Natural Diasters Become Loot Festivals

The rain is coming and the rivers are overflowing, but Ministers, politicians and officers are not worried about this at all. There will be destruction and devastation again in Uttarakhand, but what could happen in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and in a large part of Odisha over the next two months, the Governments have made no preparation for it. Actually, in our country, floods are known as a Loot Festival. The Loot Festival means that there is a wait for when the money for flood assistance will come and how it will be divided. Divided not between the flood hit people and flood ravaged areas and disaster affected people, but divided amongst officers and Ministers. Some money also goes to ‘big’ Opposition leaders, so they don’t raise a hue and cry. So far it has been shown that money is spent to assist the flood affected and there is corruption, but the noise made about it is ritualistic. The people who make a ritualistic noise are politicians. Newspaper people think they have fulfilled their duty by publishing photographs of some places and people affected by the floods and by sending aid packets to flood affected people via helicopters or motorised boats.
This story is not the story of the last two, four, ten or twenty years, but this same story has been continuing since the last 60 years. Continuing since the last 60 years means that our whole system has acquired specialisation in how to prepare during the floods for the looting and how to loot. It is a matter of regret that the common people of our country have not realised that in 60 years no way has been evolved or a system developed through which flood affected people could be provided help without defaulting. In fact, why flood affected alone  drought, earthquakes, etc. also come in this category. Earthquakes are occurring now and they have been coming earlier too, but in any calamity, in any disaster we have never allowed disaster relief material to reach disaster victims with honesty and integrity. Nobody has been given the responsibility to see that if there is corruption in relief material during a calamity, floods, drought, or there is defaulting in the division and sharing of the relief material, is there some punishment for it or not. If people surrounded by floods die due to drowning, 80 per cent is the responsibility of the administration, which does not have the means to save people! And this when they know that it will rain during this month and in this month the rivers will be overflowing, due to which so many lakh people will be affected. If they didn’t have these figures, how could they prepare lists in advance of how many people will possibly be affected and so much money should be given to them, for which both the Central Government and the State Government will have to make preparations. To those people who are likely to be affected, or are affected, no warning is ever given, they are never evacuated to another place and whatever the difficulties they have to face, their causes are never removed.

 This is the first time when people are not donating money to the  Prime Minister’s Relief Fund  and it is the same situation with the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. Many people are sending material directly to Uttarakhand. It is a different matter that the material is not being divided or shared with integrity and sincerity.

The administration and those who held control dug up the rivers so brutally that the stratum of sand in rivers perished. The sand and mud are excavated from the bottom of the river bed, making the river sides unstable and with overflowing rivers, the sides crumble and cave in and along with river banks riverside villages are swallowed up by the rushing, surcharged river. Villagers do not know how deep inside the river the waters are taking them into the mouth of death and all this happens because people connected with Ministers, the Government and the administration are partners in this illegal mining and the money therefrom. When people die, then people in the system responsible for death should also be prosecuted, because these deaths occurred because of them. The people due to whom the deaths occur in floods and untimely deaths take place, there should be cases of murder lodged against them and where there is a situation like that in Uttar Pradesh, there a murder case should be lodged against the entire Government.
Our justice system appears to be insensitive in this matter. The Central Government is in a position of great power, but it has not so far declared Uttarakhand a national disaster, even though people from different States have died in this calamity. By declaring it a divine disaster the disaster does not end, but by declaring it a divine disaster a message does go out to the people of the whole country that they must do something to help the disaster victims. On the other hand, what to speak of the Uttarakhand Government! Because such a Government is a model Government for the country  a Government which did not know the extent of the floods and how many people died. On the night of 14 June when the first flood waves came, then television channels were showing the Shiva idol in the river Ganga at Rishikesh, opposite Parmarth Niketan and pointing out that the waters had risen till here and here. The Shiva idol got totally submerged. Till 17 June this was telecast repeatedly and people of the Uttarakhand Government were viewing this on television and taking exceptional comfort in it. Roads have been closed to some places, the yatra (pilgrimage) to Char Dham has been halted – this was probably what was being said all around. On 18 June, a family wanted to visit Kedarnath for ‘darshan’ but when the family reached above Kedarnath, it saw that except for the temple, there was nothing much left at Kedarnath. When they returned and reported this, then people got to know the story of Kedarnath. The great Government of Uttarakhand in the name of helping people trapped in this divine disaster simply ridiculed them, as the work of evacuating the people to safe places was undertaken by the Army. The body language with which the Ministers and the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand came before television cameras and the way they came with smiling faces, it seemed to the people watching how very insensitive they were.
I had gone to Lucknow for a meeting. In the evening I went to have tea with someone I knew. He told me a startling story. The young girl working for him also gave some material for the flood hit in Uttarkhand. When my friend asked her to whom she had given the material, she said we have given it to an institution which said that they are sending relief material to Uttarakhand. Then the girl advised that ‘Mem sahib, don’t send money to the Prime Minister’s office, because there the Prime Minister eats up the money and therefore the money doesn’t reach the right people or place’. Hearing this story, I felt sorry at how much our politicians have allowed their credibility to fall. This is the first time when people are not donating money to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund and it is the same situation with the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. Many people are sending material directly to Uttarakhand. It is a different matter that the material is not being divided or shared with integrity and sincerity.
In Uttarakhand, because of the inaction and lethargy of the Government machinery a food riot situation arose, because the material that is being sent is being looted. The material is being dropped from helicopters and falling either in the rivers or in the jungles. And the biggest thing, the entire administrative machinery of Uttarakhand, particularly its police is crippled. What the police of Uttarakhand did in this terrible disaster will be interesting to know after some time. Youths who do not have the experience of climbing mountains, such youth are going to Uttarakhand and somehow, despite sustaining injuries are making sure relief material reaches the villages. But the Uttarakhand Government was not doing what it should have been doing and instead, was applying its mind to what should be done with the thousand crore rupees that would come to it as a relief package from the Central Government, how it should be spent. The Government is not worried about the people of its State. In fact, it is worried about people from outside the State only because there is an uproar about them in the country. And how much the Uttarakhand Government should be congratulated for this concern, one is almost running out of words. One wants to say just one thing – that another State should not become an example like Uttarakhand!
The essential thing is that not only in Uttarakhand, but in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and areas like Odisha which are prone to floods, assistance and relief material should reach with honesty and sincerity. People should become alert and put pressure on the Governments to search quickly for logical solutions to such problems, because it is really a matter of regret that our neighbouring country China has been able to liberate itself from the danger
of floods, and we in our country await floods or drought only so that money can be eaten in the form of a Loot


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