Apocalyptic torrents in Uttarakhand
20,000 feared dead, 14,000 missing, 50,000 still stranded, 33,000 saved
Nature’s unprecedented fury turned many parts of Uttarakhand into ruins. The magnitude of the devastation due to floods and landslide is so huge that no agency could calculate it so far and are waiting for the roads to be cleared. The Army, ITBP jawans and the activist of some voluntary organisations are, however, trying to clear the roads and also to rescue the surviving people, still more than 50,000 are said stranded. About 6000 jawans along with the activists of voluntary organisations have so far rescued over 33,000 people. Official figures claim 207 people died, but those who are returning from the actual sites say the death toll could be “more than 20,000”. This figure can be correct as over 14000 people are still missing with no information about their whereabouts, and many areas are still inaccessible to the rescue teams. The entire picture shows that it is no less than a national calamity.
The pilgrims who left their homes a few days back for visiting the abode of the gods had not even thought that it will be their last journey. Some were washed away in floods, while some buried in the mud and slush. The similar fate met to the local people. The aerial survey shows widespread devastation everywhere. According to initial reports, more than 60 villages, over a hundred hotels situated on the banks of rivers were completely washed away. Over 90 dharmashalas are reported to have washed away only in Kedarnath. The damage to famous Kedarnath shrine is so huge that the entire valley is almost washed away and the famous shrine virtually submerged in mud and slush. Such damage was never seen even in many centuries. The Ram Bada area, a busy spot near the temple, has been completely submerged. Rudraprayag district is the worst hit where buildings, hotels, along the banks of the Alaknanda swept away in swirling waters.
Bhagirathi Valley also suffered hugely. Markets and hotels situated on the banks of Bhagirathi and Asiganga vanished from the map. The loss of live stock is also huge. Many multi-storied concrete houses collapsed like castle of cards. It is feared that the remaining part of the rainy season will add to the plight of the people in the area.
The entire disaster shows the government’s unprepared to face the calamity of such a magnitude. The country wants to know who is responsible for it. If the disaster management is so weak even in the calamity prone hilly region like this, where will it be? Why so much time is being taken to clear the roadblocks? If the army has to be called every time what the government agencies are doing? The insufficient preparedness for relief and rescue shows no agency was prepared. Since the entire rainy session still left, the situation can take a fatal turn in such situations. One more fact which is agitating many is that the huge damage was caused to the nature through deforestation in the name of development by land mafia, sand mafia, hotel mafia, in connivance of the officials and policymakers. Therefore, calling it just a natural calamity is wrong. It is a man-made disaster and both the state and central governments are responsible for it. The one more terrible fact is that when nation is fighting against the calamity, the Congress yuvaraj is celebrating his birthday abroad. The Congress workers also, instead of helping the victims, are also busy in observing his birthday at home.
RSS volunteers join the army and ITBP; large-scale relief operation to begin after the roads are cleared
The army and ITBP jawans took no time to start the rescue operation. At present over 6000 jawans are engaged in the rescue operation. The RSS volunteers also joined the army jawans the same day. “Since all roads were closed due to heavy land slide, an organised relief operation is not possible at the moment. Therefore, we have instructed our swayamsevaks to help the victims wherever they are. That is why some relief activities have been started in Uttarkashi, Srinagar, Agastmuni, etc. At Manri in Uttarkashi some parts of the hostel run by Uttaranchal Utthan Parishad washed away. But we have started relief activities in the remaining parts. The day roads are cleared a massive relief operation will be carried out,” said RSS Uttarakhand Prant Karyavah Shri Lakshmikant Jaiswal, while talking to Organiser.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists also started helping the affected people. VHP working president Dr Pravin Togadia expressed sympathy towards the relatives of those who are no more. He said those who are injured and are taking treatment are being helped by local VHP and Hindu Help Line workers. Soon to help relatives and the affected, the VHP and Hindu Help Line will send the teams from neighbouring states so transportation; treatments will be taken care of. “Since the calamity is beyond normal human comprehension, all should work together to help the army and ITBP who are putting their own lives at risk in rescue and relief operations. We had noticed and raised opposition to a lot of tree burning, breaking of mountain ranges with dynamites for power projects etc. All this has contributed to the damage caused by rains,” Dr Togadia said in a statement issued on June 18.
According to reports, the army jawans and the Sangh volunteers carried out the rescue operation in the districts of Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Uttarkashi and Pithoragarh. The Army assistance Centres created at Harsil, Rudraprayag, Joshimath, Mana, Gagriya, Govindghat and Dharchula have been providing shelter, food, first aid and fresh water to pilgrims and tourists stranded at various locations due to torrential rain and swollen rivers. Eight quick reaction medical teams established medical aid posts at a number of locations and four ambulance vehicles have been deployed to evacuate injured people.
