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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Uttarakhand disaster : Indian Army stands tall in rescue and relief....

Extremely sad to read more news of the Uttarakhand tragedy… ~ the scale of the massive human and ecological disaster of Uttarakhand can barely be explained by the present reports. It is feared that it could  take years and huge investment of resources to rebuild lives at these places of pilgrimage. One only hopes that after the usual handwringing this will not be forgotten as attention in India invariably gets diverted to other problems.  Uttarakhand disaster has again triggered an environment versus development debate. This brings forth two conflicting viewpoints. One that nature is used by people to serve humanity and support civilisation. Second, as per conservationists, nature is threatened by humanity, and thus they strongly argue to fence it off from the influence of humanity as far as possible. This debate, sadly, comes to the fore only when relief and rescue measures are needed to be taken on a war-footing after a diaster like we are witnessing in the hill state. The impact of the calamity is yet difficult to comprehend.

It is feared that the death toll could be much more than what is put officially. The flash floods have swept away several villages and many still suffer. A week after the cloudburst that was followed by torrential rains  thousands still remain stranded in various parts.

There has not been a coordinated relief operation is somewhat clear. There is National Institute of Disaster Management, constituted under an Act of Parliament in 1995; but it is not the supreme authority.  Environmentalists say the disaster in Uttarakhand was inevitable due to rampant construction, felling of trees and building of dams in the name of development. They warn it will continue if the state doesn't change its plans. This is a place having many many dams. Uttarakhand gets high intensity rainfall and is prone to landslides. It also falls in a zone of high seismic activity. Untreated sewage flowing into the river is another problem. It pollutes the river, causing the riverbed to rise, leading to floods upstream and flash floods downstream. Illegal mining of stones from the riverbed using excavators is also rampant. 

In every such pilgrimage places where thousands converge, commercial activities thrive as everyone tries to cash out of the tourist rush………. When a disaster strikes, Governments may fail ~ not our military…. Reports state that the IAF established "an aviation fuel supply bridge" at Dharasu in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand to hasten rescue operations by helicopters. The move described as "very innovative, yet daring" by the Indian Air Force (IAF) officials will allow additional fueling at Dharasu. An official release stated that  the first C130J "Super Hercules" aircraft landed at Dharasu in a ground only 1,300 feet long Saturday morning despite inclement weather. "On landing, the aircraft defueled 8,000 litres of fuel into an empty bowser which was airlifted Friday from Sarsawa by a Mi 26 helicopter. With the availability of additional fuel now at Dharasu, the extraction, evacuation and rescue operations have picked up pace and the available helicopters are now able to make more number of trips," the release said.  Apart from carrying fuel to Dharasu, the first C130J on its return trip carried about 40 stranded pilgrims.  The second C130J aircraft took about 100 injured and stranded pilgrims to an air force station where an emergency medical centre had been set up; while the third is carrying a medical team of the IAF to attend to sick people at Dharasu itself before they are moved out to safer place," it said.

In all, the IAF has flown 768 sorties in which 10,3350 kg of load has been dropped/landed and 5,347 passengers airlifted under 'Operation Rahat'.  Elsewhere, the State machinery under CM Vijay Bahuguna has come under sharp criticism.  Top politicians make aerial visits and then the advertisement blitzkrieg launched by it as part of an image makeover drive has only ended up adding salt to the wounds of the affected families.  Critics say that like its relief operations in the state, the Bahuguna government could not even get the ads right as they were marked by spelling errors and have been described as "downright crass and insensitive". The first advertisement, carried by news dailies on Monday, contained photographs of a smiling UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Chief Minister Bahuguna. Only Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in the mug-shot, did not betray any emotion. At a time when there is widespread gloom and despair over the havoc wreaked on large parts of Uttarakhand by the calamity, the photographs of the two smiling leaders stood out like a sore thumb. Realising that it had committed a major goof-up, the state information and public relations department, the brain behind the publicity drive, replaced the photographs of the smiling leaders with a new set, in which the Congress president and the chief minister were shown in a sombre mood. The ads also contained dramatic errors. On the first day, Uttarakhand was spelt as "Uttrakhand" and "relief measures" as "relief measurers".

And Firstpost adds that -  Sonia, Rahul’s relief trucks run out of fuel, get stranded.  According to a report appearing in it, the Congress took another hit in the face of the Uttarakhand tragedy. The relief trucks that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi flagged off have run out of fuel and have reportedly got stranded in Dehradun. CNN IBN reports: “Each truck driver was reportedly given only Rs 2,000 to buy fuel for the entire journey which was exhausted during the drive to Dehradun.”   According to the report, the relief material might have to be sold off. However, the Congress has not officially confirmed the news. Apart from flagging of these trucks ceremonially, Sonia Gandhi has asked all Congress legislators to donate a month’s salary.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

27th June 2013.

1 comment:

  1. Dear All
    This is a natural calamity. we should not blame each other nor govt. should as be blamed as they have done nothing nor they will do in future beside politics....
    In this event of sorrow we all have to be unite and do something for the needy people leaving behind the religions of all.. we have to prove our humanity.... this is a very tough time for the survivors as they have lost every thing money, food, shelter even their land... so please do not give your hard earned money to Prime Minister relief fund... you should give your donation to some NGO who is working their...