PHAILIN VS STAMPEDE: NATURE’S FURY VS HUMAN GREED: WHAT SHOULD WE SAY ON THIS IRONY?

What should we say on this irony?

Nature’s Fury Vs Human Greed

Double whammy! Triple whammy! Or whammy of nth order!

Yes, there was reason to feel good when an alert Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) and its scientific community played the pivotal role in assessing and warning about the Cyclone Phailin, a super-storm category cyclone, capable enough to bring catastrophe, and thus minimizing the loss of human lives. The state governments of Odisha, the most affected state, and Andhra Pradesh, the other state in the path of the cyclone, worked overtime to evacuate people.

The result was remarkable. Once equipped with required technological advancements, the Indian scientific community performed well Phailin told us. And thought the present and the past of Indian politics give us reasons to believe the promptness with which the political class acted was more due to the concerns of the upcoming parliamentary polls than being the call of the humanitarian conscience, still, it was a commendable (though rare) promptness.

But the same day, the irony struck.

Over 100 people lost their lives in a stampede during a religious event of a temple in Datia, Madhya Pradesh. The same Ratangarh Mata temple had seen stampede in 2006 killing many. A probe was ordered then. Its report is still not in public domain. A judicial inquiry has been announced in the latest mishap. What is the relevance of such probes?

Any probe report cannot do anything unless the human greed is checked.

Reports say the stampede took place due to the greed of the local police. The police was busy in collecting bribe money from vehicles to let them pass through the bridge that was the main passage to the temple. Some other reports say the stampede began after police lathicharged the devotees to control the crowd. Lathicharging a religious crowd of tens of thousands! Unbelievable!

Stampedes, sadly, have become a common occurrence during religious events in India and are result of the mismanagement owing to the human greed.

These man-made calamities tell us how irresponsible the governance in country has become.

Yes, we do come across ‘feel good’ examples like in case of Phailin but the share of good is simply outnumbered by the ‘feeling shocked’ examples of the man-made disasters.

While a small part of the governance acted in time and correctly to avoid what could have been a much bigger loss of life, its other, and majority counterpart, created a tragedy that killed 6-8 times the lives lost in the aftermath of Phailin.

Nature never kills us. It is us who come in its way.

So, the nature was gauged and its might was respectfully given passage so that we could have the safe passage for us.

But what about the human element!

It is the human element that creates disaster after disaster – the man-made disasters killing the man.

We see it every time whenever a disaster happens. The stampede deaths in Datia are example of it.

We saw it in Uttarakhand in June. Even if we agree to make the role of the scientific community (IMD and the likes) debatable (though it was not as clear warnings were issued at various levels), the scale of the Uttarakhand flash floods disaster, killing thousands, was certainly man-made.

Warning signals were ignored. The situation only got worsened with irresponsible infrastructure development in ecologically fragile areas. The human greed was complicit in the crime. Polity and bureaucracy, supposed to keep things in order, added to the chaos by nurturing their greed shielding behind the greed of the masses to survive a day peacefully somehow.

Equally pathetic has been the response to the rehabilitation process. Compensation cheques of even Rs. 100-200 are getting dishonoured. See it in context of the reports that say the Uttarakhand government has spent over Rs. 22 crores in advertisements in the last four months to drumbeat its (largely ineffective) rehabilitation efforts.

Man-made! Horrible! Detestable!

Add to it the polity of the day. Politicians have probably a unique gene that turns most of them into (a political gene, so the politics in play even here!) insensitive, shameless and selfish creatures.

Their brazenness inspires them to switch onto the warpath of the dirty politics to exploit the mileage as soon as a disaster starts its killing machine.

Bigger the output of this killing machine, bigger is the display of the dirty politics over dead bodies – and so bigger is the brazenness.

We saw it in Uttarakhand. We are witnessing it in Datia.

Horrible! Detestable!

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

POLITICIANS LOVE A NATURAL CALAMITY: THE COLOSSAL UTTARAKHAND DISASTER AND EQUALLY COLOSSAL GREED OF POLITICAL CORRUPTION

Officially, the rescue operation of the stranded pilgrims and tourists in Uttarakhand is over. Government figures say over 1,00,000 have been evacuated. There is still no official clarity over the death toll. Initially, the government was capping the death toll at around 1000. Speaker of the Uttarakhand assembly said some 10,000 could be dead while the chief minister of the state said exact number of deaths would never be known. On July 3, the Uttarakhand chief secretary clarified that the ‘official death toll so far’ was 580. Mass cremation of bodies began more than a week ago but still, bodies can been seen all around in the affected areas. Also, digging out bodies from the mud sludge with boulders, almost three metres high, remains an uphill task.

And midst all this, the cry that was always there, desperately looking for a voice, is now finding its listeners, introducing us to yet another horror tale that we all knew, but wasn’t hearing about. Many cities of Uttarakhand stand devastated. With homes gone and connectivity snapped, most of the towns and villages in affected areas wear a deserted, ghost-town like look.

Now into the fourth week, the Uttarakhand disaster, like any other calamity of this scale, has given humanity a pain that will be felt forever.

