Friday, June 28, 2013

Disasters Come Disasters Go – Part 2

Lt Gen (Retd) Prakash Katoch.

Chief Secretay, Uttrakhand has eventually been permitted by his boss to make a statement that the death toll in the disaster may raise to 3000. This is still far from the truth and full eight days after Al Jazeera announced that the death toll is likely to be 6000 or more. Vijay Bahugana and Co conveniently discounted that, obviously scared of more brickbats for this mammoth avoidable loss of lives. The coterie would have continued to do so were in not for the pro-active media, reporting live from the disaster area that there are “thousands of bodies lying along the riverside”. Then, persons interviewed live said that the government list was falsely showing their relatives alive who were missing ever since disaster struck. Bahugana would have loved to stick to the figures of bodies actually cremated, which was perhaps the briefing to Shinde on orders of high command. The usual game being; release the figures slowly, playing time till other events overtake the issue.  The actual numbers may well exceed beyond 6000 but do numbers really matter? It does not affect fund collection and less the official deaths, less the need of disbursing relief. Part of the collection can go towards party fund / elections with no questions asked. Can someone investigate what funds were collected and what relief was distributed when 10,000 people perished in Latur during 1993?
The ping-pong about no advance warning about this disaster is reminiscent of the Sheila-Shinde ping-pong tournament during the Nirbhaya rape case, only difference being then it was about safety of women and law and order in Delhi and now it is about advance warning for this horrendous disaster. In the previous case, all promises of quick justice are forgotten despite other states having accorded speedy death sentences to rapists for crimes committed later then Nirbhaya. Perhaps it may happen in conjunction announcing general elections for better effect or even delayed further if some of these fellows have political links. Meanwhile, rapes are continuing in Delhi with same periodicity as before though date for the next Sheila-Shinde Ping Pong Tournament is undecided. As per media, not one single pie has been used from the much publicized Rupees 1 Crore Nirbhaya Fund to-date. Obviously, if it remains unutilized, it can be merged into the party fund or perhaps be made prize money for the Sheila-Shinde type of tournaments.
But coming back to the disaster in UK (Uttrakhandis refer to their states as UK), look at the ridiculousness of the ping-pong blame game between the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Indian Metrological Department (IMD) and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). One wonders if these numerous blame-game reports are not the handiwork of the government spin doctors to divert attention and fool the public. To start with, all three are government organizations but the issue not being discussed at all is that going by all media reports, the tragedy occurred because of two cloud bursts. Now, Chinese can make artificial rain and perhaps temporarily stop rain, as was purportedly done during Beijing Olympics, but even China cannot predict cloud bursts. So why is the public being fooled with the nonsensical arguments like no advance warning having been given about formation of ice atop some lake dome? How is this connected with cloud bursts? Locals are clearly berating the authorities live on TV that this is an avoidable environmental disaster purely because of the callousness of the authorities, but neither Manmohan nor Bahugana have the guts to admit. The finger clearly points to the complete lack of Environment Safety and preparation for Disaster Response. What the Congress fails to realize is that admitting the lapse closely followed announcing short, medium and long-term measures coupled with focused implementation would actually get them more votes rather than beating about the bushes, hoping the dust will blur population vision. The CAG warning earlier this year of Uttrakahnd being unprepared for disaster is no secret. Manmohan chairing NDMA must take the blame. While organizing and equipping the NDRF is one issue, more importantly, prevention of such natural disasters has to be planned and implemented upon by NDMA in close coordination with the Ministry of Environment – both under the Prime Minister. There is no doubt that consecutive state governments are also to blame but the major share for this disaster lies fairly and squarely with the Central Government.    
It is time the Congress, for a change, starts inducting professionals into niche areas like NDMA where lives of citizens are involved irrespective of the fact that mango people (read aam aadmi) lives don’t matter to the political hierarchy. The Mail Today in its edition of 26 Jun 2013 reports that the NDMA has reappointed four of its members with the status of Minister of State. The NDMA Vice Chairman, an MLA from Andhra Pradesh has been continuing in his post since 2005 with the status of a Cabinet Minister. How long will this you scratch mine, I scratch yours collective looting and passing the buck game carry on? It is time for the public to start asking questions and take the government to task. And, by ‘professionals’, one does not imply Kanimozhi type of experience picked up in Tihar Jail.  

