The usual deafening noise in the aftermath of a catastrophe forced on us by the nature –

–        the less than enough rescue operations, as always,

–        the uncertainty over the scale of calamity, as always,

–        the reports in the aftermath that the warning signals were ignored by the administration, as always,

–        politics over the calamity, as always, and,

–        the insensitivity over the lives lost, as always

The flash floods of Uttarakhand have caused huge devastation, on unprecedented scale, that happens in case of natural calamities of this scale where a large geographical area is affected.

But what is aggravating the situation more is the administration’s attitude. Four days on, the governments (state and union) are still maintaining a death toll of around 100 while the eye-witness and survivor accounts about it vary from 2000 to 20,000. The final figure, that may take months to compile, may come out to be even much more than 20,000, if honestly reported by the governments.

Local people from affected areas say many localities across many districts in the hilly state are washed away in the mudslide. Reports say only the Shivling of the Kedarnath Shrine is left and everything else there is gone. People from the affected parts of the state say clusters of villages at many places have disappeared.

It is now four days. Bodies are piled up. There is imminent danger of spread of diseases that may well prove yet another epidemic for the stranded visitors as well as the survivors and the unaffected people of the disaster hit areas. Stranded people are complaining of administration’s apathy, ill-treatment and unavailability of food.

Given the rough terrain and the inclement weather due to which even the sincere rescuers of Indian Army and Air Force are facing difficulty in locating and evacuating the people affected, no one can say anything yet about the scale of devastation but that doesn’t make anyone including Mr. Manmohan Singh qualified to underestimate the scale of the crisis.

Rs 2 lakhs to the kin of the dead, 50,000 to the injured, 1 lakh for the houses washed away – lakhs that are never adequate –- lakhs that only show the insensitivity of the political class – is this what a human life and thousands of human lives mean for the governments? – can any one think of building a house of even a single room in Rs 1 lakh?

Human lives of this country are still, more or less, the mute spectators. They will, as always, weather this calamity, for good or bad, on their own and will go on to elect one or the other politician to lead them. The political class realizes it and enjoys the System that doesn’t give the voters the option to reject the politicians in the electoral process.

But nature is not a mute spectator. It always hits back like this time, like every other time, whenever the mankind encroaches the areas where the nature warns not to venture in.

But the irony is it is the people, who do not have anything to do with such decisions to exploit the nature beyond the acceptable limits, have to face the fury.

Be it controversial hydroelectric power projects, riverbed mining, or construction in the areas along the river flow, or state government’s resistance to declare the environmentally fragile area of the state as an ‘eco-sensitive’ zone, it is the ordinary people who are left to face the disaster in case a natural calamity like this happens.

Reports and local people say most of the commercial operations including illegal buildings, hotels and resorts, encroachments and riverbed mining are being operated by politicians directly or in connivance with others.

Once such a development happens in an area in a rich country like India where the majority is still poor, it sees spontaneous flow of people looking for the elusive livelihood option; people who, someday, may become and become victims of nature’s fury while the political masters make statements sitting in secured palatial offices in metros, like it is happening in Uttarakhand now.

It may be a natural disaster but its enormity is man-made.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – http://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

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  1. Really well written Santosh. I really does seem like our governments get it so wrong sometimes, doesn’t it? Living in Australia, I feel very blessed. Of course there are many things we don’t get right, but we have the opportunity to fight for and make a difference. Our access to resources is exceptionally good and when we feel like something is not happening quite as it should, we really can shout out and if we work hard enough, turn things around.

    Thankyou so much for news about the UTTARAKHAND Flash Floods, because if it were not for you, I would have no idea that they had even happened.

    • Thanks Lou for your observation n detailed comment.

      Yes it happens whenever any political class starts behaving as if it is a separate class, above the people who elected it. Sadly, major mainstream politicians in India can be put in this category. That’s why I wrote India is a rich country of poor people, a country that is world’s 4th largest economy n is slated to become the 3rd largest soon.

      India is a culturally rich, diverse n beautiful country. It can do wonders with its resources n people – the youngest nation on the Earth in terms of demographics – if it gets an efficient n progressive leadership like what your country has n like many other developed nations have.

      Raising voice against the wrong in our country is a matter of awareness. Thankfully, the strength of vocal critics is increasing at a healthy rate. We do raise voices n spontaneous non-violent protests by the youth on issues of public concern have become a phenomenon in last 2/3 years.

      Yes, but it is still a matter of scale for it to become a pan-nation phenomenon to bring fundamental changes in the sociopolitical milieu.

      • With time will inevitably come change. Hopefully it will be for the better. When taking into consideration the economic standing of India, it really is surprising the Gaps between ‘Classes’.

        Look forward to reading more on this from you in your writing.

        Thanks again

        Miss Lou

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