The Army column evacuated 600 people across a rivulet by laying a temporary bridge of wooden logs. All the people have now been brought to safety. Two officers and 24 soldiers have been inducted by helicopter into Sirsi near Gauri Kund, 17 km short of Kedarnath. Evacuation of pilgrims by foot is presently under way. More than 2000 have been evacuated on foot and are now housed in Joshimath. 1100 are in Army shelters. Efforts are underway to lay a cable bridge across Alaknanda to evacuate stranded Hemkund Sahib pilgrims. Hundreds of people have been evacuated from low lying areas of Dharchula and adjoining areas flooded by swollen Kali River. Two Army columns and border roads personnel have now cleared the road upto 30 kms south of Dharasu on Rishikesh – Uttarkashi road. 200 people of Tharali village 5 kms North of Harsil have been evacuated and brought to safety this morning. Humanitarian assistance in terms of food, shelter, warm clothing and medical aid has been provided across the regions.
Think of the environment,
not money in development—Anil Joshi, Environmentalist
The recent devastating floods in Uttarakhand are glaring example of ground reality and economic imbalance. It has been accepted that our development model is based on economic progress and we allowed ourselves to be goaded by this principle and cared only for economic system. We have also accepted the fact that we can exploit Nature as per our wishes and Nature would tolerate that exploitation.
The question is why did we care for lopsided economic model, which centered around industry, dams, skyscrapers, etc? In doing so, we negated all those sensitive issues and aspects with which the very existence of the Himalayas was associated. We will have to review once again that economic development of any Himalayan state would be accepted as a barometer of our development. On the other hand we had not prepared any such parameter, which can show us our position with regard to situation and environment. We have no such system that would tell us our position. We have made parameters to measure the GDP but that does not mention forests, water, soil or oxygen. If life is not possible without these then how did we negate these elements in our schemes of development? But this continued for the last 50-60 years and slowly the situation in our country as well as in the world changed and the environment too changed at the local and national levels. The incidents like cloud bursts are not new for our country. But there is a reason behind the increased frequency of such incidents and that is playing with the Nature. The cloud burst is nothing but collective raining of clouds. And clouds are forming at such short intervals because the soil is heated and converts the water into vapor continuously, which forms the clouds. The process of rainfall has also slowed down which has given rise to incidents of cloud burst.
In addition to this, the pilgrimage places used to be miles away from present day vehicles, hotels, buildings, etc. Some 50-60 years ago, there were no roads leading to Badrinath and Kedarnath and no loss of life or property was reported then, neither the local environment was affected. Today we have changed our attitude. We accord priority to fun and frolic compared to darshan of the Lord. We want vehicles, hotels, air conditioning, everything. When we tread a wrong path, Nature is bound to bring us back on road using its own ways. The settlements along the river banks can only mean devastation and nothing else. The rivers have transmitted loud and clear message: Don’t ever come closer to us. Unfortunately, the only and only big reason behind this is growing urbanisation and lust of the urban population.
If we look at the records of past 50 years, we find that our villages have to bear the brunt of these calamities. The urban population takes the government to task even if there is little water logging in their areas. But no one has time to look at the villagers and rural inhabitants who languish in such natural calamities days together. They are left to fend for themselves.
We must ask those disaster managers of the country as to how many disasters they had faced. We must evaluate and review our disaster management policies. We must draft a strategy for villagers and scheme for making the rural people capable of dealing with such disasters. But when the government itself is seeking help what more can we expect from such a government?
An Urgent Appeal
Inspired by the RSS, the Uttaranchal Daivi Aapda Peedit Sahayata Samiti appealed to the people to generously help the victims. The Samiti has always been in forefront to help the victims of natural disasters – anywhere in the country. Despite their limited resources the Sangh workers are engaged in the relief work now also. All donations made to the society come with benefit under section 80G of the income- tax law and is registered under the FCRA. Any Cheque/DD can be sent in favour of ‘UTTARANCHAL DAIVI AAPDA PEEDIT SAHAYATA SAMITI’ payable at Dehradun, India as transmitted by any nationalised bank. Any support will help in intensifying the relief and rehabilitation work.
Those who are interested can send the relief at the following address:
CA Dinesh Gupta
10 Convent Road, Dehradun, Uttarakhand
Tel: (91) 0135-2656493, 9837021837, 09456712300
Bank Account Details:
A/c Name: Uttaranchal Daivi Aapda Peedit Sahayata Samiti
Bank Name & Branch: State Bank of India, Main Branch
Convent Road, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
A/c No: 31156574681 NEFT Code: SBIN0000630