Now let us take this business of civilian helicopters hired by the government and civilian operators fleecing lakhs of rupees per individual for getting them out of the area. This is what the media reports. Now it is also being circulated that government has ‘taken to task such operators’. So who is fooling whom? Surely, these private companies had not opened ticketing counters in the disaster area pick up points. Neither would the pilots know in advance who they are picking up. The hapless victims could not have had such cash in the disaster area. So, the only explanation is that the officials / personnel who were prioritizing the airlift through civilian helicopters were in league, collected whatever cash they could and took undertakings of paying balance at the other end while according priority. Such a brutality could not be possible without the police-private operator nexus, and maybe politicians at whatever levels. 

The problem with our government is that we still do not understand the power of both media and social media, though China too learnt it the hard way. Whatever little vestige of sincerity to help the Congress wanted to show was washed away with the televised scuffle between Congress MP Hanumantha Rao and two TDP MPs at Dehradun airport over taking out the flood victims by air. As per the reporter on the spot, air tickets of some of the hapless passengers were even torn by Hanumantha Rao’s goons. Then was the Congress-BJP war of words over the visits to disaster area by Modi and Rahul, and Digvijay Singh repeating Rahul had gone on foot while media clips showed him travelling by helicopter. Worst was a man shouting live at Rahul (perhaps at Gaucher) that here we have not had anything to eat for days and why this man is accompanied by 50 people. This clip was repeated twice before being blacked out. What Congress should realize is that it is not possible to fool the population anymore with the vibrant media in action, no matter how much pressure you put on media houses. This lesson should have been learnt when the so called trip by Rahul to the poor and staying the night in a village was orchestrated during the last UP elections. The arrangements that were made for his travel and night stay are well known. As for the recent trip to the disaster area, the DG ITBP has already disclosed that the entire ITBP camp was vacated just for a 10 minute halt of Rahul.  

Congress may also do well to overhaul its media managers. Despite the terrible disaster, the prime time on TV channels has nothing but Modi and Modi. Even Arnab Goswami appears rattled with the type of pressure on media houses. Aside from one or two BJP participants, he chooses all others who will pounce on the BJP and gives hardly any time for BJP participants to respond. Some of the Congress and allies participants are proving their foolishness for all to see, one fellow even saying Modi has ‘demoralized’ the army by visiting the disaster area. Some prior briefing could perhaps help prevent them putting their foot into own mouth. Because if this continues, the Americans may shut down their Bigfoot Field Research Organization founded in 1995 and drag these fellows into their zoos. Talk to the man on the nukkad and they laugh. One even said that just the mention of Modi is like a cat entering the poultry, with the Congress running for cover like chicken! So, get over the Modi paranoia and stand on your own feet.

