Mukul Mishra is a journalist working with Niti Digital currently. He has previously worked in NewsX and Doordarshan News.
Nature has unleashed its wrath on Uttarakhand. Hundreds of people have died and thousands are still stranded. It seems, the land of God has turned into the town of ghost. Although official figure of death toll in the catastrophe, caused by flash floods followed by landslides, is placed around 1,000 but in actual, it likely to cross over 5,000. More than 1000 roads, 90 bridges have been washed away in the monsoon mayhem in Dev Bhoomi. Even, the holy shrine of Kedarnath has barely survived, it is buried deep in mud. But question is who is responsible for this catastrophe?
Uttarakhand tragedy, which seems to be a natural calamity, in fact is the man made disaster. Colossal greed of politicians and bureaucrats has eaten up the lives of thousands. The experts say that unplanned development and rampant destruction of forests is the some of the main reasons behind the nature’s fury. Then, unabated construction of hydro-electric (hydel) power projects, roads, hotels have also compounded the problem and made the State prone to such disaster.
“When you change the course of a river by mining, cutting of trees indiscriminately and building roads in a haphazard manner, such a calamity is bound to take place,” said PP Dayani, director of the GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development.
According to experts, nature has its own capacity to recover and rejuvenate, and humans should not challenge it. “A lesson to be learnt is Garhwal’s 1805 earthquake which is a classic example of that one should not meddle with nature, said Ravi Chopra, director of the Dehradun-based People Science Institute.
According to a report in Times of India, CAG had said that State Disaster Management System has never met since it was formed in October, 2007. It is quite obvious, when they have not met even once in six years, then there must have no polices, guidelines, rules, regulations in place to deal with such a catastrophe.
It is really surprising that a State like Uttarakhand, which had witnessed two earthquakes in 1996 in Uttarkashi and 1998 in Chamoli respectively, has no such system in place to prevent such a calamity. The news reports also stated there are around 70 hydel projects working in three basins, namely, Alkananda, Mandakini and Bhagirathi. So many dams and roads have been built in an unscientific manner, which really have worsened the situation.
Reports also say that no prior sanction is being taken by concerned authorities for these hydel projects. Here the question is why so many illegal constructions are thriving in the State right under the nose of authorities? This in a way tells that there is a big nexus between politicians and bureaucrats, who do not bother about the common people. Moreover, under the name of development, they are playing with the lives of common people. They only care for their own kin, whose safety is utmost important to them, that is why they are making numerous calls to the concerned authorities to rescue their own people on priority basis.
ITBP battles harsh weather to evacuate people from Uttarakhand
When questioned on it, the Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said that even a few hundred or a thousand trained people cannot handle any disaster of this magnitude. This is a similar situation as we had seen in the tsunami. See his temerity, who says that even the Centre does not have the mechanism to deal with such a disaster. Point is, until we will not have any coherent strategy to deal with such a calamity, we will continue to suffer. Many more will be killed if no timely decision is taken.
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