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/

UTTARAKHAND: WHY RAHUL GANDHI HAD TO DO IT?

There were different justifications put forward by his party members to ‘justify’ the visit of the angry but silent man of Indian politics to Uttarakhand when the miserable chief minister of the disaster-hit Uttarakhand had said NO to further VVIP visits as these were hampering the rescue and relief operations. But how could a lesser degree of politician like Vijay Bahuguna have ordered someone like Rahul Gandhi, one of the mightiest of the lot, out.

So, we were talking about justifications. Digvijay Singh, the Congress spokersperson, said Rahul didn’t use the airway and went instead by the road and so he could not be alleged of hampering the rescue operations. We are not talking of Rahul’s intent here as intent of politicians is always questionable but Digvijay’s white lie was yet another instance telling the nation why the likes of Digvijay Singh are not and should not be taken seriously. TV channels were showing visuals of Digvijay Sing defending Rahul Gandhi (shielding behind the lame road-route logic) and Rahul Gandhi boarding a chopper in Uttarakhand on split screens.

Yet another defender of Rahul Gandhi (and there were plenty of them), Renuka Chowdhury said Rahul was concerned and he went there as a common citizen to help in relief efforts carrying with him truckloads of relief materials. The justification further said Rahul Gandhi was monitoring the relief and rescue operations in Uttarakhand. See! Rahul doesn’t believe in efficiency of his own party’s government in Uttarakhand!

It was a lame logic again but the brazen disregard to the values concerning humanity was exposed out in the open when some media reports said the relief trucks sent by the Congress party failed to reach the destination in absence of clear guidance.

See! This is the monitoring being done by Rahul Gandhi. Trucks are stuck in Rishikesh; are running out of fuel and the drivers are running out of money and might be forced to sell the relief material to meet their day to day needs. Reports say there is no one from the Congress party to guide them.

All belied and disproved – arrival of Rahul Gandhi and his entourage in Uttarakhand did hamper the rescue efforts. The manpower and the precious manpower hours that the Rahul Gandhi’s sortie of the state and the demands of his SPG security consumed hampered the rescue operations at a time when the weather was not good and when there were thousands still stranded.

During the visit, Rahul Gandhi said he delayed his visit to the state as it could have hampered the relief operations but his visit did hamper the efforts as reflected in the natural anger of this victim:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=521312541257204&set=vb.100001353895975&type=2&theater
http://severallyalone.blogspot.in/2013/06/uttarakhand-why-rahul-gandhi-had-to-do.html

In face of all this, Rahul’s delayed visit and so the response sounds more like a political gesture to address debates on his absence and silence than a sincere humane response on a calamity of such a huge scale.

Also, why couldn’t Rahul issue a statement?

After all, the Congress party is projecting him as the next prime minister of India. And silence from the next prime-ministerial candidate from the ruling party of India gives rise to valid points of doubt.

WHY? Why Rahul Gandhi had to do it?
WHY? Why do we ask this question again and again?

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

IS RAHUL GANDHI A POLITICIAN OR A COMMON CITIZEN LIKE US?

Before venturing further about superhumanness of Indian politicians in the aftermath of the Uttarakhand disaster, the Indians need to deliberate on the most burning question of the day – is Rahul Gandhi a common citizen?

Because, if, he is a common citizen, he cannot be a politician!

Indian politicians today are a privileged class much above any other social stratification while the common citizens are like those killed and stranded in different areas of Uttarakhand after the disastrous cloudburst and rains of June 16. They do not come on any priority list until they directly affect the political fortunes of the politicians.

And there is no such sorry sounding description for Rahul Gandhi. He doesn’t follow rule. He makes rules.

In fact, politicians like him prioritize about lives of over a billion of this country, much in the same way as Rahul decided to visit the state when the home minister of the country had already asked the Uttarakhand government not to allow any VVIP visit.

Rahul Gandhi cannot be a common citizen. The tag ‘common’ is obnoxious for politicians and certainly a pariah for someone like Rahul Gandhi who inhabits the top of the political elites in the country where the central-most qualification to inherit a country, even if the country is the largest democracy in the world, is to have the lineage of a powerful political family.

