Uttarakhand floods: Narendra Modi and the magic carpet

Percentage of time devoted to rural news on TVPercentage of time devoted to rural news on TV. These figures don't show more than 7% of the time for over 2/3 of India's population and YET are deceptive, because this time shown too is rarely about rural issues and more likely to be other selling news from rural locations.

Narendra Modi went to flood hit Uttarakhand and became an expert disaster management area coordinator overnight. Times of India published an obvious piece of paid media by Anand Soondas talking of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi thumbing the Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna in Uttarakhand by flying out 15,000 Gujaratis. And Modi’s supporters seem to think ridiculing this nonsense seems to be a special hate for Hridaysamrat Modi.

DEHRADUN: In the two days that NarendraModi has been in Uttarakhand, he has managed to completely rile not just the Congress government of Vijay Bahuguna but also the administrative staff involved in rescue operations at Kedarnath, Badrinath and Uttarkashi. But above all, he has also managed to bring home some 15,000 stranded Gujarati pilgrims.

Narendra Modi brought home 15,000 Gujarati pilgrims stranded in flood hit Uttarakhand. Never mind that on the previous day there were only over one thousand Gujaratis reported stranded in Uttarakhand. This sets the tone, but the article is a monument in bad mathematics, worse logic, dubious taste and outright falsehoods.

The Gujarat CM, who flew in on Friday evening, held a meeting till 1am with his crack rescue team of five IAS, one IPS, one IFS and two GAS (Gujarat Administrative Service) officers. Two DSPs and five police inspectors were also part of his delegation. They sat again with the nitty-gritty of evacuation in a huddle that a senior BJP leader said lasted till 1am on Sunday.

Almost all states are getting their pilgrims home as is normal after natural disasters. There isn’t a single state that is saying that Uttarakhand will have to keep them now that they spoiled the schedule with the Uttarakhand floods. One has no idea whether there are “crack teams” handling this for other states, or if their normal machinery is competent. As I write this, there are 80,000-87,000 stranded pilgrims evacuated and another 15,000 remaining. In other words, 10 thousand odd people returning from the place daily with or without Hridaysamrat master rescuer Narendra Modi.

Around 80 Toyota Innovas have been requisitioned to ferry Gujaratis to safer places in Dehradun as have four Boeings. On Saturday, 25 luxury buses transported a bunch of grateful people to Delhi. The efforts are being coordinated by two of the senior-most IAS officers of Gujarat, one currently stationed in Delhi and another in Uttarakhand.

80 Toyota Innovas have been requisitioned in that god forsaken place, no indication of them being in operations yet. One has to wonder when exactly are they planning to ferry around Gujaratis in Dehradun, if Modi has already evacuated 15,000 out of the thousand stranded Gujaratis. In other words, leave alone “flying out 15,000 Gujaratis” (about 300 flights if you crammed 500 in each lol. Sleep deprived brain. Make that 15 flights if you crammed 1000 in each. Keeping it simple now.), so far it is looking like one Modi, 5 IAS officers, 1 IPS officer, 1IFS officer and 2 GAS officers collectively got out 25 bus loads of people (1250) to Delhi and 4 Boeings (1760). But nothing that would give credibility to a number like 15,000.

As if that was not enough to thumb his nose at a government accused of large-scale mismanagement in handling the crisis, Modi later in the day even offered to “completely rebuild” the temple at Kedarnath using “the latest technology available” in such a way that no natural calamity would ever shake it again. The Uttarakhand CM is believed to have dismissed the statement.

 Roads and homes need rebuilding on a vast scale after natural disasters. Utilities installed. Freezing winter snowfall approaches in a few months. Gods don’t die. Also, why would one want to completely rebuild something to a new standard when the old one proved sturdy enough that the building he wants to replace was the only one to survive the flood? Hardly surprising that anyone getting nose thumbed in crisis wants to rebuff the thumber. General emotional intelligence. Help offered as disrespect and a flaunting of superiority is rarely welcome.

What cannot be dismissed, though, is Modi’s now trademark style of micro-management, something his supporters say is the need of the hour for India. “It’s amazing what he has done here,” said Anil Baluni, a BJP leader. “If someone doesn’t like it, what can we do?’

This is probably the only truthful line in the whole article. Local BJP seems to be content to call themselves incapable of acting in an emergency without flying in someone from another state for two days. Wonder if they will mention it in their Assembly elections campaign – that they were unable to utilize well a magnificent rescue and evacuation effort by the Army without someone holding their hand through it. And the utter sycophancy of it.

The very idea that one person can walk into the aftermath of a natural disaster and make snap decisions that work better than tested systems already in operation is delusional! The idea that a VIP strutting around in a disaster zone is an asset is a myth!

