In our country, everything that has the probability of going wrong generally does go wrong.“Dekha Jayega” is our favourite phrase and our one stop solution for every problem. The Government is no different but there is also an active group of people who strongly go with this belief. Disaster is never entirely the upshot of destiny. In fact, lack of Government action is repeatedly the root of dangerous consequences. The Uttarakhand tragedy is about the wrath of environment. It is the outburst of nature provoked by man via criminal negligence, indolence and convolutions. Strange thing is that, a country that can launch a spaceship to the moon couldn’t even reach aid to the devastated Kedarnath for as long as four days and even after weeks past the catastrophe, we are yet to discern how many perished. Clearly shows the position of disaster risk management, isn’t it?
A region prone to recurrent flashfloods, landslides and cloudburst, the disaster of Uttarakhand was in the making. An active seismic zone, highly prone to earthquakes, Uttarakhand has been a bystander of both natural and man-made calamities in the recent years. Given its hailstorms, avalanches and geography, it easily falls prey to the landslides. Although this beautiful northern province of India comes under ecologically flimsy zone, it is the focal point of temple tourism. Not just Indians people all over the world come here to pay their visit. Agreed, neither the topography nor the cultural framework can be touched. However, one thing can be obviously managed and that is the risks. Yet, every single “Do-Nots” were executed.
The state wants to fill its purse and prosper from the pilgrim aspect of Uttarakhand yet it does not want to spend money in the name of development, infrastructure and planning. Government changes, Babus get promoted but the plight of the people and the place still remains unheard. Doppler Radar (it can predict cloudburst when attached to supercomputer) was all that was needed to prevent the tragedy. The preventive machine could have easily sent out well-timed warnings and thousands of people including kids, adults and senior citizens could have been evacuated in time. But nothing could be done because the 55 Doppler Radar that has been approved to the Indian Meterological Department (IMD) by the Government of India back in 2007-08 has yet not reached its office even after six years. The file is still rotating at a snail’s pace between IMD, Ministry of Earth Sciences (who are supposed to look into the estimated price sent by IMD) and the Planning Commission (who are the final panel of people who will approve the estimated cost) and the result as anticipated is “0”.
According to the Head of Geo Hazards, Dr. Chandan Ghosh of National Institute of Disaster Management, the Uttarkakhand Government had requested Doppler Radar with the Central Government but due to bureaucratic hurdles, it has still not be installed. Surprising twist in the tale is there are 17 Doppler Radar already installed in various zones but the state of Uttarakhand was missed. Why? Maybe the Babus never got their bribe from the place. Phew! Isn’t this a grave negligence by the Government that is ruling at centre?
India is a country that comes under the top 10 disaster zone of the world yet nothing concrete has been done here to prevent calamities. When Uttarakhand was hit by floods, we expressed our fury against the mother nature. But is she at any fault? Of course, not! There was a time when people visited Char Dham on foot (Pad Yatra) but now today’s yatris prefer four wheelers over their feet. However, nothing concrete has been done to accommodate the fierce action of the man and the beast on this sensitive terrain by the government. The Government loves the money it accumulates from the pilgrims yet do not want to shed any money to develop the area.
Besides, our Government loves to make plans but hates to execute it. The best example is the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) chaired by none other than the Prime Minister. It was started in 2005, claiming to meet after every 3 months. Surprisingly, it is found that in Between May 2008 and Decemeber 2012 there was no meetings at all. Besides, none of the projects taken by the body has been completed yet. First, the Government does not want to initiate any cause that is a preventive measure and then express grief over the tragedy? Do we want their sympathy after the incident or their action before the calamity? Of course the later but it seems the sluggish Government at Centre can’t even help us post the tragedy for as mentioned in the start, they can boost of sending a spaceship in moon yet could not send any aid in the misery hills. If not for the men in uniform, the number of demised would be double or even triple.
The tragedy of Uttarakhand could have been tamed, if only our administration was strong, decisions were quick, babus were not corrupt, so on and so forth – making me still wonder, whether the tragedy was a natural disaster or a man made calamity?
By Deepti Verma