Brazenness Glorified

Karan Kharb
In the recent history, Mahatma Gandhi was undoubtedly the true representative of India’s culture of high ethics and morality in public life.  He practised and preached virtuous conduct by leaders and set personal example by leading a frugal life wholly dedicated to national-social Cause. He personified virtues like Truth, Ahimsa, Satyagraha, Abstinence and Self-sacrifice to such a degree that if you removed these from his persona, there would be no Gandhi. Always more concerned about the masses, he never distinguished his kith and kin from them. He bequeathed to them no real estate, no coalmines nor any succession decrees to perpetuate his dynastic hold. All they could inherit was his legacy of simplicity, truth, dedication to serve the lowest and willingness to sacrifice. In material terms, he lived like a hermit and died a pauper.
Is Bapu really dead and gone? The reality is he never died and continues to live forever – but only at Rajgaht and in the hearts of the poor and the exploited Indians. Only those who proclaim to be his followers and encash him every five years raising slogans in his name hack him daily. There is none in our political spectrum today who practises even a fraction of Bapu’s teachings.  Nevertheless, sunk in luxury and allegations, they all shamelessly swear by Gandhi’s name and invoke it from time to time for personal safety and gain.  
Politically, we have come a full circle since 15 August 1947. The clan of politicians he thought would be ‘servants of the people’ have evolved into a gang of self-serving masters. Since their tryst with Destiny on that day, they have systematically decimated value systems and assumed absolute control of our destinies and fortunes. Khadi, then a symbol of simplicity, now symbolises power and arrogance. Bapu fought to demolish the age-old walls of untouchability and communal divide. They now fight to raise walls and dig trenches to divide India along caste and communal lines to own assured territories where they grow votes irrigated by blood and fertilised by mutual animosity.  The principle of ‘Divide and Rule’ was never practised better. The British need to take lessons from modern India! Ministers then accepted ‘moral responsibility’ for failures or misdeeds of their subordinates and submitted themselves before law voluntarily.  Today, they laugh away morals and seek shelter of law. Some are so brazen that they defend their misconduct by advancing arguments like, ‘….forget about morals and ethics, tell me how it is illegal!’
Writing in ‘The Hindu’ AG Noorani once said, “We have moved far from the early days of independence when Rajaji described the tribe (politicians) as gentlemen without any ostensible means of livelihood who can be rounded up by any magistrate on a charge of vagrancy.” Those were the days when politics was not a ‘career’ but ‘a challenge, a mission, a resolve to renounce and serve.’ Today, the politicians are already a majestic class to make magistrates jump from their seats and salute them instead. Politics is undoubtedly the most lucrative career in India today.
The data compiled by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) on 1370 re-elected MLAs and 200 re-elected MPs shows that “the average income and assets of India’s 100 richest legislators grew by 745% between two consecutive elections or five years. The hike in personal wealth for legislators in this category ranges from two to 25 times.” (Aon Hewitt’s annual salary increase survey says the salary of CEOs of India’s top 87 multi-national companies increased by about 20% in 2012). While public welfare and reform bills linger in the Parliament from session to session, bills concerning MPs’ own welfare like salary and benefits are enacted without debate within three days doling out more than three-fold enhancements to themselves even as soldiers fighting treacherous climate and enemy wait for their legitimate dues.
Is this what ‘WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA’ had resolved to constitute India into? The question is real and craves for an answer. Sixty-seven years since FREEDOM, independence has not yet crossed over eastern bank of the Yamuna where in the wake of the river’s raging fury an uncomplaining Raju and his neighbours just wrap up whatever is left of their jhuggi and rags and shift to a higher garbage mound.  Nor has the 21st Century touched ground in Dandakaranya in Chhatisgarh,  Gunupur in Odisha, Pulpur in J&K or Gunnur in Andhra Pradesh.
For the poor, justice delivery was faster in pre-independence India.  For the rich, justice delivery – slower the better – is now more responsive to money. The callous, corrupt and inefficient government officials had tough time in the olden days.  Now, it is the honest and efficient who have a tough time facing wrath of their Indian lords. People then died of starvation only in times of famine or epidemic.  Today, they still die of starvation even as mountains food grain rots in gross neglect under rains. New-born babies and patients today die not for want of facility but because of criminal neglect like malfunctioning equipment, unhygienic wards and, more horrifically, sweepers officiating for doctors in Government hospitals. Even in Somalia, we don’t find such examples of neglect and impunity. Free India has strayed in a strange morass where the exploiters have a free run while the law-abiding, sincere and efficient have to wade through heavy odds. Institutions and systems of governance have become utterly dysfunctional.  How far will we allow this to go on?
Numerous CAG reports made headlines in the recent years in exposing corruption and inefficiency that are proliferating unabated in all government departments. But the crescendo soon dies and the delinquent system resumes. The CAG report on the State Disaster Management Authority of Uttarakhand submitted in April this year exposed the criminal neglect of the Authority and the Administration that has only added to the loss of life and material in the recent Uttarakhand calamity. Agreed we cannot prevent natural calamities but the human toll and misery could have been greatly reduced by responding to the disaster in a professional way. That the authorities were caught napping is unpardonable particularly when the past history of floods, cloudbursts and landslides in the region suggested anticipation and preparedness. But who cares?
From the days of Fodder scam to Raja, Kalmadi, Coalgate and now the Uttarakhand Floodgate, we should have seen many heads rolling. What we have witnessed instead are only suspensions and transfers – a method that has come to be known as a protective arrangement for the brazenness of official delinquency rather than anything punitive in it. Fast track courts, commissions, oversight departments and institutions have only added yet another layer to the already unwieldy bureaucracy. Most such creations have already become lucrative sinecures for the retiring bureaucrats, judges and politicians.  There is neither action nor speed in the right direction.
There is a need – stronger and more urgent that ever – for sensitising everyone within our reach to abhor considerations like caste, community, quota, reservation and all parochial narrow consideration.  India must hunt for a new leadership with proven credentials: sincerity, honesty, vision and resolve to cure the malaise by ruthless action.
(Note: I must admit that I have an ambivalent view about Gandhi. Undoubtedly the most selfless of all Congressmen, he would be hard put to answer many serious questions, were he alive today! India's biggest loss in the final stages of Freedom Struggle was the sudden disappearance of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose from the scene. - Karan Kharb)

