Nagar, many houses have been destroyed in fires and there is an immense fear of more fires in the future.

Times: "Many rendered homeless as fire destroys 100 huts"

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

The following was in the Times of India today (June 16, 2009,) on page 3.

Many rendered homeless as fire destroys 100 huts
Times News Network

Chennai: More than 100 huts in Nandambakkam were gutted after a fire broke out in one of them during the early hours on Monday. Residents tried to put out the blaze with water and sand, but the flames soon spread to other huts, eventually gutting 106 of them. There was no casualty, however, thanks to a timely alert.

According to the police, around 1.40am on Monday, the roof of one of the huts in MGR Nagar in Nandambakkam, below the bridge near the Chennai Trade Centre, caught fire. An autorickshaw driver passing by noticed it and alerted residents, who informed the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services (TNFRS) department around 1.55 am.

The first fire engine reached the spot around 2.45am. By then many huts were destroyed. Five water lorries, five Metrowater lorries and two water tankers were pressed into service. By about 4am, the fire was extinguished.

“The first house to catch fire was locked. A short circuit was the cause. Most of the families here are from Vathalagundu, near Madurai,” said a police officer.

Kancheepuram collector Santosh K Misra and labour minister T M Anbarasan visited the spot at 11am. They distributed relief material, which included five kilograms of rice, clothes and Rs 5,000 in cash.

The residents whose houses were gutted will be shifted to Perungalathur, a place near Tambaram.

“We have been living here for the past 25 years and never before has a fire occurred. We are mostly labourers and now we have lost whatever little property we had saved,” said Muthulakshmi, a resident.

“If they shift us to Perungalathur, our children will find it hard to come to school,” said Ezhumalai, another resident.

Note: According to our information from both the residents and the government, each household was given Rs 2000 in cash.

We need your help! Please see the post below.

The Hindu: 100 huts gutted in Nandambakkam

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Below is an excerpt from an article appearing in The Hindu today. Read the full text of the article on the Hindu website.

100 huts gutted in Nandambakkam

TAMBARAM: More than 100 huts were destroyed in a fire along the banks of the Adyar in Nandambakkam early on Monday. Though no one was injured, damage to property was extensive.

Officials at the Chennai Suburban Commissionerate said the fire broke out at one of the huts in Vatlagundu at 2.15 a.m. It spread rapidly and destroyed 108 huts. Residents managed to pull themselves and their children to safety, but were able to retrieve only a few of their possessions. Fire tenders put out the fire, but by then most of the damage was done. A large number of people from Vatlagundu in Dindigul district had settled down in the area, erecting thatched huts over the past several years and hence the name for the locality. Police said many families had gone to their native place and many of the huts were empty… (read more)

Tamil Murasu: "108 Homes by Adyar Riverbank Burnt to Ashes"

Monday, June 15th, 2009

This article appeared in today’s (June 15, 2009) edition Tamil Murasu, a local-language paper. Below is a translation:

108 Homes by Adyar Riverbank Burnt to Ashes
108 homes by the Adyar riverside were burnt to ashes. Several lakhs worth of property was also destroyed. These 108 homes were in Vathlakundu area of Adyar riverside and were under Nandampakkam Municipality. People in this neighborhood engaged in activities like making coir ropes, good-luck charm ropes to ward off bad omens and so on. Early morning, around 1:30 A.M., when people were sound asleep, heavy smoke started coming from a locked house. Due to strong winds at the time, fire started to spread very quickly into other huts. People got up and ran out of their homes in panic and commotion.

Upon learning the news, fire fighters from Guindy, Thenampettai, Raj Bhavan, Tambaram came rushing to the scene. But these homes burnt to ashes even before they could reach the area. Wooden cots, bureaus, jewelry, cash, school books, notes, etc, were burnt to ashes. Police in Nandambakkam have registered a case and are investigating it.

Upon learning the news, Minister T.M. Anbarasan, District Collector Santosh, RTO Nambirajan, TRO Padmajadevi, Nandambakkam Municipality head Sekhar and others also came to the scene. They consoled people affected by the fire and gave each family 2,000 Rupees, saris, clothes, 5 kilograms of rice, and kerosene (for cooking).

Minister T.M. Anbarasan promised to provide each family a place in Perumkalathur with title and make arrangements for students to study in the same area. Collector Santosh K. Misra said that he would make arrangements for temporary ration cards.

Thanks to Ramachandran Ramgopal for the translation. Stay tuned for further updates.

The WIP: "Students in India Take Social Change into Their Own Hands"

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

The WIP is The Women’s International Perspective. It is a news site and blog written by women authors about world and social issues.