Here’s a comparison from Gujarat itself – without setting a foot in Uttarakhand. When Alok Kumar Tewari, divisional railway manager for the Ahmedabad division realized Northern Railways would not be able to spare trains to Gujarat, he ordered unused coaches to be spent to Haridwar. Result – 18 coach train 16 general (1600) and 2 sleeper coaches (144) – loads of “extra passengers” crowding potential for emergency evacuation (another 1600?) – that wouldn’t halt anywhere else and thus reach faster. Train left on 20th, reached on 21st, returned immediately to reach on 22nd. Transport Commissioner J P Gupta sent 40 buses (2000) to bring stranded Gujaratis back all the way to Gujarat (not just Delhi).

Neither of them set foot in Uttarakhand for it. The idea that it is desirable to ignore robust systems and write own rules in an emergency – and worse to tout mediocre results for the effort as something heroic is beyond absurd and sycophancy of the highest order. It is disturbing that the guy who promotes tech is superstitious enough to need to be in the vicinity to receive SMSes for help or believes that field reports will not reach Gujarat efficiently without him going to Uttarakhand – not like he went out there amid landslides there either for first hand data. Nor should he – or any other VIP not directly commanding rescue operations on ground (as opposed to arranging transport).

Modi’s men have not only para-dropped a complete medical team in Hardwar, they have also set up camps across th (sic) flood-hit regions. Prominent BJP workers in villages across the state are dealing directly with members of the rescue committee, telling them where food is to be sent, people given shelter and medicines administered. That seems to have helped.

Considering the crapshoot this article is, I’d like to know the competence of this para-jump capable medical team of Modi’s before I comment on it, but I suppose all medical professionals are welcome. I do hope there were at least a few doctors and not just people sent in with first aid boxes after a day’s camp or something, because just a day ago, same newspaper reported the availability with GSDMA of a big box for delivering medicines that can be airlifted without making any mention of this miracle team. Also would be interesting to know how Modi had a “complete medical team” trained to para drop into a disaster zone and how come it has never been appreciated before. For the uninitiated, para dropping into a zone isn’t as simple as getting on a chopper and landing there and one has to wonder why a chopper was not used to send in garden variety doctors.

Also would be interesting to know who these “Modi’s men” are who  are doing these miracle rescues. Last I heard, there were no specific calls for volunteers to run Modi’s ops. RSS has volunteers who were already in place, so Modi is hardly likely to have brought them in at this late date. Unless of course, Modi is being gifted the 6th Battalion of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) based at Gandhinagar that was rushed to Uttarakhand at the same time. Not aware that NDRF would ordinarily report to the CM of one state for rescue ops in another. Or perhaps he took the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) teams – which has a box for transporting medicines which can be airlifted. Though how these could be “Modi’s men” if they serve the state regardless of who gets elected is beyond my comprehension.

When a car owned by a Gujarati was stuck in a road-block by angry residents demanding aid in Badkot, Uttarkashi, an urgent message was immediately sent out by an IAS officer and the vehicle taken to safety. Asked about the “new model” of rescue and relief operation by Modi that has helped 15,000 Gujaratis get out of Uttarakhand, an angry Congress legislator said, “See, that’s what we mean. His model works only for Gujaratis.”

All I can say is I think Gujaratis are lucky that their CM will come all the way from Gujarat to rescue them from angry local survivors of a crisis demanding aid. If this is a good rescue model, then the writer has more than a screw loose.

Note: This article is not about criticizing Modi. Criticizing Modi will not end the political penchant for getting mileage off a crisis and he is by no means the only one to do it. This article is about paid media or absurdly low intellectual capacity of professional journalists in increasing evidence. I detest the stupidification of people to sell agendas. In my views, it is a sabotage of the intellectual capital of the country and thus an attack on my country.

There is a need for news media to stop prostituting themselves for propaganda or cash.

I think such articles are blatant insult to people doing tremendous work saving lives on the ground, keeping robust systems moving efficiently. Countless people combing mountain terrain and debris for survivors, leading people out, flying sorties, treating wounded, gathering bodies, disseminating info, transporting supplies, coordinating information, setting up essential services, communications, funding aid, giving lifts to others, cooperating, surviving, working night and day on limited rest in punishing conditions. Not one of these could do it alone either. This is a movement of humanity restoring itself from tremendous trauma, doing their bit, small steps at a time. Doing their part to their best and doing more as possible. Not one person exiting normal place in sceme of things, inserting at will, taking suo moto limited actions and flaunting them as extraordinary.

And now Rahul Gandhi has gone there. God only knows what rabbit he will pull out of which hat.

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Vidyut
Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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