An unpleasant surprise in the month of June in Uttarakhand took the nation by storm. It wreaked havoc along its trail and stunned the citizens of Uttarakhand. A combination of persistent rains, cloud burst, landslides and reckless construction activities with absolute ignorance to rules and regulations unleashed sheer destruction (whether man-made or natural) in the hilly state of Uttarakhand. The devastation that the floods caused was unpredictable. As Mandakini River gained volume, the situation kept worsening. Escalated water levels of the river (and may be breaking up of the embankment on Choravari Tal nearly 3 kilometers uphill from Kedarnath Temple) caused Tsunami like situation in the region. Flash-floods caused by heavy rains in the state not only damaged roads and bridges, even highways were blocked due to avalanches and all means of communication and reaching pilgrims and locals were scraped except via air. Even air rescuing became an uphill task due of cloudy weather conditions and continuous rainfall. All these natural hindrances plus a few man-made obstacles (of which we will talk in a while) affected smooth rescue operations.
The water engulfed lives of several hundreds of people, devastated houses, washed away roads, destroyed families and left many abandoned, but our politicians cared a damn. As nature unleashed its fury, politicians did not even spare a moment in cashing in on the media limelight that was to follow the humongous disaster. Even as the common man’s life was at stake, many of the charlatan politicians were trying to score brownie points over each other, conceivably forgetting the fact that these were the same people who voted them to power, and therefore deserved immediate assistance and relief, not mock indignation and fake sympathies.
But in this pond of bad fishes, we had some politicians who cared less for media coverage and didn’t mind being a little selfless in making efforts to decrease desolation of the people by same way or the other. Perhaps this may have been the cause of their unpopularity.
While the ITBP, ARMY, NDMA, NDRF, IAF and local authorities were trying tirelessly to grapple the situation in Uttarakhand – air recuing people trapped in various places, few choppers were reserved for disaster tourism by our imposter politicians, who wanted to register their presence in the disaster hit state. Maybe if these same choppers, which were ferrying politicians to and fro from the disaster hit site, were utilized by rescue officials, some more people could have been saved or atleast relief material could have been air dropped to stranded pilgrims in unreachable places.
This reminds me of a practice so absurd and difficult to comprehend. I fail to understand the logic behind such aerial surveys by politicians, including that by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi accompanied by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, BJP President Rajnath Singh and several others. For heaven’s sake how can someone who is sitting on their catbird seat understand the situation down under from hundreds of feet above the ground? How can an assessment of destruction, loss to life and property be made while flying up above the devastated world? Can one estimate the compensation that needs to be paid to people affected by the disaster by just taking a bird’s eye view of the affected area? Well our Prime Minister surely can! Immediately after his aerial survey he decided to give Rs 100 crore for the tragedy-stricken state of Uttarakhand, which was released immediately. Well, I always knew politicians were of a different league but was unaware that they were gifted with special retinas. I must mention that our economist PM surely has a good vision!
Let me ring a bell for the political class of this nation. If they think they can fool the youth of this country anymore then they are mistaken. We are aware, educated and know how exactly the political parties in this country runs. So instead of posing at every photo-op, giving bytes condemning everything under the sun, promoting oneself as messiah of the needy, faking concern for the common man, appealing to holy sentiments as short cut to the power throne in Delhi, efforts should have been made to fast-track rescue and relief work. And of course sparing the choppers so that the victims of the calamity could be salvaged.
The destruction caused pandemonium in the state of Uttarakhand. Even the loudest call for help would have gone unanswered had it not been for self-sacrificing and determined efforts of the jawans and local authorities, who saved the lives of those trapped in the flash-floods. Truly, each jawan placed ‘service before self’.
I don’t see any politician now worrying about Uttarakhand and its people or wanting to visit the state to take a review of the situation and progress in development plans and work! Why would anyone be interested in going there now when all the media and its attention have vanished?
It is extremely unfortunate that our politicians left no stone unturned in shaming the nation and turning an ill-fated incident into crass politics for individual publicity. I just wish that like some politicians in our country others too had a soul!
By: Mugdha Kapoor