“Our mission is to provide quality news from the unique perspectives of women that is accessible worldwide and free to our readers.” They write, “The WIP honors underrepresented voices. We honor women, we honor the indigenous, we honor the poor, we honor the personal and the invisible, we honor stories that don’t get press and we honor the freedom that is the gift that comes with the open exchange of ideas, analysis, and opinion.”

Several weeks ago, Nivedita and I were interviewed by a contributor for this organization, Fehmida Zakeer, who wrote an article about us that was published today.

The article highlights three student-run organizations: Umang Foundation from Mumbai, Diya from Chennai, and Sangam India. It discusses why young people work together for social welfare and how they are interested in making positive changes.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

In another part of Chennai, a group of medical students was distributing food to underprivileged children near their college when a man walked up to them with a request, “Can you help me send my daughters to school?” In a section of society where education for girls does not even warrant a cursory thought, here was a father who wanted to send not just one, but two daughters, to high school. The medical students soon founded Sangam India to help improve the quality of life for those in underprivileged communities. Their plan was to adopt one disadvantaged community at a time and guide it towards self-sufficiency by supporting education for children, providing vocational training to adults and establishing public health measures.

“We pass by slums and impoverished people on a daily basis but how often, if at all, do we stop and actually consider what their lives might actually be like? Where do they go when it rains and floods? What happens to them when they fall sick? Do their children go to school? What are their hopes and dreams? The answers will come only if we actually stop and meet the people staying there, and take the time to know the cadences of their lives on a personal [level],” say Nivedita Gunturi and Sriram Ramgopal, medical students and founders of Sangam India.

The article can be read for free at The WIP website. Click here to view the entire article.

Thanks to Ms. Zakeer for writing up such a great article, and of course thanks to The WIP for spreading the word!

Letter from Pa. Vijay

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Pa. Vijay is a famous lyricist and poet in Tamil Nadu. He has composed numerous film songs for movies – most notably, two songs in the recent hit, Sivaji. He is also the winner of the National Film Award for Best Lyrics in India for his work in the movie Autograph.

Pa. Vijay read our article in Kumudam Magazine (September 17th, 2008) and was inspired to write a letter to our university, congratulating us on our work.

Below is the Tamil letter that he wrote as well as an English translation, provided by Ramachandran Ramgopal.

Poet Pa. Vijay
Chennai – 89
16th September, 2008

Respected principal,


I saw last week’s Kumudam.

I read the article about Sangam India, your students’ service organization in Kumudam.

It touched my heart when I find that your students are performing social service by starting Sangam India with feelings to serve humanity during their learning years.

The mission of their organization is similar to ours and it makes me very happy.

My admiration and greetings to you, principal of this college and fellow professors for rendering cooperation and to the hearts of over three thousand students who are participating in this organization.

Dear students, though you are in the midst of those who have studied medicine but use it as trade, and you are still studying medicine, let your efforts to serve humanity succeed.

Thank you!

Best Wishes,
Pa. Vijay

We would like to thank Pa. Vijay for taking the time to write to our college. It was very exciting to receive such hearty congratulations from somebody so accomplished!


Extra! Extra! Sangam India is in the Times!

Monday, July 21st, 2008

We are excited to announce that we are in today’s (July 21st, 2008) edition of the Times of India. The article covers the medical camp that we held yesterday. We’re on page 4 of the Chennai edition of the newspaper. Click on the link above and you can navigate to the epaper edition of this day’s paper. Below is the article that was included:


Sangam India holds health camp for kids


Chennai: As part of its efforts to provide better healthcare to children living in slums, Sangam India, a group formed by socially-conscious medical students residing in Porur, organised a free health camp for children of Ramavaram on Sunday.
Nearly 50 medical staff including seven doctors of Sangam India screened children of slum dwellers as part of their first community service programme since the formation of the group in March this year. Nearly 110 children less than seven years of age benefitted from the camp. “Most of us (doctors) study in Sri Ramachandra University and we thought of selecting a locality that is nearer to our institution. So, we started our first camp in Ramavaram,” Dr Koushik of the group told TOI.
Apart from a general checkup, the children were screened by practitioners of specialists in orthopaedics, cardiology, dental health and dermatology. Most of the cases were for dental attention, while many cases of malnutritions were detected. All those needing further medical attention would be provided free treatment by Sangam India. “There were many cases of skin disease and dental infection. At the camp, medicines worth Rs 12,000 was provided free of cost and we are planning to conduct similar free health camps in other areas as well,” said Dr Karthik, another representative of Sangam India.

Thanks a lot to Koushik for helping us get into this paper!