Nepotism, dynasty politics and family preferences are universally seen as detrimental to a progressive democracy and yet they have become the basic tenets for political elites of this ‘democratic’ country.

Common citizens cannot subvert the universally acceptable values. If they do so, they are made to face the consequences.

The universally acceptable rules of a civilized society are for the commoners like following the law, waiting in queues, writing countless papers to get educated, toiling hard to earn a livelihood and retire when it is the time, and that too, is the state-defined, a state that is run by politicians like Rahul Gandhi.

The political elite of this country certainly don’t fit in this description. They feel they are above it.

How can they, then, be the common citizens of this country? So, how can Rahul Gandhi be a common citizen?

So, a Rahul Gandhi, who is being presented as the common citizen of India, is certainly an ironical point of debate in a country where politicians are perceived as a class beyond the rule of law.

Also, talking of the rule of law, ‘this common citizen’ Rahul (pity Congress spokespersons like Renuka Chowdhury and Digvijay Singh) decided on his sortie in the flood-ravaged state violating the order of the home minister of the country issued to ensure smooth relief and rescue operations as the VVIP visits were hampering the progress.

How can a home minister’s order contain a ‘common citizen Rahul Gandhi’?

Rahul Gandhi is not a common citizen like us. It is self explanatory!

Related post:
A MAN-MADE DISASTER, THE HUMAN MISERY AND OUR SUPERHUMAN POLITICIANS
https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/a-man-made-disaster-the-human-misery-and-our-superhuman-politicians/

©/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/

UTTARAKHAND DISASTER: SOME REAL GOOD JOB BY AN OVER-THE-TOP MEDIA

Right from the time when the enormity of the disastrous Uttarakhand flash floods became clear, the national media has been on it, 24/7. As the thousands trapped in the rough terrain of Uttarakhand post-floods were from across many parts of the country, the regional media, too, had a major chunk of their daily plans on it. And a human crisis deepening every day brought the international media on the scene as well.

And it has continued.

And it has torn deeply into the political doublespeak. Okay, the folks have flown unrestrained, blurring every fine line of decency in reporting a human disaster like this, but it is they only who didn’t give the politicians chance to manipulate the reality to hide the scale of calamity. The world now knows the scale of the disaster that, probably, has killed tens of thousands though the government is still hovering around a figure of 1000.

The raw reporting on the crude behavior of the politicos has forced the politicians to do more, though, even now, they are not looking sincere.

Reportedly, the former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu is visiting Uttarakhand today (after 8 days!) His magnanimity has revealed its desire at a time when the delays in the relief and rescue efforts due to the visits (silly, worthless aerial surveys) of the political VVIPs like Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Narendra Modi and others have been a matter of raging debate.

According to some reports, during initial days of the calamity, when the government was still in a denial mode, almost 70 per cent of the helicopters, supposed to be used for evacuation and relief efforts, were being used to ferry the politicians.

Also, in order to stuff more in order to score over the completion, they have dug more and more on how the scale of the disaster is man made; on how the human greed, silly political considerations and unplanned development (owing to the political reasons of vote-bank politics and political corruption) contributed to make this disaster so massive; on how the government was trying to hide the facts by sending reports from the areas of maximum devastation like Kedarnath and its surrounding places; on how the relief materials like food items and medicines were in short supply at many places where larger number of people were trapped; and how the politicians went on scoring rhetoric while people were dying.

Yes, the political apathy continues even if thousands are dead and thousands are in imminent danger. The two biggest political parties, Congress and Bhartiya Janta Party, are playing politics over the dead bodies to score political mileage. The war of words is deafeningly ugly and certainly avoidable. But the folks would not let us give the leeway to look the other way.

There may be a silver-lining in this but only if we could read the message, something that we fail to read most often.

While the media carriers have their own interest in desiring for more intense war of words, the public has the opportunity, once more (like innumerable other times) to see the real character of the Indian politicians, on how insensitive and disconnected from the masses they have become to lead the Indians who vote them in the office.

Would they see it this time?

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

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/