Why AFSPA May Go from J&K

Lt Gen (Retd) Prakash Katoch

That Omar Abdullah is afflicted by chronic Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) viral is no secret. The last major attack he had was in 2011 when one fine morning, he announced that the security situation in J&K was most peaceful and serene and that he would lift the AFSPA, which in turn meant the army too. Perhaps the fellow was holidaying in Iceland, Denmark or New Zealand because these countries in descending order are assessed the most peaceful in the world according to the Global Peace Index (GPI). Frequent foreign jaunts are vital for our hardworking politicians but if Omar did go, such rest and recoup was definitely warranted considering his delirious state. That India ranks 141 out of 162 countries in GPI really does not matter because J&K is so serene sine state elections were rigged in 1987, bringing papa to power. And, our neighbours across the border were so thrilled they run 40 nurseries with 24x7 flower supplies across the border. Why some stupid guys term these nurseries and flowers as terrorist camps and terrorists is beyond comprehension.

Unfortunately, three days after Omar’s enlightenment in 2011, there was this terrorist attack in Srinagar in which two policemen were killed.  But lo and behold, a rat from Omar’s poultry appeared on national TV squeaking that army was behind this attack. The sole aim of this rodent (claiming to be an MLA) was probably to sweep the party office, akin to Charandas Mahant who is ready to sweep the State Congress office on Sonia’s orders. But then Zail Singh too said if Indira Gandhi wants me sweep the floors, he would do so, and note he didn’t even clarify which floors! Well that apart, these two must be motivated witnessing domestic helps in India get elevated to such exalted positions that Hitler would turn in his grave, should someone tell him. Interestingly, Omar’s plan was to lift AFSPA and army from the five most terrorist infested areas like Kupwara. As per media reports, his fever only came down when the army told him that if he removed AFSPA and army from these areas, they would cede to Pakistan within next five years.

About a month ago, signs of Omar’s chronic viral started aggravating, with ranting of removing AFSPA getting louder. He announced on TV that he is working on Shinde, as if latter needs any working upon! When intelligence reports came of threat to Amarnath Yatra, he guffawed it away. Then Mirwaiz proclaims there is no threat to Amarnath Yatra. Does it matter if this fellow has no clue about security? With his bum-chumming in Pakistan, perhaps Hafiz Saeed appointed him Honorary Director of Terrorist Operations for Let-JuD.  In that capacity, he would know that Amarnath pilgrims would not be attacked this season. But then he can hardly vouch for Hijbul Mujahedeen (HM) also because they have better links with PDP. The most amusing part was the statement by CPI that there is no threat to Amarnath Yatra. Now where on earth would they have such briefing from – honeymooning in Beijing or conveyed with pay packets coming from China? But no one has asked Omar, why on earth is the army being used for protection of Amarnath Yatra year after year if the security situation is so peaceful?

