- Harish Jharia
Indian state Uttarakhand witnessed a nightmarish catastrophe on 16th and 17th June that started with heavy rains on Kedarnath Mountains, followed by cloudbursts, killing a thousand plus people and devastating billions of Rupees of properties of the holy shrine Kedarnath Dham and hundreds of villages in its vicinity.
The Uttarakhand state government, the district administration and other self-governing bodies miserably failed to evacuate the stranded pilgrims from the devastated pilgrimage township. The authorities also ignored the widespread devastation across the hundred odd villages and the starving people of those villages of Gadhwal Hills.
Indian Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh and the ruling alliance UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi went on an aerial survey of the devastated area of Kedarnath Mountains. Their aerial surveillance of the leaders resulted in huge deployment of army personnel including Indian Army, Indian Air force, ITBP, and other paramilitary forces. These armed forces and paramilitary personnel did exemplary services to the stranded people and saving lives of thousands of pilgrims in Kedarnath and elsewhere in the flood affected Himalayan valley.
At the same time, the Indian politicians, especially from the ruling party in Uttarakhand and in the center, were busy in reaping political advantages by showing off their efforts in serving and helping the flood affected pilgrims. The most visible and widely publicized act was supplying food and relief material to the marooned people in the Himalayan pilgrimage.
TV news channels beamed clips of trucks carrying relief material for the stranded pilgrims at Kedarnath hilly areas. It was declared that the relief material was sent by the government; at the same time, the trucks loaded with food and basic necessities were wrapped with huge banners displaying imaged of Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. The banners also were carried captions of ‘Youth Congress’. Some snaps of Sonia Gandhi flagging off truck fleets loaded with relief material along with her son Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders were also releases to the media.
The chief minister of Uttarakhand refused permission to other state governments of Gujrat, Madhya Pradesh etc, when they offered to join the evacuation and relief operations in the Himalayan devastated hills. They even refused entry for trucks that were proposed to be sent by other state governments. The obvious reason for this arrogant refusal of humanitarian help was that the other chief ministers were heading non-congress governments.
A couple of Congress spokespersons kept justifying Uttarakhand Chief Minister’s refusal of permission to other Indian states governments for the evacuation and rehabilitation mission. Nevertheless, the Uttarakhand government has accepted that they failed in saving the lives of thousands of pilgrims and billions of Rupees of properties.