27 June, 2013

The Uttarakhand Tragedy - A political lesson in disaster "mis"management !

(Pic courtesy : manjul.com via Google) 

(Pic courtesy : mysay.in via Google)

The death toll (the official figure) stands at 800 plus and is expected to cross 1000.  People are still stranded in Uttarakhand, awaiting evacuation.  Words fail and one can only try and imagine what people are going through right now.   Not to mention loss of property, livelihood – all of which the government officials will, if they act like they normally do, write off as collateral damage.  The IAF has been exemplary in its non-stop rescue efforts and their actions have been nothing short of commendable.
Everybody agrees on one thing.  Uttarakhand was a disaster waiting to happen.  While the initial reaction would be to blame natural elements, if one were to delve a bit deeper, one would realise that it is the huge scale of deforestation that Uttarakhand that has probably shifted the ecological balance.  The major cause of this unprecedented disaster is said to be the collapse of a huge glacial dome, the Kedar Dome.  This, combined with a cloudburst and massive deforestation that has denuded the slopes of Uttarakhand (to pave way for constructing buildings, hotels and such) set off the disaster, pretty much like dominoes falling with unerring precision. (Even though nature does sound warning bells through natural disasters, protecting nature, protecting the environment seems to be on no one's political agenda.  It is a sad fact, but indeed a true one.)
When disaster strikes, what the whole country and especially people in the disaster struck regions  count on, is disaster relief.  People who are at the helm of power are expected to take charge, take control of the reins and get around to making decisions that set in motion a series of disaster relief measures. 
Take our two Prime Ministerial candidates, for instance.  On the one hand we had Rambo Modi who claimed to have rescued 15000 people on Tata Innovas and on the other hand we had Playboy Rahul Gandhi who was celebrating his birthday in exotic Spain. 
Modi’s feat is nothing short of amazing, actually.  He, or rather his fleet of people, manage to rescue 15000 people over a day (in Innovas, mind you) while a major portion of the armed forces in India have managed to rescue about 40000 in a space of 10 days with resources like helicopters at their disposal.  No wonder our Rambo Modi is thumping on that 56 inch chest of his.  Oh, before the Modi supporters come after me with stakes and pitchforks for having vilified “the best possible leader India could have”, let me state here that I do know that Modi has been very modest about having pulled off such a massive rescue effort.  But then again, he has his public relations agency to do all the chest beating on his behalf.  Vibrant Gujarat, which shows Rambo Modi In all his megalomaniac glory, too is said to be this PR agency’s handiwork. APCO NaMo Namaha !!
Let’s look at the other candidate for the Prime Minister’s seat.  The Crown Prince a.k.a Rahul Gandhi.  He was away in Spain celebrating his birthday when all hell broke loose in Uttarakhand.  Heard of Nero playing the flute while Rome burnt ?  Well, we have a modern era Nero here.  No complications or confusing signals here though.  At a time of crisis too, he did what he does best – disappeared.  Even the convoy which is said to be carrying relief items for people stranded in Uttarakhand was held back because Sonia Gandhi waited for her son to get back from Spain.  She even went to the extent of “flagging off” the convoy.  They made sure the media was out there, in full force, capturing these moments on video and pictures.  Someone correct me if I’m mistaken, was this supposed to be  a Grand Prix or a popularity contest.  Am I missing something here ?
These are the two candidates who are slated to contest for the Prime Minister’s post next year ? 
As if these parodies were not enough to turn people’s stomachs in utter revulsion and disgust, yesterday a bunch of politicians almost came to blows – all because they were all trying to claim credit for the relief work being undertaken and carried out in Uttarakhand. 
Elections are, in principle, supposed to bring into power, governments that are responsible and accountable.  In India (as well as many other countries in the world), this has turned into a joke.  What democratic elections have done in India is produced an extremely cossetted class of politicians who flaunt rules with impunity and the only thing they zealously guard are the privileges and the perks that their position affords them.
The privileged class routinely abuse laws which are seemingly beyond them.  On a larger scale, what this points towards is their utter contempt towards the democracy and the associated legalities that our constitution has officially put in place, on paper.  Yet, they get elected over and over again in the elections, presumably by the aam junta a.k.a common man.  A perfect example is Narendra Modi who was re-elected as Chief Minister of Gujarat despite his complicity with regard to the massacre of Muslims in the state. 
Like I said in one of my earlier posts, what the population in India is faced with today is an increasingly tattered moral panorama and a lack of choice or rather, a shrinking spectrum of choice.
I wonder what patriots like Bhagat Singh and Mangal Pandey would be thinking right now, if they could.  Would they be wondering what exactly it was that they gave up their lives for, without a second thought ?  This, for sure, was not the India they envisioned when they willingly walked to the gallows and courageously embraced death with a smile. 
I wouldn’t be surprised if Rabindranath Tagore is sitting up there, in some corner on an armchair, silently contemplating, his wise eyes steeped in sadness, shoulders stooped and bent with all the weight, burden he’s sure to be carrying on his shoulders, writing the lyrics to a song that sounds more and more like “Bharat Bachaao (God Save India)”.

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