The politician-mafia-terrorist nexus in J&K and elsewhere in India is well known. Is Omar Abdullah or Sonia-Manmohan-Salman-Shinde even bothered about the leeches in the Hurriyat who, flush with ISI money, are openly sucking up to terrorists inside Pakistan, visas facilitated by the Centre. Can Omar answer if anyone of the terrorist in J&K jails has been tried and sentenced? Recent death sentence to 10 terrorists in Bangladesh should make our politicians at the Centre and Omar hang their heads in shame. Then look at the PDP. Whenever and wherever, Mehbooba Mufti is canvassing; her inner visible circle is always known HM honchos.  Her sister Rubaiya was kidnapped within five days of her father (Mufti Mohammed Saeed) becoming Home Minister of India, with kidnappers demanding release of five hardcore terrorists. Incidentally, the kidnappers included Yasin Malik who even now travels to Pakistan to clean Hafiz Saeed’s you know what. Demands of the terrorists were met but there were pointed allegations the Mufti had orchestrated the abduction of his own daughter to facilitate release of these terrorists. Wikipedia also says that before he moved as Home Minister to Delhi, Mufti had been making many fake claims of terrorist attacks on himself.

On the eve of the Sonia-Manmohan visit to J&K, terrorists killed eight soldiers and left 14 others wounded at Hyderpora. Later, the fleeing terrorists injured a CRPF sub Inspector in another attack near Barzulla. The HM claimed responsibility for both. Whether this was an independent HM action to welcome Sonia-Manmohan or it also had the support of PDP to do down Omar’s government is anyone’s guess. During the two day Sonia-Manmohan visit there were no incidents in their proximity, as always. The politician-terrorist mafia has its own rules and guidelines. Whenever Faroukh Abdullah had occasion to unfurl the flag, the blasts were conveniently afar. SC Jamir, during his 17 year rule in Nagaland was best placed with all Naga insurgents based in Manipur, who could be summoned underhand to keep the insurgency live and kicking.

Sonia-Manmohan did inaugurate the much publicized new rail tunnel, which some TV channels aptly described as “Train to No Where”. That apart, the public should know that the security forces will never ride this train to Kashmir Valley and tourists will do so at risk to their lives. Terrorism will not die down because the military holding the reins in Pakistan will not let it happen especially with Beijing’s support and Americans looking the other way, our politicians do not want terrorism to abate, and the army cannot protect the railway line because it was not laid along the road, as it should have been, so that the road opening parties of the army also protect movement of the trains. So, the Congress might as well announce free travel to the Kashmiris in the Valley as part of ‘political largesse’ before another feather of gross inefficiency is pinned on their cap. Imagine the cost of construction of the rail bridge to Baramulla from Jammu and how many people will travel to Baramulla directly and not through Srinagar:

Let us examine, why Omar and Co get this AFSPA viral relapses? He knows full well the army will not let Pakistan annex J&K, implying backsides are secure. So, why not keep insurgencies going? After all papa’s election rigging in 1987 initiated it, he must follow dynastic legacy like other dynasties in India, it helps divert attention from misgovernance, gets more moolah from the Centre and  never has been the hassles of accountability anyway. Besides, Pakistani Military-ISI is happy and why refuse their drug bonanza whether in cash or kind. Note Omar never said a word against the Centre’s (or should we say PMO) exercise to morph perceptions for vacating Siachen. Then, visits by Americans like John Carry help are extra help, who say India and Pakistan must invest more in each other, without elaborating. So Pakistan invests more in terrorism and our PMO wants to invest in more concessions, territory included.

