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How Kerala’s ‘Collector Bro’ Harnessed the Power of Social Media to Save Lives!

In the light of recent events that have devastated Kerala and its people, the tech-savvy IAS officer decided to harness the scope of social media once again.

How powerful can social media be when it comes to creating life-changing or even life-saving impact?

Eight years ago, a revolutionary wave swept through the Middle East, filling the world with the ground reality of totalitarian regimes and the suffering of ordinary people across various countries in the region, through Facebook and Twitter-led agitations and uprisings.

Today, this historic episode is better known as the Arab Spring, and it completely redefined how a revolution in a modern-day setting can be mobilised and taken forward solely depending on the power and reach of social media.

Closer home, there is a fantastic example of a unique civil servant from Kerala who has utilised social media as a tool for a citizen-friendly and transparent administration, on several occasions.

Collector Bro, Prasanth Nair IAS (centre).

With initiatives like Compassionate Kozhikode, Operation Sulaimani, Savari Giri Giri, Kozhipedia, Freedom Café, Yo Appooppa and Tere Mere Beach Mein, IAS officer Prasanth Nair, who was the District Collector of Kozhikode at that time, ushered in a new era of governance that endeavoured to bridge the gap between the district administration and citizens through the optimal employment of social media.


GiveIndia and The Better India have come together to help Rebuild Kerala by supporting 41,000 affected families. You too can be a part of this movement and help us raise funds for the NGOs working to rehabilitate these families. If all of us come together with a small monthly contribution, we can make a real and meaningful difference in helping restore normalcy to those who need our help the most.

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As a result of all the work that he did, he ended up earning the sobriquet of ‘Collector Bro.’

In the light of recent events that have devastated Kerala and its people, the tech-savvy IAS officer decided to harness the scope of social media once again—this time, for tracking, rescuing and rehabilitating people stranded by the overwhelmingly destructive floods.

Source: Facebook.

Currently serving as the Deputy Secretary in the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Nair got to work about a week ago. He was quick to pitch the idea of grouping together volunteers who could lend tech support to aid rescue and relief operations in the state, across all social media platforms.

Minutes after his post surfaced on Facebook, a group called ‘Flood Technology Support Kerala 2018’ was formed by a few techies with the intention of amassing information about those stranded and in need of rescue. Shortly enough, the group was flooded with posts and messages carrying information on victims and missing people.

Alongside, Nair’s personal intervention paved the way for a web portal named ‘Compassionate Keralam’ to go live. The portal aimed to aid and assist people in need of support with the best possible measures.

Tech volunteers behind Compassionate Keralam.

“Compassionate Keralam is a platform to link compassionate souls with people in need of support. We are starting with people affected by the flood and in need of things and exploring people willing to provide whatever they can. This initiative is an attempt to respond sensibly and help responsibly. We share the details of who needs what and let you know how you can be a part. We match individuals, NGOs, trusts and government officials to ensure their efforts reaching the right people, right place, at the right time,” the website says.

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Nair spoke to The Better India in the midst of coordinating a rescue drive on Monday. “We have an army of about 6000 dedicated individuals working through different time zones on the virtual end from all over the world, which has not been very easy to run. My technology head was Lebi, who is an engineer by training and works as the director in business intelligence domain for Internet Of Things (IoT) in the United States. There had also been field mobilisations conducted sporadically. For the outside world, it is just numerous Facebook and WhatsApp groups that appear to be functioning on its accord, but the truth is, most of these groups have been working hand in hand, sometimes even unknown to their own knowledge,” he adds.

Nair also shared that these tech warriors put together a forum with communication channels, spreadsheets and Google docs to feed information as well as SOS entries and emergency helpline numbers for people to access rescue and relief support.

Courtesy: Prasanth Nair.
Courtesy: Prasanth Nair.

“By setting up the call centres with over 100 live lines, the initial hiccup of managing the barrage of calls flooding the control rooms was removed. These call centres were operated for us collaboratively by Bhoomika Trust (who had also handled the Chennai Floods), Amrita University, OrisysIndia, IPM Kozhikode and Manorama. Regarding the fieldwork, the Kerala Flood 2018 page on Facebook has over 12,000 people who volunteered in various capacities,” Nair says.

Nair gives a special mention to all the key contributors from the state who played a central role in mobilising these drives. “Our biggest strength was that I could liaison with Sivasankar Sir, who is the state IT Secretary and gave full support to me even though I was only volunteering. Also, Chief Secretary Tom Jos sir had been a great support, who said, ‘do whatever support you can do’. Alongside, we had Santhosh Kurup and Arun Balachandran from CM’s IT department, who were our strong and live links from the government side.

“This had been a volunteer driven activity only to support and supplement the government rescue. Usually, bureaucrats feel super confident about the state machinery but honestly, we can’t directly get entrenched in rescue operations. It was only through the foresight of these officials that we could take forward anything as they understood the true importance of volunteers,” he adds.

Now that water is slowly receding in many areas across the state, this army is actively working towards preparing and supplying various kits that will help people to clean their homes and make them safe for habitation again.

These kits include necessary materials like rubber boots, heavy-duty gloves, masks, soap powder, disinfectants, scrubbers, rodent killers, etc.

Courtesy: Prasanth Nair.
Courtesy: Prasanth Nair.

Every initiative spearheaded by Collector Bro so far has made an enormous impact under his jurisdiction—be it transparency in the administration or inviting participation from the citizens for better governance.


GiveIndia and The Better India have come together to help Rebuild Kerala by supporting 41,000 affected families. You too can be a part of this movement and help us raise funds for the NGOs working to rehabilitate these families. If all of us come together with a small monthly contribution, we can make a real and meaningful difference in helping restore normalcy to those who need our help the most.

Unable to view the above button? Click here


However, we believe that Nair’s timely incorporation and optimal mining of tech-support during Kerala’s darkest hours that has silently saved the lives of thousands will surely qualify as his best initiative yet.

(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)

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Written by Lekshmi Priya S

Shuttling between existentialist views and Grey's Anatomy, Lekshmi has an insanely disturbing habit of binge reading. An ardent lover of animals and plants, she also specializes in cracking terribly sad jokes.