But, at the same time, the developments in the aftermath of the man-made disaster have also reaffirmed the strengthening perception of the masses about the callousness of politicians and politicians-controlled bureaucratic apparatus in dealing with the concerns of the common men, the proclaimed basic entity of the masses in a democratic (read pseudo-democratic) set-up like India.

Three days before the disaster, to the ultimate devastation of June 16-17, to the aftermath of the cloudburst, glacier-melting and flash floods, and since then, every detail cries out loudly to implicate the political apathy and administrative delinquency.

As usual, in the aftermath of a man-made disaster, the blame game got uglier each passing day with more skeletons tumbling out. There are clear indications that the state government was alerted multiple times from June 14-16 of heavy to very heavy rainfall. The state Met department of Uttarakhand had even asked the state government to evacuate the pilgrims. In fact, a reporter told one of his relatives, who was in the upper reaches of Uttarakhand, was advised by a high-level bureaucrat of Uttarakhand to climb down two days before the catastrophe of June 16-17. Every finding into the ‘hows and whys’ of the disaster every passing day tells us the political administration did nothing but slept over the alerts.

Experts say Uttarakhand has witnessed a boom of unplanned development in recent years. Fragile ecology of the state has been manipulated beyond a point of reconciliation with the nature. Riverbeds and riverfronts are encroached heavily. Dozens of hydroelectric power projects (45 operational and over 100 under development) and hundreds of big and small dams crisscross the state. Environmentalists, activists and scientists have been regularly raising voices against sanctioning so many hydroelectric power projects and dams without the necessary scientific studies. But politicians always slept on the reports; always killed the warnings. In fact, they vehemently pleaded with the central government to denotify the preserved areas and not to notify more areas as sensitive ecological zones that prohibit any activity detrimental to the ecological balance.

In order to earn quick tourism money, the relatively inaccessible areas like Kedarnath, which are under snow for half of the year, were made accessible with poorly laid roads while the hills of Uttarakhand needed roads built with specialized technology. These bad roads aided to the calamity monumentally. A report by the Indian Institute of Technology (Roorkee) and the Bureau of the Bureau of Indian Standards blames bad roads in contributing significantly to the landslides.

These bad roads did increase the tourist influx. But, being one of the major infrastructural casualties in the aftermath of the disastrous floods, these very roads stranded thousands in various parts of the state. The resultant loss of connectivity further hampered the relief and rescue efforts.

Why didn’t the politicians and the politicians-controlled bureaucracy take into account the expert warnings and views before connecting the remote parts of the state with a fragile ecosystem of relatively younger and unstable Himalayan region?

Each of these factors is a direct outcome of the human greed of political corruption. Without politicians and the politicians-controlled bureaucracy, such unrestricted and obscene exploitation of nature damaging the ecological balance of the area wasn’t possible.

But it wasn’t enough. The obscene display of political corruption continued unabated even after it emerged how massive was the devastation in the Uttarakhand hills.

EVERY POLITICIAN LOVES A NATURAL CALAMITY

It is unfortunate and one feels sorry about it but it has been the truth and in fact we should say ‘it is the truth’ now after the sustained shameless bravado of Indian politicians that came to the surface once again, so soon after the blame-game over the Uttarakhand disaster that is still ongoing, with the ugly politics over the serial blasts in the Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya on July 7 morning.

The calamity in Uttarakhand became a sort of disaster-tourism opportunity and the devastated hill state became a tourism zone for the politicians. What else inference can be drawn after witnessing what all that happened. But whatever that happened also reaffirmed the fact strongly that politicians across the parties are similar under the skin – insensitive, inhuman and irresponsible. Who else can do politics over the dead and the dying?

Almost every party was busy taking credits and shifting blames while thousands had died, many were dying and thousands were imminent danger of losing lives.

Choppers were busy ferrying politicians while the people stranded were crying for help. Also, it remains a mystery that why very limited number of choppers were put in rescue efforts in the initial days by a country that claims to be one of the major powers in the globalized world.

After the unforgivable failure of ignoring the warnings before the disaster of June 16-17, more horror was unleashed by the politicians by denying the people precious hours of relief and rescue efforts.

Those responsible for ignoring warnings must be tried for culpable homicide, isn’t it? But that is not going to happen. And those responsible for denying the precious hours when many more lives could have been saved must be sacked from the public life by the public. Even this is not going to happen.

India and Indians need to treat the politicians this way. But when the day would come – the day that would herald the country in a direction to become a true democracy?

The Uttarakhand disaster was a calamity where the ordinary Indian became victim of the nature’s fury due to the human greed of political corruption when he faced simultaneous ferocious attacks from the parties, the nature and the politicians, at the same time.

Whatever be the inside story into the bad play by the weather, it was certainly worsened by the administrative apathy that ignored the pre-disaster warnings and by the political debauchery that aggravated the post-disaster misery.

Politicians and administration controlled by them were first in denial mode about the scale of the disaster. Politicians then crossed all the limits of decency by putting an audacious front to deny that there were preceding warnings and finally did away with whatever little inhibition that they had to put their brazen shameless votebank maneuvering in full throttle.