Apparently, Omar seems to have passed on the AFSPA viral to Sonia-Manmohan too. Sonia-Omar talked of the terrific peace in J&K citing successful Panchayat elections. But there was no one to question why these Panchayats have not been given ‘any power’ even in the smallest measure. This was the main grouse of all J&K MPs / MLAs at the round table organized by the Delhi Policy Group last year and they unanimously accused Omar Abdullah for this. So what success of Panchayat elections are we talking about? Is the chest thumping because these politicians feel they have fooled the population? Isn’t this why Omar is not bothered about Sarpanchs and Panchayat members getting killed. If Panchayats are empowered and there is development, insurgency may vanish, which is contrary to the political desire. Don’t Sonia-Manmohan-Rahul know this? Have they ever asked Omar why he is not empowering Pnachayats. But then this is state subject – how convenient!

In his book ‘The Dark Side of Foreign Policy’ Riaz Mohammed Khan, former Pakistani Foreign Secretary has reveals how Pakistani Military (Musharraf included) was and is raping Pakistan’s foreign policy, taking the country down the hell hole. What should be of serious concern to Indians is that something similar is happening in our country also. Both our serving and former diplomats admit in private that the PMO (and who else – Congress high command?) have a different agenda which is not disseminated and this mafia (Salman Khurshid included) has not heeded advice of MEA officials on many occasions. The recent Chinese intrusion in Despang Plains is a case in point. The mafia claims they ‘forced’ the Chinese to remove tents but the fact is the Chinese stayed put 19 kilometers (actually 30 kilometers measured from KK Pass) deep inside our territory for full 25 days, displayed a 30 feet banner (televised globally) saying this is Chinese territory, and in connivance with the mafia made India demolish army constructions at Chumar, which they will claim tomorrow as their territory.  Then was the plan to vacate Siachen – orchestrated by the PMO-mafia. Despite the ignominy of the Chinese intrusion and furore, orders have still not been issued for placing the ITBP under command the army. Is it to facilitate Shinde fly overhead with his police hat and giggle, “We have no jurisdiction in the area?”

Now is the concentrated effort to morph perceptions that Pakistan has turned Buddhist, J&K is totally peaceful and army and AFSPA should be removed. Look at the ‘paid media’ professing that Pakistan has turned benign, J&K is likely to gain first place in GPI and the like. The pattern is the same when public opinion was being built as prelude to vacating Siachen. Look at the variety of people that have been roped in. But the fact is that even an article like ‘Revoke AFSPA Gradually’ fails to read the ground situation and ignores the strategic reality that while both China and Pakistan have developed advanced sub-conventional capabilities, we are lacking poorly in this domain. It also fails to recognize why Kargil took place. Besides, the shuttlecock suggestion that army on the border be ‘readjusted’ for counter-insurgency “should indeed such a contingency come to pass” could not be more absurd. There are no quick switches in such situations. An article to rectify the mis-governance in J&K would have been more appropriate. All this despite terrorism, infiltration, cease-fire violations continuing and Al Qaeda, Taliban, Mujahideen, Pakistan and Islamist radicals declaring “India remains their unfinished business.” Hasn’t Nawaz Sharif submitted to radicals already with finances officially doled out to JuD? Has Pakistan shut the terrorist camps? What about the warnings by General Parnaik? Are you so very shameless that you want to play down violence despite two policemen killed in the heart of Srinagar on 22 June, and eight army personnel killed and 14 injured on 25th June?

As to our foreign policy, less said the better. Soon we will have Bhutan in the Chinese camp with India as always ‘worried’. One wonders if the long-term mafia plan isn’t to ‘lease’ out J&K to Pakistan (by extension to Chinese sitting in Gilgit-Baltistan) for 50 years and Arunachal directly to China similarly. Is this the brief given to the NSA for talks in Beijing today? No wonder, Salman Khurshid says he would like to settle down in Beijing! Soon Xi Jingping should be gifting him a polar bear. So, if the PMO-mafia has made up their mind to remove AFSPA and the Army from J&K, the declaration may well come in the run up to the 2014 elections for peace is damned, only votes matter. What should the military do with such a dispensation – take a cue from the US? US media says that Obama has sacked many Generals but his favourite is General Dempsey heading the Joint Staff because Dempsey perpetually whimpers like a kitten. That is the reason the US is in a mess though the administration would not admit it. A combination of Indian Dempsey’s and the political mafia can be suicidal for the country. Statements like we have given our views and it is up to the government now cannot suffice anymore where integrity and sovereignty of the country is involved. We don’t need Dempsey’s in India. All we need is the likes of Parnaik who tell the mafia implications of their plans. The media would do the rest.

