UTTARAKHAND FLASH FLOODS: IT MAY BE A NATURAL DISASTER BUT ITS ENORMITY IS MAN-MADE

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 – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/