So we heard headlines like:
– a minister of the state got the relief material unloaded and used the rescue chopper for his own ride;
– the son of a top politician of the state with political ambitions got a chopper diverted in his personal service to draw the political mileage;
– unhappy with Vijay Bahuguna’s efforts, other Congress CMs had to come into damage control mode to contain the political crisis by coming to the aid of the state;
– the disaster hit Uttarakhand refused aid from Gujarat as the government there was of the political opposition;
– the imposed code of conduct not allowing any further VVIP visits to the state to facilitate the relief and rescue efforts was subverted for a top politician of the ruling party that caused further delays;
– the reports of corruption in distribution of the relief material;
– the claims of the state government on the progress of the relief efforts that were found to be unsatisfactory

Sadly, the list is long and is growing longer.

It is now over three weeks of the disastrous flash floods and the media cry over the issue is losing steam. So the politicians that made the nature’s fury a man-made disaster will be relatively free to manipulate the huge funds that would go into the rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts. The aftermath, like in case of any other disaster, is going to be a free run for corruption.

P Sainath writes – ‘everybody loves a good drought’. It can rightly be rephrased as ‘every politician loves a natural calamity’.

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

A MAN-MADE DISASTER, THE HUMAN MISERY AND OUR SUPERHUMAN POLITICIANS

Many thousands estimated to be dead, over ten thousand still stranded and in imminent danger, yet our politicians maintain a figure hanging around 1000 – see, they have this ability to lessen the impact of death and disaster by manipulating the data – superhumans! Aren’t they?

Like a man is totally helpless and hapless when the nature strikes with its fury, in the same way, the miserable Indians have resigned to their fate on being trampled over and manhandled by the politicians.

What else one should say when we, who form the nation, witness the politicians shamefully slogging out verbal volleys to hide their failure and score their prospects midst one of the biggest disasters the country has seen in the recent years – the Uttarakhand flash floods.

Failures and prospects – these two are relatively contradicting terms. What hues failure takes directly affects the prospect. It has been the norm. It is and it should still be the norm.

But like the socially responsible role of politics has been pushed to the oblivion with rampant human greed of the political corruption in India, a trend, becoming a norm, that, indeed, is not the norm, this interdependence of ‘failure and prospect’, too, has no functional dependence left.

In fact, Indian politicians of the day don’t believe in normative forms of ‘failure’. They feel they fail only when they are not able to score personal gains.

Failing in carrying out responsibilities for which they have been voted in or have been accepted as political leaders doesn’t amount to failure for them any more.

And so the governance failure in making a natural calamity, that the Uttarakhand flash floods is, a man-made disaster, doesn’t even register on the faces of the politicians when they react on it.

Instead, they are busy hobnobbing the state as if it is some election campaign battleground and so an opportunity for photo sessions and rallies. They don’t care if them rallying around by air, when air-lifting is the backbone of the evacuation operations, hampers the relief and evacuation process.

Politicians are scrambling to visit the disaster-hit state as if they are rushing on government sponsored irrelevant study tours that every year costs the exchequer millions from the public funds. It all looks so crassly insensitive.

So, if biggies like Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Narendra Modi and many other known and small politicians including some chief ministers were not enough to delay the rescue operations, another biggie, Rahul Gandhi, who had become a matter of debate by his absence as he was not in India, too, took the plunge yesterday by visiting the flood-ravaged state.

Now who cares on the worthiness of such debates as delayed responses or prolonged silences on issues of wider social repercussions have become trademarks of Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi. One is the prime-minister in office now while the other is the next prime-ministerial candidate of the current ruling party! See the misery of ‘we, the Indians’!

But, they are superhumans, like most other politicians – entitled to act so. So, they are trying to mitigate and lessen the impact of the disaster in their trademark ways. They are making statements that nothing could have been be done as they were not informed of such heavy rains yet they have done impressive work and have saved many lives by acting in time.

But what about those thousands who were still trapped while the helicopters were ferrying politicians?

But what about the unplanned development promoted by the human greed and political corruption that has made this calamity so disastrous?

Politicians like Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Narendra Modi, Digvijay Singh and others cannot answer it and they won’t bother to answer it.

A report about a biggie politician says he evacuated 15000 trapped pilgrims from his state in one day; another politician says the people from his states are being ill-treated in Uttarakhand; another politician responsible for governing the environmentally fragile state refuses aid from a state as the government there is of political opposition; a powerful political duo sitting on top of the decision-making process of the country still doesn’t find enough reasons to declare the calamity a national disaster – the list about self-made and self-followed reflections of the disaster, that is just 10 days old, is long.

Our politicians, superhumans they are! They don’t buy what the reality says. They follow what suits their interests, manipulating the reality of the masses with the feasibility of their own interests.

They believe they are not answerable to anyone. Denial is their primary weapon and manipulation is their ultimate weapon, even if it comes at a cost of thousands of lives struggling to get out of the imminent danger they are in.

Many thousands are still trapped in Uttarakhand while the weather has started taking bad shape again making the rough terrain even less accessible for the relief and rescue work and sadly, our sincere and honest soldiers, carrying out the operations at many ‘ground zeros’ of the massive devastation, are not superhumans!

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