KEDARNATH/DEHRADUN: The Uttarakhand disaster is turning out to be nature’s fury at its worst. Over 1200 are feared dead and thousands still missing in one of the worst tragedies the country has ever seen. Yet, the Centre is still feeling shy of declaring it a national calamity.
It’s a race against time for the nearly 6000 army personnel deployed in rescue operations, as heavy rains are predicted from Monday onwards. Evacuating pilgrims from some of the remote areas is turning out to be a tough task due to the weather and harsh terrain. Meanwhile several stranded victims are on the verge of death having gone without food for a week. At least 25,000 stranded people are still awaiting rescue. Fresh rain could add to the woes of the stranded people, taking down night temperatures even as they battle hunger.
Even with hundreds dead and thousands stuck in tragedy-hit Uttarakhand, there are people who have decided to make a quick buck by exploiting the helpless and stranded. Survivors narrate tales of horror when they were being asked to pay over Rs. 150 for a single roti by the locals, when they had lost everything except their own life. With reports of such apathy by the locals, we clearly need to reflect on our own humanitarian values.
The temple town of Kedarnath lies completely destroyed amidst boulders and rocks with strewn bodies all around the shrine. It is ironic that such a disaster happened at the shrine of Lord Shiva, the God of Destruction. Local priest who witnessed the entire disaster described it as Shiva’s Tandava (Dance of Death) as the raging river Manadkini swallowed everything that came in its’ way. Only the main temple structure and the Shivlinga remained intact with no one around it anymore to worship it.
Images of rescue operations flashing on the news channels show commendable efforts by the paramilitary forces in organizing bridges across some of rivers where bridges were completely swallowed by the raging river.
Meanwhile, politicians squabble as Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde admitted to a “lack of coordination between government agencies engaged in rescue operations”. Shinde, who arrived at the site to review the rescue operations, said “the disaster was not man-made”. However the government should understand that any more lives lost now due to delayed or inadequate rescue response would be no short of a man-made disaster.
The apparent lack of coordination which delayed the rescue operations raises questions over disaster preparedness of the states. Even though a disaster of such magnitude never occurred in the history of Uttarakhand, there is no reason for the disaster management systems not to be in place.
Moreover, climatologists claim that occurrence of such extreme events has increased exponentially over the last two decades due to global warming. Melting of glaciers of the Himalayas due to climate change was a known fact and disaster was only waiting to be struck. As probability of climate catastrophe due to global warming is rising, more resources need to be allocated for adaption and mitigation of climate change.