Ayushman Jamwal works on the foreign desk at CNN-IBN.
The floods in Uttarakhand have decimated thousands of acres of land and caused irreparable damage to life and property. It has been one of the deadliest natural disasters the state has seen in the last three decades, crumbling crucial infrastructure and leaving the survivors cold, hungry and helpless. The floods may have been a natural calamity of epic proportions, but it dramatically exposed the failure of the state government in preparing for such a crisis, which regularly frequents the region during the monsoon season.
The CAG released a report on April 23 this year slamming the Uttarakhand government for its shoddy disaster management protocols. It said that the state's disaster management authority which was set up in 2007 had not even met once in the six years of its inception, and did not work under a formal set of operational policies or guidelines.
It stated that no actionable programs exist in Uttarakhand for the various kinds of disasters the state could face, be it flash floods, cloud bursts or glacier collapses, and that the state lacked basic personnel and training to handle natural disasters. The report said that 44 per cent of the posts in district emergency operation cells are vacant; no disaster response training is provided at the district or village levels; and there are no medical personnel trained in emergency hospital preparedness.
Despite all of these shortfalls, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna continues to argue that no level of preparedness could have mitigated against the damage to life caused by the floods, not even reflecting how many he could have saved if the state emergency protocols were in place. More misfortune recently hit the people of Uttarakhand as the human calamity started descending into a political showdown on the national stage.
Ever since Narendra Modi arrived in Dehradun, the Congress mobilised its sound byte staff against him, spiralling the crisis into a BJP vs Congress tug of war for political points. Many locals and tourists are still stranded in the Badrinath and Harsil sectors.
In the face of administrative failure and political mudslinging, the Indian armed forces have proved their mettle once again. The army and the air force have stepped in, giving a significant boost to the relief and rescue operations in the state.
The armed forces have coordinated to mobilise sorties to airlift many of the stranded in the affected areas, but poor weather has been a major impediment in the last few days. Nonetheless, the army has kept up their ground operations, fearlessly working in dangerous conditions, scrambling its small helicopters to move people out of the critical areas.
Jawans are digging up paths, clearing roads, constructing makeshift bridges, and leading columns of evacuees over ground to safety. The army has also set up emergency relief camps at various rescue points providing food and medical attention to the rescued.
Additionally, spokespersons from the army central command are in constant touch with the television media, giving daily updates on the progress of the rescue and relief operations, an important task that the government continues to ignore. Every day, many tourists return to their homes across India to be greeted by their emotional families who are all praises for the bravery and benevolence of the officers and jawans for saving their lives.
India's armed forces have come to the nation's aid once again. They are fulfilling a crucial administrative role while state administrators are engaged in a futile attempt at political damage control, oblivious to the fact that they have already lost. The military continues to be an efficient, organized and able institution that serves out of a sense of duty, committed to rescuing and protecting those hit by this calamity.
I salute the officers and jawans for their courage and dedication, and urge the government to take a step back from the mudslinging to award all those engaged in the rescue efforts with gallantry awards for their remarkable service. The time to do this is now.