Manmohan Singh government at the Centre is a classic example of how an inept administration slips on its feet when a national calamity of tsunami magnitude stares in the eye. The UPA has always been a bundle of contradictions, but the kind of disorientation and confusion this government presented in the last one week speaks volumes on the lack of leadership and direction at the Centre.
The tsunami shocked, stymied, and maimed everybody, no doubt. It tested our capacity beyond endurance; it hit like a million thunder bolts wreaking havoc on lives, and future itself; it was unprecedented, unimaginable and totally unforeseen. But leadership is about rising to the occasion.
As on all instances of national tragedy, the RSS Swayamsevaks have sprung into action in all places that bore the brunt. The Swayamsevaks are busy not only in rehabilitation and relief work but also in removing dead bodies?a work even army and scavengers dread to take up. It is a saga of dedication and heroism.
A week passed but the dead bodies and debris were still piled up on the seashore. There was no co-ordination between the efforts of the different agencies of the Centre and the state government. The two could not even agree on the extent of damage or the number of dead. The Central ministers, both from Tamil Nadu and other states, made a beeline to the havoc-hit areas; there was such a rush of VVIPs that the official machinery was stretched to the limit in ensuring their safe landing and providing proper coverage. The Congress party set up was also enlisted and kept at the disposal of the visiting dignitaries.
Disaster tourism had its high point when Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh announced his visit twice and cancelled it at the last moment. It seems there was such an intense competition between the Congress chief and the Prime Minister to reach the disaster spot first, that Dr Singh had to finally give up. When Sonia Gandhi announced her trip to Andamans, Dr Singh decided to go to Chennai. Immediately the party spread the news that Smt. Gandhi was visiting Tamil Nadu and other places also on her way back from Andamans. The Congress chief'svisit was clashing with the Prime Minister'svisit to Chennai, and as can be expected, Dr Singh had to make a hasty retreat. This one-upmanship could have been avoided considering the seriousness of the situation.
As it turned out, there was little succour to the victims. The dearth of manpower was such that there was no agency to distribute food and other items in many relief centres. The victims were housed mostly in temple premises, and in some cases, in make-shift tents and community halls. It is here that the role of voluntary outfits became more vital. The Sangh and its affiliates like Sewa Bharati, Vivekananda Kendra were not the only organisations, but others like Ramakrishna Mission, Christian and Muslim missionary organisations and educational institutions also rose to the occasion and did commendable human service. What was lacking was co-ordination, which could have made a world of difference to the victims.
The sense of helplessness, the absence of a Central monitoring mechanism were all-pervading. The victims are facing an uncertain future. This is a lost world for them. Bringing normalcy back to their lives, giving hope and livelihood are the immediate challenges before the nation.