Uttarakhand Calamity : Heroes and Non-Heroes

Recently we have been witnessing the tragedy in the aftermath of  heavy floods in the Kedarnath, Rudraprayag area of Uttarakhand. Various TV channels have been showing footage of the efforts that were made to save the civilians. One thing is quite clear : that it is only the Army, Air Force and the paramilitary forces who have done commendable jobs. Not only did they fly helicopters to get out the stranded people but also put up platoon bridges; small bridges were made on rivers so that people can hang on to a rope and cross over because it was not possible to walk to the other side.  All this really makes us proud of our uniformed men.  On the other hand, it is also equally clear that the civilian administration in these areas is not up to the mark at all.  As it is, civilians all over the country are not equipped to do this kind of work but it is expected, especially in a hill State like Uttarakhand where there is eco-fragility, that there will be some back-up reserves with the civil authorities. They are conspicuous by their absence. I do not know whether their contribution amounts to anything at all. Another thing is also quite clear : that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is an ineffective body.  The Chairman of NDMA, one Mr. Reddy came on TV and said there is no definition of ‘national disaster’ in the mandate given to the NDMA.   How ridiculous can that be?  Government money is being spent on the NDMA,  and its Chairman himself says  that we do not know what is a national disaster.  Then why have we formed this body?  It was formed in 2005 – 2006 but Its formation if I am not mistaken, was first recommended following the Gujarat earthquake of January 26, 2001 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister.. After the tsumani of December 26, 2004, calls for a national body equipped to act in times of disaster became more strident and the NDMA was set up. It was expected to do mock exercises when there is no disaster so that in the eventuality of a disaster they can act fast. I don’t think they did so in this calamity in Uttarakhand.  The Government needs to examine whether such a body need to be there at all.  I believe there is a State Disaster Management Authority which has hardly worked since inception. How callous can we get.

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