Meet the men behind #ChennaiMicro- RJ Balaji talks about spearheading relief work with Siddharth

"#ChennaiMicro is not a movement we will give up now. We are in it for the long-term. We will work now to ensure that people are rehabilitated – that’s our responsibility and commitment,” said RJ Balaji.

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He is hoarse from speaking non-stop but pressing on relentlessly 24X7. RJ Balaji may be known for his non-stop chatter on radio but this time it was for the cause of the people of Chennai. On December 1, actor Siddharth’s house was flooded with rainwater like so many thousands of homes in the city. He along with Balaji got into action realising that the incessant rain in Chennai was a serious issue. But they couldn’t imagine how huge an issue it would become in the next few days with the city becoming flooded, homes inundated and people stranded.

Balaji and Siddharth decided to get together and start collecting relief material for distribution. They created #ChennaiMicro on Twitter and the rest was history. “When Siddharth and I got together initially, we really didn’t expect this kind of a response. There are ten to fifteen thousand people coming everyday now to the Big FM office wanting to volunteer. And it’s not just the youngsters who use Facebook or Twitter. There are 70-year-old grandfathers and retired people also coming to volunteer. This is truly a people’s movement,” says RJ Balaji extremely emotional and humbled by what he has seen.

The first day Balaji and Siddharth got together with some volunteers who connected with them online and fed about 5000 people on the first day. Then more people sent in supplies and more volunteers turned up. #ChennaiMicro gathered momentum and by December 7, they had been working non-stop for six days and had moved from Chennai to Cuddalore. Siddharth is currently in Cuddalore (area most affected area after Chennai) coordinating relief efforts and ensuring relief supplies moving in from Chennai and other parts reach the needy there.

“Each and every one has to take up relief work and help out each other in every single locality. It is impossible for me and Siddharth to just work with 100 people or a few NGOs – every single person has to pitch in locally,” explains Balaji. Initially, they worked on ensuring that people got food and now they are slowly moving to other items like clothes and home needs. The amazing thing about this movement he adds is that they haven’t explicitly asked for things but all those who are coming to them are ensuring that all needs are taken care of. “If 100 people give us food, then there are 10 others ready to give us transport. It’s all falling into place on its own,” he adds.

Ask him what they are planning to do over the coming week and Balaji says that they are coordinating with various groups to conduct medical camps across various areas. Balaji says now he and Siddharth have an emotional connect to #ChennaiMicro after the overwhelming response they have seen over the last few days.

“Siddharth and I don’t plan to go back to our respective professions next week. #ChennaiMicro is not a movement we will give up now. We are in it for the long-term. We will work now to ensure that people are rehabilitated – that’s our responsibility and commitment,” states Balaji.

“If a milkman has lost ten cows in the rains, it means he has lost his livelihood. We need to ensure people get back their livelihood.”

Balaji says that the policemen and corporation employees have been very helpful to them. "When we couldn't get through to some areas it was they who helped us. We could see them working tirelessly," he says.

Balaji is currently in Chennai working on relief efforts and trying to work with groups to see how best #ChennaiMicro can plan its future course of action. Siddharth is on the ground in Cuddalore working in ensuring supplies reach people before he heads back. #ChennaiMicro started by these two men has now become a people’s movement that will transform the lives of many of those affected in Cuddalore and Chennai.

Watch the video here:


#ChennaiMicro - Lets take it forward !!! #PeopleMovement

Posted by RJ Balaji on Sunday, December 6, 2015
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