The flash floods and landslides caused havoc in Uttarakhand, and it’s now totally devastated. The actual number of deaths remains an unknown figure. “Tourists, migrant labourers and others had not registered on government lists, so they cannot be counted. Every time a place is cleared of debris, more bodies are found.” ( Barkha Chakrabarty, programme officer with ActionAid) That’s the state of affairs prevalent in Uttarakhand. One of the news reports says that more than 5,000 people lost their lives. Considering the lack of real picture, regarding actual number of deaths, it’s understandable that real figures could be more frightening. That’s because another news report published in The Times of India suggests that 4,028 people have gone missing, which includes high officials and government officials. Surprisingly, most number of people gone missing are from Rajasthan, 820 people; followed by Uttarakhand, 795 people.
It’s not hard to imagine that had army officials, risking their own lives, not swung into action immediately, the situation would have been terribly grim. Anyway, the flash floods and landslides once again exposed the disaster management mechanism prevalent in India. The National Policy on Disaster Management (NPDM) “mandates the State Governments inter alia to take measures for preparation of Disaster Management Plans, integration of measures for prevention of disasters or mitigation into development plans, allocation of funds and establishment of early warning systems.” It also talks about “promoting a culture of prevention, preparedness and resilience at all levels through knowledge, innovation and education” ; “encouraging mitigation measures based on technology, traditional wisdom and environmental sustainability.”
In real life- the so-called practical world- the story is altogether different. The bureaucratic machinery works in tune with interests of political masters than working for the cause of environment. In regime of Mayawati, Ganga Expressway Project got started in Uttar Pradesh, keeping at bay norms laid down in Environment Protection Act, 1986. It’s only after the intervention of Allahabad High Court, the project got stalled. Such a grand project got started without obtaining the environmental clearance certificate! One needs to ask how buildings like guest houses got constructed in flood/landslides prone areas in Uttaranachal? At the time when dams were built on rivers in Uttarakahand amidst deep protest, it was argued in its favour that such dams are vital for progress story of the state. None realized that such dams were obstructing the natural course of rivers and their ability to channelize the flood waters. No wonder, the state today is reeling under scary developments.
The Central government, which is supposed to assist the State as per Disaster Management rules, used the disaster effectively to promote Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. The relief material sent to Uttarakhand on behalf of Central government had pamphlets showcasing images of Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh! If that’s not enough, the people refused to accept the relief packages, sent by the Central government, after they were found to be rotten! In fact, the government effectively roped in Ishrat Jahan’s encounter episode to hide its own shortcomings . It diverted the attention of media ( the paid media), and tried hard to cover its misdeeds. Well, in the age of online journalism, it’s naive to assume that blunders could be shoved under the carpet.
Anyway, let’s hope that those gone missing might have miraculous chances left to get united with their near and dear ones. May the souls of departed rest in peace. And yes, let’s hope that such tragedies teach both Central government and state governments the right way of dealing with disasters. At least, they come to realize that politics over the death signifies bleak future for democracy!
They say ‘helping hands are better than praying lips’. Let’s people come to contribute for the welfare of people trapped in unfortunate condition in Uttarakhand. They can contribute following the instructions given on this website’s appeal section of CM. The site is managed by Uttaranchal government: Relief Fund
The Indian farmers are facing unprecedented problems in India- an agrarian republic in which farmers serve as lifeline. However, the nation that sees itself as a future superpower cares a damn about the issues pertaining to the farmers. They have been left at the mercy of God. Reeling under unspeakable problems, they are battling against all odds for survival. Consider the way, the government fixes low prices for their produces in times when farming has become an extremely costly affair in states like UP and Bihar, marred by severe water crisis and erratic power supply. Worse, the prices of fertilizers keep touching new heights. If that’s not enough, the government is also not much interested in having upgraded granaries, leading to tonnes of food grain to go down the drain. “Also, as per the court commissioners’ report, the wasted grain figures were around 1, 30,000 million tonnes, more than twice the government’s own estimates. The court’s commissioners said the negligence by officials was ‘genocidal’ and recommended that responsibility and accountability ought to be fixed at the highest level in central and state governments.”(The Economic Times)
Anyway, I have something more tragic to offer. It relates with land grabbing done in organized way by the MNCs. The poor farmers are unable to offer strong resistance because these MNCs enjoy the support of government and, above all, they have great resources to suppress opposition of any type. Something similar happened in this case as well. Welspun Energy Ltd. allegedly grabbed huge land, being in tandem with land mafias disguised as land brokers, for establishing a 1320 MW Thermal Power Plant at Dadri- Khurd village situated in Mirzapur District in Uttar Pradesh. In this connection, I met with social activist Rajendra Mishra, a senior scribe associated with Kaashivarta, representing the cause of these harassed farmers, forcibly deprived of their source of livelihood. He along with other prominent social activists of Mirzapur/Varanasi region including Pradeep Kumar Shukla, has left no stone unturned in ensuring justice to the dispossessed farmers. In fact, they played a great role in agitations related with Ganga Expressway project leading to Allahabad High Court order, which stayed the project, ordering state to have “complete a full environmental study and obtain permission from the central government before embarking on the construction.”
Rajendra Mishra made some startling revelations in connection with land allotment done for this power project. He stated that land mafias operating as land brokers compelled the farmers to sell lands to them at throwaway prices, which were later sold to the Welspun Energy Ltd.at a higher price. If that was not enough, the extra lands needed were acquired at gun point. In some cases, the fake cases got filed against farmers to get hold of their lands. It’s real shame that so much happened but district administration preferred to be a mute spectator. In fact, it facilitated the sale by refusing to intervene.
Incidentally, it entered in cosmetic gesture of organizing a public hearing to obtain public testimony and register the objections in this regard. However, it became one-sided show. The social activists, represented by Rajendra Mishra, and aggrieved farmers were prevented by the goons allegedly deployed at strategic points by the land brokers. They threatened and stopped them when they were on the way to attend the public hearing organized on April 07, 2012. Some of the farmers who managed to attend the public hearing were asked to keep their mouths shut by the anti-social elements present there. The social activists are also worried that if the power plant gets established it would lead to environmental imbalance of very serious nature in that region.
In fact, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Division, Ministry of Environment and Forests, has been apprised of irregularities associated with the project. The social activists allege that project has entered in gross violation of provisions laid down in the EIA notification issued by the Ministry Of Environment And Forests on September 14, 2006. It makes “prior environmental clearance from the concerned regulatory authority” mandatory. Above all, the gestures of district administration is serious violation of human rights as farmers were not only denied the right to express their concerns but also threatened of dire consequences if they dared to pursue their case. The district administration might claim that it organized a public hearing but insiders claim that it was mere superficial gestures. For instance, no special effort was made to make concerned people living in the remote areas aware of such hearing. Thus, they were deprived of their right to register protest. Anyway, those who somehow managed to attend it were forced to remain tight-lipped.
It’s really tragic that farmers are being meted out such treatment. They are being denied to live life of dignity and are made to starve. After all, what else’s could be the fate when their lands-the source of livelihood- fall into wrong hands? Hats off to social activists like Rajendra Mishra, Pradeep Kumar Shukla, Ramagya Singh (farmer), Ramashankar Singh (Advocate) and others who have dared to challenge the administration in this regard. I am sure they would emerge as winner-the way they came to block the Ganga Expressway project by organizing huge protest rallies. It’s in the interest of justice that farmers emerge as winners. The lifeline of the nation should not succumb to negative forces. It’s time to punish those who not only snatched the land of farmers but also violated provisions aimed at protection of environment.
Map Of The Site