the saviours

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 29 Aug 2018 12:23:48

DISASTERS and hard times create unknown heroes, goes an old adage. In the last few days, India has witnessed many such heroes who deserve our unabashed love without any apology. They have been the saviours, risking their own lives but responding to the call of duty. People in Kerala have seen them wading through raging waters, rowing through flooded streets, rappelling down on narrow surfaces to save precious lives. As per the defence ministry, all the three wings of the armed forces, Coast Guard and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) rescued over 23,000 stranded people during ‘Operation Madad’ in various districts of the flood-ravaged State.

Be it Kerala, Uttarakhand, Gujarat or Jammu & Kashmir, the armed forces have been acting as our saviours during every disaster -- be it natural or man-made. Kerala’s floods have brought to fore the crucial role of the armed forces and allied rescue teams during such catastrophes. It is the core value of putting country over self, ingrained in our forces the day they walk in to serve the nation, which is helping civilian population in their hours of distress. Kerala has already showed its gratefulness to the central forces. These heroes in uniform must be bestowed with a salute of gratitude by every citizen.

As Kerala grapples with the aftermath of floods and struggles to get on its feet, a thorough probe and deeper analysis behind the disaster is of imminent importance to check further such incidents. Kerala’s floods were a result of excessive rainfall in a short period of time. But it was as much a man-made disaster as it was a natural calamity.
The floods bring into focus the 2011 report on the Western Ghats, authored by noted ecologist Mr. Madhav Gadgil, that had made key recommendations for preserving ecology and biodiversity of the region along Arabian Sea coast. According to Mr. Gadgil, had some of his important recommendations been taken seriously by the governments in the State, it would have mitigated the scale of the disaster to a large extent.

Mr. Gadgil’s recommendations were for the benefit of six States along the Arabian Sea coast including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. None of the States agreed with the Committee’s report. Political pressure prevailed over common sense and a watered-down report was presented by the subsequent committee led by space scientist K. Kasturirangan.

Since the 2013 Uttarakhand flooding, that saw massive destruction and loss of human lives, no one seems to have learnt any lesson. Turning a blind eye towards warnings and suggested measures for the sake of commercial and political gains is a deep-rooted malaise in India. The consequences are laid bare in Kerala’s flooded landscape. The floods again exposed our casual attitude for such tragedies.

For Kerala, Mr. Gadgil had proposed ban on sand mining, quarrying, wind energy projects and new polluting industries in the region marked as sensitive. The State objected to each of these recommendations and went ahead with its projects. Tinkering with nature was a short-sighted policy as it completely ignored warnings of a massive fall-out.

Same was the case during the Uttarakhand tragedy where infrastructure was allowed on lands that were vulnerable. The sights of 2013, when hillocks caved in and structures withered in flood water, were repeated five years later in 2018 in another State.

The question here yet again is, when are we going to learn from our mistakes? There is still no clear policy on dam water management. Regulations are still not in sight to stop commercial exploitation of sensitive lands. How many times the heroes in uniform are going to save us?