Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Modi in Uttarakhand: the bare facts

Gujarat CM Narendra Modi's visit to Uttarakhand predictably degenerated into slugfest between the BJP and the Congress. When Rahul Gandhi followed, the media tended to portray the two visits as  a competition for photo-ops.

Writing in ET, Madhu Kishwar has a different story to tell. It would appear that Modi was quickly able to mobilise a significant rescue effort targeting principally the large numbers of Gujarati pilgrims but not entirely excluding others. Here's a sample:
Modi arrived in Delhi late 17th night for a meeting with the Planning Commission on 18th when news of cloudburst and landslides was telecast on TV. He held an emergency meeting to take stock of the situation since he knew that thousands of Gujaratis are likely to be among the Chardham pilgrims . Right away, a camp office was opened at Gujarat Bhavan and the Resident Commissioner's team in Delhi was made responsible for coordinating with Gujarati pilgrims.
...On the 18th morning, Modi called Dr Pranav Pandya of the All World Gayatri Parivar to provide space and infrastructure in his Shanti Kunj campus for the relief centre proposed to be set up by the Gujarat government . He chose this campus because of his close knowledge of, and rapport with, this Gandhian institution that can house and feed thousands of people at a short notice.
It has a 2,000-strong community of swayamsevaks on the campus, plus 3,000-odd students of the Dev Sanskriti University. The campus also has a well-run hospital.

On the 18th evening itself, a set of computers with internet connections , telephone lines, television sets and all other paraphernalia required for Gujarat government's relief operation were set up. Therefore, when a team of Gujarat government IAS, IPS and IFS officers came, they could get going within minutes of reaching Shanti Kunj.

Team Gujarat had two officers from Uttarakhand - Assistant Director General of Police Bisht and Forest Service officer SC Pant - who had close knowledge of the terrain to guide both the stranded pilgrims as well as rescue teams on the safest possible routes to take. ADG Bisht went straight to Gupta Kashi from where the rescue operations are being launched.

A team of seven doctors trained in handling such emergencies, led by an orthopaedic surgeon, not only put in place an efficient first-aid service but are also attending to those severely injured.

It is open to people to come to their own conclusions on how much of a difference these efforts made, considering the large number of people left stranded in the region.  I do find it surprising, however, that the media did not think it necessary to bring the above facts to the notice of the public. We had swarms of reporters and TV crews in the region but at least I did not find any details of the contribution that Modi was able to make.

Kishwar concludes:
The Congress party is understandably upset because its chief minister has proved a disaster, its party machinery is in disarray, Congress Sewa Dal workers are nowhere in sight, Rahul Gandhi's Youth Brigade is clueless even in routine situations , leave alone know how to face a crisis like the Uttarakhand deluge.

That is the reality of the Uttarakhand relief operation led by Narendra Modi

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