Jobs @ MG
Kutch revisited: a voice in the wilderness
By QUREISH RAGHIB, Mumbai
|Though not lying along the edges of the lithosphere plates where earthquakes are common, India experienced the first major earthquake of the millennium. The severity of the earthquake in Kutch, Gujarat on 26 January 2001 could justly be compared to the Good Friday earthquake on 27 March 1964 near Anchorage, Alaska.
Whatever the statistical or analytical controversy, the bottom line, India’s fastest developing State-- - Gujarat, was forced on its knees; reminding one and all the sheer haplessness and hopelessness of mankind against rages of Nature.
From being technically ill equipped to financially constrained, the Government of India was always on the back foot since the first building-dubiously inspected and approved by corrupt government authorities, crashed like ninepins on India's Republic Day last year in the Kutch region.
Ironically, for once, the political clout got unified in pursuing speedy rehabilitation of the affected in Gujarat. Unfortunately, parallel to that, due to the collapsing infrastructure and frustrating bureaucracy – thanks to our internationally unmatched dirty politics, the toll of multiplying victims due to man-made bungles was equally heart sickening.
The dawdling attitude of the embarrassingly confused parliamentarians at the Center who were largely responsible for delaying crucial relief and rescue the aftermath of the devastating tremors was but predictable. To add insult to injury, unjustified speculations of the number of casualties, irrational hypothesise of more tremors, and quakes by senior politicians certainly were unforgivable. Not only did it cause unnecessary fear in the common man’s mind and heart but friends and relatives from all parts of the nation tried reaching the over crowded quake regions more out of desperation than concern and subsequently hampered relief measures.
The All Parties Meeting convened by the Prime Minister on the eighth day of the disaster to discuss relief operations in the quake ravaged zone, vividly reflected the casual attitude of our political pundits in pursuing issues pertaining to human lives, let alone human rights. Even after three weeks, villages in interior Kutch had not received adequate relief. Trucks carrying relief material drove on to over supplied quake-affected towns and cities as isolated villagers looked on haplessly and ultimately had to hijack food loaded trucks in sheer desperation.
Obviously, like it’s parental governing body at the Center, the state government in Gujarat was equally responsible for all the compounded blunders while dealing with the calamity at hand. Distribution of relief material was communalised as were the funds. Politics came into play instead of genuine governance. Bureaucratic discrimination was rampant. It would be justified to assert that, including both the State and the Central governments, the rhetoric Opposition party was also accountable for every needless human life lost in the aftermath of one of the worst human tragedies of Independent India.
However, the only silver lining was that local government authorities had diligently worked beyond limits while dealing with the after effects of the Gujarat catastrophe. Senior officials like Collector of Kutch, Mr. Kamal Dayani and his colleagues were reported to be running the local administrative machinery more with blood and sweat than by usual verbal supervision. Local communities like the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim Community with its regional network of volunteers and administrators were the first to set up food distribution and medical camps for the locals- long before international and governmental organizations steeped in Kutch.
Furthermore, the print and electronic media both made remarkable efforts to particularly convey the grief, pain and tribulations of the quake affected to the masses. Taking into view the antiquated Indian judicial system and political complacency, the Indian press was the only commendable Solicitor which could have ensured justice for the grief stricken people of Gujarat who were, for days left desolated and unattended due to the carelessness and callousness of their elected legislative representatives.
Pathetically, like the political clout, the Fourth Estate didn't shoulder the tremendous long-term responsibility to consistently report the pall of miseries hovering over Kutch and to make sure the plight of its people was not forgotten. But it stands to reason that, lapse on the Media's part during the year, eventually opportuned the Distress Management Cell, tentatively set up by Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayjee to be shrewdly shoved into cold storage by the governing guardians of India. As usual the Cell shall only gingerly resurface from its political hibernation after the nation once again experiences the wrath of Nature.
The State of Gujarat since 1998 has experienced two killer cyclones, two devastating floods and followed by the all destructive earthquake in Western India on the dawn of the new millennium. Shall it take a few more devastating natural calamities to awaken the political community to take effective measures for its pained citizens.
In the meantime can the Government of India show any commendable betterment it has done for the people of Gujarat, particularly in the rural areas where even after twelve months; people still languish under plastic sheet roofs? Where have all the billions and billions of funds been channeled to? As usual, no answers!
The heart-rending fact is, even as thousands cry in angst, deprivation and fear amidst the ruins of Kutch, they're a voice in the wilderness. q
needs your support