Uttarakhand Tragedy and the “Asafal Yatra”!!!

“Had gone for the Kedarnath yatra, returned home safely today” texted a cousin of mine few days back as the Uttarakhand disaster was unfolding.  My cousin and her group members were lucky but many were not.  She would tell me later that their group heeded to the announcements made in the PA system to turn back as the shrine would be closed due to flash floods. However many didn’t. They didn’t want their ‘Chardham Yatra’ to turn into an “Asafal Yatra” (Unsuccessful trip) and decided to either stay put or proceed ahead.  Having come thus far they didn’t want to take a U-turn without completing the yatra. It is not very difficult to guess if they had a successful trip or not. Should we call this as the indomitable spirit of Indians or Indians’ submission to Faith sometimes irrationally? I don’t know.

As more details of the disaster started emerging, as in the case of any backlash of Nature heated debates started on the environmental neglect, administrations’ apathy, mindless growth pursuit…,… The same continues to this date.  Let’s look at the responses, reactions from different quarters of the society as the tragedy panned out:

Political Class:

  • Blame game by politicians – Opposition party BJP pointing finger on the ruling Congress on the construction,… and ruling Congress giving it back saying these were started during erstwhile BJP rule
  • One-upmanship by different Chief Ministers in carrying out rescue and relief efforts for their own state people without bothering about a coördinated effort and ofcourse the mad rush to take credit!!!
  • Top politicians including our PM, Sonia Gandhi carrying out neatly televised “Aerial Surveys” of the flood hit areas!!! Aerial surveys???
  • Politicians of different hue using the choppers which were the only mode of transport available for relief work for their own “Aerial Surveys”
  • Narendra Modi doing what is now known to be called as the “Rambo act” in rescuing 15000 Gujarati pilgrims with a fleet of vehicles and Boeings!!!
  • TDP and Congress politicians coming to blows at the airport on who will take the credit for rescue of their state people!!!
  • Congress doing a “Flagging off” of the relief trucks in Delhi again in a PR coördinated event!!! When did relief measures become a F1 event???
  • The Chief Minister of the State – getting into belligerent arguments with the media instead of showing that he is in charge and allowing all and sundry to take over relief operations in his state
  • National Disaster Management Authority which has a politician as its Vice chairperson (Why, why, why???) not meeting even once between 2008 and 2011 and met once post 2011!!! What kind of disaster management do we expect???
  • The Prime Minister of the country in the midst of all this – continuing his stoic silence!!!

Media:

  • It’s not just the politicians playing the one-upmanship game. The media were not far behind. How many times were we told that “The 1st channel to reach Kedarnath shrine” or “1st channel to show live pictures from,..,..”??? Do we need a race here?
  • News Express TV showing visuals of a shameless reporter sitting on the shoulder of a young man as he wades through waist deep water and reporting “live”!!! Do we need such crass “Live” reporting??
  • In the competition for exclusive dispatches, media crew hopping on to the choppers – which meant that so many needy common people, would have been left behind!!!
  • Many times reporters screaming over shoulders of people and jostling in the limited space available
  • In all this, Times Of India’s news report of Narendra Modi’s Rambo act takes the cream. Can’t believe how the country’s oldest and leading newspaper can carry a planted news item without verifying the facts! The same newspaper carries an editorial few days later questioning the veracity of its own news item!!!

Industry/India Inc.:

  • Considering the fact that choppers were the only means of transport available – did we see any of our industrialists who fly around in their own choppers, sparing theirs for relief work?
  • Did we see the new economy companies and their promoters who are normally very articulate in pushing their interests in policy matters coming forward with their support?
  • Or for that matter the so called august members of the “Bombay Club”?  Except for Mahindras I didn’t see any contribution announcement!
  • Isn’t it just plain business expediency if a chopper company starts charging few lacs per person for transporting people to safety?
  • While on Industry, where were Bollywood and its famed stars??? If rag pickers in Delhi and inmates of Tihar can come together and contribute for the flood relief, why not the Kapoors, Kapurs, Kumars and the Khans???
  • On winning the Champions Trophy, BCCI was quick off the block to announce Rs.1 crore as prize money to each team member. Great. Did you hear any such largesse for Uttarakhand relief?
  • What about the players themselves? I saw ofcourse Harbhajan (he was rescued by the army) announcing his contribution.
  • How it would have been if our great captain Dhoni had refrained from the usual champagne popping after the win and instead expressed solidarity with the victims of Uttrakhand?  I’m sure the respect we have for our cricketers would have gone up few notches.

We the People:

  • We live by double standards. We expect high idealism from politicians, administrators but show little of that in our own conduct
  • Littering places with plastic leftovers is our National common pastime. The choking of drainages in flood situations like this never deters us from doing the same next time!
  • Had people heeded to warnings may be the human lives lost would have been much lower
  • In the midst of all this, I am told water was sold for Rs. 100, wafer packs were being hawked for Rs. 400,…
  • In social media some were lamenting about the possible wash out of the Champions Trophy final last Sunday when few towns and villages have been washed away from the maps in Uttarakhand!
  • On the flip side, I was touched seeing a story of a group of Sikh volunteers who reached Uttarakhand with a sole purpose of performing last rites in mass funerals. Amidst the cacophony this story Continue reading
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