People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIV

No. 49

December 05, 2010

 

UTTARAKHAND

 

Irresponsible Govt Response to Natural Disaster

 

Vijay Rawat

 

THIS year the rainy session in Uttarakhand, which begins in June and continues up to September, not only brought rain but unprecedented tragedies as well. The final count, as given by the state government, was: 219 deaths, 135 very seriously injured, 7,062 cattle and animals perished, 62,975 houses destroyed or heavily damaged, agricultural land damaged and destroyed due to landslides, 1,28,576 family units affected. The government also claimed that 1522 drinking water schemes and 1200 km of roads were damaged. Such an unprecedented disaster would have called for an unprecedented response from the government and the latter should have mobilised the support of all sections of the population, political formations and civil society groups who have access to people and villages even in remote areas. But the fact of the matter is that the entire mechanism of disaster management collapsed. The state governmentís insensitivity was also reflected in a cabinet expansion which took place at the time the calamity was at its peak.

 

CPI(M) UNITS MOVE

TO AFFECTED AREAS

While the CPI(M) state unit approached the state government through letters and messages, asking it to immediately call an all-party meeting, its units especially in the districts of Almora, Dehra Dun and Chamoli were asked to be in the areas affected by the disaster. It was reported that despite the chief minister hopping in a helicopter, no effective disaster management was in operation. Given the state of medial infrastructure, no primary emergency medical assistance could be provided. The much touted 108 emergency mobile medical services became ineffective because of damaged roads. Our comrades in the districts reported that the immediate needs were of the shelter to homeless, food and fuel items. Even at the end of September provision for these things was not made in many areas. What great damage the ruling parties at the centre and in the state have done by to the health and food security network, was quite visible. There was no healthcare available when it was needed most, and no ration was available at the PDS outlets in most parts of the state. In face of such an extreme situation and very irresponsible and callous government leadership and administrative machinery, the CPI(M) decided to mobilise people and political parties for relief work and to press upon the government the need to call an all-party meeting.

 

DHARNA

IN GANDHI PARK

United action started at the CPI(M)ís initiative to draw the attention of the people and the government to the extreme situation due to the natural disaster and the failure of the government to meet the situation. The dharna in Gandhi Park started at 10 a m and lasted till 4 p m. The principal speakers, apart from CPI(M) leaders, were Samar Bhandari of the CPI, Rajiv Kothari of the Uttarakhand Parivartan Party, Latafat Hussain of the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal and Nirmala Bisht of Mahila Manch. We insisted that the medical, food, shelter and employment needs needed to be attended immediately. We also pressed upon the government for an all-party initiative to help and organise relief in the state. We started that universalisation of the PDS, serious implementation of the MNREGA, restoration of road links and provision of drinking water facilities were the need of the hour, and that immediate implementation of all central funded schemes for dalits, minorities, women, tribal communities should be ensured. The government was criticised for its totally unreliable bureaucratic approach. At the conclusion of the dharna, a press conference was also organised.

 

ALL-PARTY MEET

AT LONG LAST

It was only on November 16 that the chief minister finally found time to convene a meeting on the disaster issue. The CPI(M) reiterated its position and criticised the government and the CM for taking the issue in a very irresponsible manner. The disaster struck the state in August-September and the all-party meeting was called in mid-November! Then we made the following proposals for consideration:

1) The rate at which the relief was being provided needed drastic upward revision.

2) No person entitled to relief must be left out, and a fresh evaluation and survey exercise must be initiated to ensure this.

3) Representatives of all political parties must be involved in the district level disaster relief committees.

4) Employment of 100 days must be ensured for the remaining period in this financial year so that the needy families could get work for 200 days in continuation.

5) Since the disaster has struck the entire state, there is no logic of dividing people on BPL/APL lines. As an immediate measure, 35 kg of rice and wheat should be provided to all the families at Rs 2 per kg, besides providing them subsidised pulses and kerosene.

6) Many cowsheds, watermills and fish ponds have been damaged in the state. So provision for relief in their regard needed to be made. One must realise that villagers in many parts of the state have summer-time cowsheds in hilly areas and migrate to the lower reaches in the winter. This has to be taken care of.

7) It was also suggested that the experience gained from the recent disaster must make the state formulate some kind of insurance scheme that covers land, crops and housed, besides life.

8) Finally, there is the need of an efficient and ever present district administration which is sensitive to the needs of the people and not merely the needs of the ruling party.

These suggestions put forward by the CPI(M) were appreciated by other parties and one hopes that the state government and its administration would prove themselves worthy of the expectations.

 

The CPI(M) has also decided to organise a protest week and demands day in the middle of December.