A spate of major events happened in India during the last 15-20 days. The first one is the sad event of cloudburst in the state of Uttarakhand leaving thousands dead and thousands more were stranded over treacherous hills for days on end with hardly anything to sustain till the rescue happened. In the temple town of Kedarnath, except for the temple (which can be termed as a miracle) almost all was swept away by the rampaging Alaknanda river. The event had become a major tragedy main due to being the in peak pilgrim season and this being the most important pilgrim circuit for the Hindus. The rescue efforts could not be started immediately due to roads getting washed away, land slides and extremely bad weather.
The rescue efforts have almost come to a close with respect to the pilgrims by now. However the state government of Uttarakhand to rehabilitate the local population which plight has not been highlighted by the Indian Media so far. With heroic efforts of ITBP, Indian Air Force and Indian Army, most of all the pilgrims have been rescued over a period of fortnight. The Air Force has formed an air bridge for fuel and rescue efforts which is unique. The air bridge happened after a long time in the world and certainly not by Indian Air force in the last 50-60 years. This clearly shows the improvisation and out of box thinking of the disaster response and management teams. There is a lot of criticism going around stating that this is a man-made disaster due to the thousands of small and medium Hydel power projects which were granted without taking the environmental effects into account. People also refer to the point that this has been pointed out by the Central Auditors (CAG) in 2009 itself. This is true to certain extent as the water is not allowed take its natural course resulting in looking for an outlet to go down the hills. However, our hunger for more and more electricity is also partly a cause of this. All those media houses, news papers who run this criticism run air-conditioned studios and facilities 24X7 which obviously run on electricity. If we take a look around us we can see all those big shopping complexes, malls or even the shops now a days are fully air-conditioned. Tall office blocks are fully air-conditioned and consuming power 24X7. All these resulted in a huge demand for the electricity. The options available for production of power are limited. Fossil fuels are used for production of a major chunk. However there is a limitation on the longevity of the existing sources and new sources have to be looked for at all times. The mining again affects the environment. Power from nuclear sources is limited and already there is a huge resistance to setting up of new reactors which can be witnessed from the ongoing Kandankulam issue. Non-conventional sources like wind and solar are costly and have not yet been developed. That leaves hydel power which is mostly seasonal and this effort is one being now getting criticized for indiscriminate setting of projects in the hilly states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Meghalaya etc. This is almost like a catch 22 situation which needs to be handled with due care.
The second major criticism against the central government is that the response is not immediate and we have not developed the road network and other infrastructure in these hill states enough to avoid this tragedy. The reasons for delayed response are landslides, washed out roads and extremely inclement weather. With regards to the claims about infrastructure, it is true that the road net work is not highly developed in these hilly states. Considering the fact that around 90% of land area in these states is hilly terrain and that too of a high altitude variety, it is difficult to access them all time during the year. These areas are inaccessible for nearly 6 months during the year due to heavy snow is a testimony to that fact. The infrastructure needs to be developed and hope some steps will be taken in that direction in coming years.
During this tragedy, two shameful incidents were hoisted on Indian Public. The first is the news item released to media stating that the Gujarat Chief Minister had rescued almost 15000 pilgrims from his state in a single day with a convoy of 80 Innova vehicles and his crack team of 10-15 Civil Servants. With all the resources at its disposal like helicopters, hundreds of troops on the ground, the disaster management teams are able to rescue around 30000-35000 people over a fortnight with great difficulty, it defies logic how a small team can rescue 15000 people that too just within a day!! This is nothing but hoodwinking the people with illogical and untruthful information.
The second incident is the shameful incident where the honourable members of Parliament and Assembly from the ruling and opposition parties from the state of Andhra Pradesh came to blows over the rescue efforts in the Dehradun Airport in the full glare of media. Both the state government of Andhra Pradesh and the main opposition party arranged for transportation of rescued pilgrims back to Hyderabad. However, this has come to a state of political one-upmanship where both the party leaders were jostling each other to get the rescued people to their own flights for transportation claiming that the other party is obstructing their efforts. This very shameful conduct of the honourable members of the political parties trying to cash in on the human tragedy is highly despicable. Though this do happen often, never I have seen these kind of brazen acts. Hope better sense prevail with the political parties of our country.