Arif Mohammed Khan (C) hands over a house key to a flood victim as Dr Azad Moopen (2nd L) and other officials look on in Trivandrum on Saturday.
UAE-based Healthcare Group, Aster, has delivered 255 houses for families in Kerala displaced by the devastating floods in 2018 — five more than the number it had originally promised.
At a function held in the state capital in the presence of the ruling and opposition leaders, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan handed over the keys to their new homes to some of the select families.
The southern state witnessed the deluge of the century in which hundreds of people lost their lives and several homes were swept away.
Aster was the first and one of the major corporate houses that came forward to rehabilitate them.
“Natural calamities can devastate and uproot people, and that’s what happened during the floods that ravaged Kerala in 2018,” Dr Azad Moopen, founder chairman and managing director of Aster DM Healthcare said in his introductory remarks.
“Many people died and thousands lost everything including their houses on that fateful day when nature struck with a vengeance. Helping people in need is a value that is embedded in the DNA of Aster ever since we started the journey in 1987.”
These 255 homes, designed by prominent architect G Shankar, are spread across the state. Aster Volunteers built them with support from philanthropists, partners and its employees reiterating its commitment made immediately after the floods pounded it.
“This was a mammoth task which was accomplished through perseverance and hard work of the Aster Volunteers, with support from like-minded organisations and people,” he said.
“Our volunteers were on the ground for weeks providing medical assistance to help people in need. Later, to rehabilitate the people who lost everything including their homes, we made a promise to the chief minister on Sept.30, 2018, here.”
“We feel accomplished that today, that promise has been fulfilled with the dedication of the last batch of the 255 houses to the beneficiaries by the honourable governor. We are happy that together we could walk the talk and deliver the promise.”
At a grand ceremony held in the Kerala capital, the governor handed over the keys to the beneficiaries in the presence of the leader of the opposition VD Satheesan and Industries Minister P Rajeeve.
The ceremony also witnessed the launch of a new website for Aster Homes, www.asterhomes.org geotagged with the details of the 255 beneficiaries, the individuals, NGOs and associations who supported the mission.
The homes were built for people who have lost their houses and own a piece of land following individual sustainable housing designs. Besides, cluster homes were built for a group of people on the land provided free of cost by philanthropists.
The group also undertook to retrofit partially damaged homes. It immediately committed Rs150 million as Aster Homes Fund to be used to build new houses and repair damaged homes of flood-affected victims in the state.
A press release from the group said some 60 Aster employees also joined hands in this initiative chipping in Rs22.5 million to build 45 homes.
During the floods and landslides that killed some 360 people and displaced more than 50,000 families, 200 medical and non-medical volunteers from Aster DM Healthcare’s network of hospitals in India were on the ground, it said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has expressed his gratitude to the rulers of the UAE for their support and solidarity during last year’s devastating floods.
'Schools and colleges will remain closed till August 10 due to forecast of heavy rains over the next 2-3 days across the state, flooding in many villages and towns in coastal, central and northwest districts of the state'
Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muralidharan stated that there exists no ban on accepting foreign contributions towards Kerala flood relief. “Nobody has said not to accept foreign funds for flood relief”,
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