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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Devastated Uttarakhand-A Saga of Endless Suffering And Indomitable Courage



It’s now nearly a fortnight since the flash floods devastated the north Indian state of Uttarakhand leaving a trail of endless sufferings and indomitable courage. Torrential rains and cloudbursts led to the flash floods the fury of which was beyond our human imagination. The floods swept away or swallowed up anything that came its way—pilgrims and tourists; cottages, houses and buildings; guest houses and hotels; huge chunks of land mass and roads; hills and hilly tracks and the temples and even the sacred idols in this holy state of the Char Dham Yatra pilgrimage. After the rescue of more than 100000 pilgrims thousands are still trapped and missing. While the official death toll has been pegged at around 1000 sources say it could be beyond 10000 when you account for the fact that thousands of missing persons have not returned still. Mother Nature punished her greedy children one more time in such a telling manner that the governments and the people of our planet earth better stop and ponder before embarking on the next folly.

Thousands got trapped and stranded in various tricky and inaccessible nooks and corners of this hilly state—a natural paradise ever increasingly compromised by human greed in the forms of lobbies and coteries involving an unholy nexus of politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, builders and brokers. Questions of Eco-zone sensitivity and ecology guidelines always get relegated against such overpowering greed.
It’s no secret that millions of sinners in this great country throng temples, holy places and sacred waterways in a desperate bid to wash away their sins and you can see their desperation when you get pushed, sidestepped and manhandled while standing in any queue for any temple or holy places. It looks like the incorrigible sinners try to absolve their sins so that they can go back to commit more sins in their daily life and come back again creating a vicious circle of vice and virtue. This desperation translates into the 'business' desperation to cash on. We like it or not, the Uttarakhand devastation is another classic example of man’s folly and Nature’s wrath.

While the inimitable Indian politicians of all hues and colors hankered for garnering credit—the most sought after commodity in any form of Indian activity—for providing relief and rescue for the stranded pilgrims the trapped ones continued to suffer indescribable misery of starvation and death, and the soldiers of the armed forces launched the biggest rescue mission in Indian history braving the furious weather and risking their own lives. The unsung heroes of Uttarakhand have made thousands of helicopter sorties rescuing more than hundred thousand stranded so far and they have displayed full skill, bravery and courage while getting them to the helicopters through makeshift bridges over rifts, rope-ways from inaccessible hilltop roads and plain mountain climbing. Few days back the armed forces—prominently the Ind-Tibetan Border Police, the Army, the Air Force—rescued 4500 people with 330 helicopter sorties in a day making this the biggest chopper rescue mission of the world so far.

Can you imagine in this modern age of communication people have died in thousands failing to find roads to travel, for the lack of shelter in adverse weather conditions and not finding enough water or food. In this saga you hear tales of good Samaritans coming to their help providing free food and water, and also of cheats and thugs robbing and overcharging the hapless masses.


The brave soldiers fighting the immense human tragedy have had their share of tragedy too. Twenty excellent pilots of the Indian Air Force engaged continuously in the rescue mission got killed tragically when the helicopter carrying them to transit camp crashed in Uttarakhand. India cried for these martyrs belonging to almost every state of the country with three of them from Maharashtra and Mumbai. We salute the Heroes.

With the rescue operations scheduled to end in a day or two the authorities are trying hard to prevent the possible outbreak of epidemic as it has been a mammoth task to cremate all the bodies of the victims. Unfortunately, the blame game continues too, with the met office insisting it had issued rare kind of weather warnings for stopping and evacuating the pilgrims, and the state authorities denying it stoutly.

Granted we are always at the mercy of Mother Nature and we are helpless against the kind of immense calamities that can confront us anytime. But we can definitely correct ourselves to help our Mother in a more meaningful way and possibly prevent more Uttarakhands from unfolding in near future.

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