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