People's Democracy

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


No. 45

November 10, 2013

West Bengal Central Govt Employees’

Relief Mission in Uttarakhand


THE Coordination Committee of Central Govt.Employees & Workers Unions & Associations, West Bengal, besides carrying on struggle on various demands of central government employees and joining with the common trade union movement of the country, is also discharging social responsibilities sincerely.


After the deluge in Uttarakhand in mid-June this year, the Coordination Committee decided to physically reach the poor people with whatever relief material it could arrange. Accordingly, Gautam Pramanick,  and two other leading activists of central government employees movement in West Bengal reached Ukhimath in Rudra Prayag district of Uttarakhand on 26th October, 2013. Relief materials were procured from Dehradun. Three hundred packets of materials were loaded in a truck. Each packet contained five kg of rice, five kg of atta, one kg of sooji, one litre of mustard oil, half kg of sugar, two kg of pulses, one kg salt, half kg of tea leaves, packets of spices like chilly, turmeric, cumin, coriander, etc. soaps, detergents, toothpastes and also a blanket, a pullover and a cap.


An activist of Uttarakhand central government employees movement and Dehradun-based science movement activist Indresh Notial and Kamalesh joined the team from West Bengal. Starting in early morning on 26th October they reached Phata village in Ukhimath in late evening. On the way they saw horrible sight of debris and ruins of roads and houses. Roadside mandis (markets) and human settlements visible earlier, had completely disappeared. In fact there was no road after Rudraprayag. The truck loaded with relief material and the car carrying the volunteers inched up on avalanches (way on which mass of snow or rock rolled down once). The Hanging Bridge over Mandakini river was also damaged. This is in sharp contrast to the claim made by a spokesperson of Disaster Management Centre, Uttarakhand on 28th August, 2013 that 1967 out of 2302 roads that were totally damaged have been repaired.


It is learnt that the state Public Works Department failed miserably. Only after the union government stepped in with Border Roads  Organisation (BRO), repair and reconstruction work started with some pace. But shockingly, as alleged by local people, BRO is working with scant regard to construction and environmental norms. For example construction materials are being thrown into river beds.


Distribution of relief material started in the morning of 27th October, 2013. The team visited three villages. At Sershi, 70 families received relief packets. At Khat village 73 distressed families came to the camp to receive relief material. Last point was Dhargaon Khadia where one hundred fifty seven families received such help. Scene was similar everywhere. Women, children and old villagers came down with cane baskets from the hills. They thanked the activists passionately with inimitable folk style and language. A little conversation with them unfolded stories of unbearable misery and painful memories of the kin lost forever on the fateful day.


Thousands of poneys, mules, road-side tea stalls and other shops were destroyed. Sole bread earners of the family also died with the destruction of means of livelihood. Now, women, children and old, infirm elders are passing days without any definite means of subsistence. Once again their stories sharply ridicule official claims that 90 per cent of compensation claims have been settled.


The main opposition political party was keen on the demand of fast re-opening of worship in Kedarnath temple. The government lost no time to repair and open the temple lest opposition earns some political mileage. Helipads were constructed at different places. Affluent devotees can offer Puja (worship) in temple by paying hefty amount to private helicopter owners. Public-owned Pavan Hans is also happy with the business of helicopter service.


Shockingly, but not surprisingly, below the azure sky and by the side of Alkananda and Mandakini, stories of intense quarrel and in-fight among ministers, MLAs and their relatives on the matter of grabbing contracts and orders are being heard everywhere .


The team was told that the CPI(M) and few other mass organisations with limited capacity are trying to stand by the inhabitants of this region who lost everything. But whatever they could arrange is far from being adequate .As expected inflow of aid is not that inadequate.


The Coordination Committee team returned to Dehradun and finally left for Kolkata on 29th October, 2013. Their heart was filled with the satisfaction of helping the most deserving people. They were touched by the warm cordiality of the activists of the democratic movement of Uttarakhand. But at the same time were saddened with the thought of helpless destitution of thousands of people.  Reassuring words came from Vijay Rawat that the CPI(M) is going to initiate movement from mid-November on demands of compensation, road construction, public distribution system, etc.


Our team felt that what happened in Uttarakhand in mid-June was a national disaster. Entire nation stood by Uttarakhand people. Employees and workers remitted crores of rupees to either PM Relief Fund or Uttarakhand CM Relief Fund. Now it is incumbent upon the democratic movement of the country to build up solidarity movement in support of the demands of Uttarakhand people which is more than just.