Lastly, one wonders if snoop dogs of PMO have shown Manmohan the compliments he is receiving globally for inaugurating the “Mughal Road Project”, playing with national sentiments and contempt to the murderous history of  Mughal conquerors whose genocide against Indians included putting Guru Nanak Dev Ji in jail; arresting, torturing and beheading Guru Tegh Bahadur Singh Ji; killing two grand children of Guru Tegh Bahadur Singh Ji (sons of Guru Gobind Singh Ji); stabbing to death the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji (Guru Tegh Bahadur’s son); torturing, dehumanizing and ultimately killing the 5th Sikh Guru, Guru Arjun Dev Ji, which are only few examples. The questions being asked is whether Manmohan is actually a Sikh or a Mughal descendent masquerading as Sikh, also because he chose to serve a party that butchered 3000 Sikhs in Delhi. If he is masquerading, motivation may be because of others thriving in politics with fake surnames. Then if he is a Mughal in disguise he might as well go pray at Babur’s grave in Kabul, as Indira Gandhi did in the dead of night for whatever reason. On the other hand if is not a Mughal, perhaps Manmohan could actually apologies to the nation and make amends by renaming the Mughal Road as Guru Teg Bahadur Highway (GTB Highway), as many are demanding. No one is asking him to rename India as Bharat or Bharatvarsh because that may cause him, his colleagues and bosses commit suicide. No matter that Burma and Ceylon shed their British names!


Prakash Katoch is a veteran Special Forces officer.



Sunday, June 23, 2013

Disasters Come – Disasters Go !

Lt Gen (Retd) Prakash Katoch.

The horrific disaster that has struck Uttrakhand has been assessed as a mix of natural and man-made. In fact, the various media analyses indicate we were asking for it and there were enough warnings and indications that this would. The previous similar smaller calamities in Uttrakhand over the years should have made us sit up, but we did not. Media reports indicate the CAG had also recently warned that Uttrakhand is poorly geared for disaster relief and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is inadequately organized and equipped in this state. The million dollar question now are we going to learn anything at all or will we treat this as ‘another’ disaster with opportunities for disaster tourism and good excuse for donation collection by politicians of the Centre and the concerned State?


What is surprising is that the Vijay Bahugana, Sushil Shinde and harish Rawat, all camping at Dehradun are apparently doing little beyond concentrating in asking donations - witness the massive adds with Vijay Bahugana's Photo atop asking for donations. Where most of the money donated will go is anybody's guess. But when reporters inside the disaster area are repeatedly showing visuals of people not had anything to eat for six days and beyond, the least this bigwig politician trio could have thought of is collect pre-cooked food packets in Dehradun and other cities and air dropped / air landed them at all the cut off places. The army helicopters were seen carrying some packets but then look at the number stranded and what is the responsibility of the State Administration to feed the stranded? The population and NGOs would have happily prepared thousands of pre-cooked packets readily on a 24x7 basis.

Shinde admitted lapses in coordination but coordination can hardly be done sans common sense, which appears in short supply. Then of course Shinde was fooling when admitting lapses for there were none as per Manish Tiwari - smells like Kapil Sibbal's quote of "only notional loss" in the 2G Scam. Congress has trained all guns on Modi to divert attention from own infirmities and shoddy approach in both averting this disaster and coping with it, once it struck. The Congress gearing entire media against Modi is nothing new but it is comical to see the criticism by Karan Thapar whose gains by lapping up to Congress are well known. Remember his efforts to rate Gen VK Singh as the 'Worst Army Chief' in a bid to tide over the ghosts of his childhood when papa was Army Chief in 1962. Of course the interview with an inebriated former NSA was both dramatic and humorous. Now imagine the insinuation that when Modi is so concerned then why is Gujarat is donating just Rupees 2 crores. But then surprisingly, Times of India has let the cat out of the bag with the front page news today that Modi has managed to take out some 15,000 Gujaratis out of the disaster area chartering 80 Toyota Innovas and two Boeing aircraft. But then the government cannot count that as Gujarat's contribution to the Uttrakhand disaster because these 15,000 people evacuated can hardly be classified Indian since they were rescued by Modi. Besides the reason Modi helped them must have been because these Gujaratis are 'un-secular'. As to the Times of India news of Modi’s feat today, Vinod Mehta heading the Times Group must be receiving calls why such a massive slip involving national security and endangering secular face of India has been allowed in the first place.

Notwithstanding the above, Shinde, Bahugana and Rawat could, in between sipping their scotch, could send some pre-cooked food, plastic sheets and blankets to the stranded. Despite fudging figures, it is easy to visualize that complete evacuation is going to take days especially with the weather deteriorating and forecast of more rain. Despite the known politician-police nexus, should one expect Bahugana to instruct his police to ensure the stranded are not ravaged further by the merchants of greed - Rupees 500 hundred for a rice bowl and Rupees 180 for a roti. There are families that may have run out or lost their cash. All the more reason, to supply them pre-cooked food free of cost. It is heart rending to read a Nepalese mother eating grass to ensure she can feed her baby.

As to the responsibility of the Centre, can you tell the nation what is the National Plan for Environmental Security - do you have one at all? Can your Minister for Environment address the nation rather than making point at international forums and visiting the beauty parlour prior to photo ops and TV debates? Why is the Minister hiding under the table and not being questioned? If you have one, what was the road map for it and what about its implementation? How about releasing a white paper on it? If you don't have one, how about making one and make it known to the public? The world is bothered about the horrific rate at which forest cover is denuding in India but our government obviously is not. Before the Maoists come questioning with a gun poking you in the face, it would do well for the Centre to review its policy of dumping all blame on the States. Look at the millions of tons of grain rotting in the open in FCI godowns across the country that are controlled by the Centre, and then you talk of “Food Security’. Of course the rotting grain is not wasted but gets siphoned off to distilleries; perhaps that is the surprise package with food security  – free beer cans with free food ! 

Then is the capacity building in the NDRF. An organization presided over by the  Prime Minister himself should have no problem in following a road map to meet national requirements. But then presiding over so many scams is so time consuming, there is little time left for anything else. As to those who are engaged in changing the face of India for the good - Aam Aadmi (Mango People for some) Party, RTI activists, NGO's et all.. It may be worthwhile to inquire into what funds were collected and what actually reached those for whom it was meant in respect of disasters that have struck over the years in various parts of India. This survey should also cover the official figures for relief provided during the various communal riots and killings like the Mumbai riots, Gujarat riots, massacre of over 3000 Sikhs in Delhi, Maliana and Meerut riots in UP, Bhagalpur / Jamshdpur in riots, killings and blinding, Bihar and the like. Of course the government's response to such RTI's could well be ordering yet another CBI inquiry in case of Gujarat and say balance cannot be disclosed, being 'confidential'. But yet it may be worth the try ! 

As for the military, they as always can be counted upon to deliver the goods – any place and any time. However, the government needs to examine one issue it has conveniently avoided all these years. The Military’s air effort, particularly helicopters used for various tasks like movement of civilians in difficult areas, disaster relief, operations against the Maoists and movement of politicians has eaten into the training requirements of the military, to the extent that in the last 15 years it has not been possible to have one single airborne or heliborne exercise at one full battalion group basis. This requires to be taken serious note of although China and Pakistan would clap their hands in glee.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant General from Special Forces.