May the sky be clear; and the mind of Keralites too

Volunteers at Kavalappara landslide site

News coming from the disaster-hit areas of Wayanad and Malappuram are of a moving tragedy.  Even now the scale of devastation that came as shock to the land has not been accurately logged. Relatives of the missing and the locals in Puthumala in Wayanad say several of them are yet to be located. The landslide in Kavalappara, Malappuram is really frightening.  63 people from 43 houses are submerged in the soil, as per panchayat authorities of Pothukallu.  

Till Sunday evening, over a dozen dead bodies were recovered.  Authorities say none of those who fell 50 feet deep down and got caught inside the soil, is likely to survive.   An entire market area was swept away from the valley where a hill itself was chopped off.    Kavalappara where tragedy hit on Thursday night, was beyond any rescue effort with heavy rain and landslides, and volunteer service got into full steam only later.  Although the army,  air force and civil defence put hands together and made search and rescue more efficient,  it is yet doubtful if all people left in the heap can be rescued.

As opposed to last year’s flood,  loss of lives and property has been aggravated by landslides.  And landslide does not lend itself to forecast like flood.  As for the natives, they are prone to put their own experience so far above any directions issued. In Kavalappara, we hear about the regret among some that the warning given about possible hazard from unceasing heavy downpour was not heeded as due.  In an area hit by landslides with gushing water carrying soil, boulders and trees,  the very landscape is being redrawn which makes any rescue effort that much challenging.  Apart from dredging equipment taking over the job of digging for locating dead bodies, we still lack adequate scientific machinery to complete the task.  Experts say that radars that detect the presence of life and prospects of survival,  infra-red apparatus,  probe microphone that can capture even the faintest sound and drones to make aerial survey,  form the minimum equipment for search during soil erosion and landslide.  In this respect, government machinery is not sufficient.  Now that natural disasters have become an annual feature, it becomes the top priority of the government to make the state disaster management mechanism ready in a fool proof state.  Although disasters cannot be forecast, the responsibility to foresee the possibility and to build defences falls entirely on the government’s shoulders. It has the binding to stop the immoral acts of piercing hills and earth and reclaiming acres of stream,  canals and water ponds, and   to anticipate the compelling situation of those forced to live in disaster-prone zones and to make rehabilitation plans.   If last year’s flood came catching everyone by surprise,  now it is time for Malayalis to recognize that his climate calendar  is undergoing  a change;  therefore,  the government has to adopt a policy and be equipped to face it in full force.   The strictness now being displayed even in the matter of relief work,  has to be replicated in the caution not to land in such dire straits.

It is not only the way tragedy hit, but also the way we faced it that has not been like last year’s.  During the last flood, right from the beginning it was a spectacle of the government and the people moving hand in hand.  And taking a lesson from the previous disaster, the government moved far ahead this time in issuing warnings and in setting up defensive safety facilities.   But at the same time, one cannot help observing that in rescue efforts on the spot and in co-ordination of disaster relief measures,  the level of vigilance and agility did not match last year’s.  There have been complaints that in Puthumala in Wayanad there was laxity in rescue operation.  In Kavalappara where landslide happened on Thursday night, the government was not there in the lead before volunteers for search operations.  And disaster relief mobilization and distribution are also yet to pick up.   The chief minister is of course monitoring the progress from his base in the capital, as also the collectors from district headquarters.  But it is a usual courtesy that when disaster strikes a region, ministers and people’s representatives lend their presence there together with the local population.  But they have not been able to measure up to such natural expectations. A local MLA was even keen to hide the gravity of the disaster and to find fault with the media who reported the matter.

Sadly enough, there are some anti-social quarters too who made some counter propaganda against the government when it was working overtime to save people from disaster, and even tried to block the flow of aid.   And the less said the better about those who chose the hour of calamity to satisfy their racial animus with scant regard for the present situation and the past.   It is not fitting that those who hasten to the scene of hardship for service insist on putting up their signage.   But it is not desirable either to drive away people from scenes suffering from inadequate manpower and equipment, just because their identity is displayed.   Our strength, and of the country, consists in unity where everyone embraces everybody else.   Let our haste be to give those fellow beings, clothed in mud and soaked in flood, a feast of revival.   May the sky that has cast a cloud over Keralites’ life clear up; and may the mind of Malayalis too. May the sky be clear;  and the mind of Keralites too

News coming from the disaster-hit areas of Wayanad and Malappuram are of a moving tragedy.  Even now the scale of devastation that came as shock to the land has not been accurately logged.  Relatives of the missing and the locals in Puthumala in Wayanad say several of them are yet to be located.  The landslide in Kavalappara, Malappuram is really frightening.  63 people from 43 houses are submerged in the soil, as per panchayat authorities of Pothukallu.  Till Sunday evening, over a dozen dead bodies were recovered.  Authorities say none of those who fell 50 feet deep down and got caught inside the soil, is likely to survive.   An entire market area was swept away from the valley where a hill itself was chopped off.    Kavalappara where tragedy hit on Thursday night, was beyond any rescue effort with heavy rain and landslides, and volunteer service got into full steam only later.  Although the army,  air force and civil defence put hands together and made search and rescue more efficient,  it is yet doubtful if all people left in the heap can be rescued.

As opposed to last year’s flood,  loss of lives and property has been aggravated by landslides.  And landslide does not lend itself to forecast like flood.  As for the natives, they are prone to put their own experience so far above any directions issued. In Kavalappara, we hear about the regret among some that the warning given about possible hazard from unceasing heavy downpour was not heeded as due.  In an area hit by landslides with gushing water carrying soil, boulders and trees,  the very landscape is being redrawn which makes any rescue effort that much challenging.  Apart from dredging equipment taking over the job of digging for locating dead bodies, we still lack adequate scientific machinery to complete the task.  Experts say that radars that detect the presence of life and prospects of survival,  infra-red apparatus,  probe microphone that can capture even the faintest sound and drones to make aerial survey,  form the minimum equipment for search during soil erosion and landslide.  In this respect, government machinery is not sufficient. 

Now that natural disasters have become an annual feature, it becomes the top priority of the government to make the state disaster management mechanism ready in a fool proof state.  Although disasters cannot be forecast, the responsibility to foresee the possibility and to build defences falls entirely on the government’s shoulders. It has the binding to stop the immoral acts of piercing hills and earth and reclaiming acres of stream,  canals and water ponds, and   to anticipate the compelling situation of those forced to live in disaster-prone zones and to make rehabilitation plans.   If last year’s flood came catching everyone by surprise,  now it is time for Malayalis to recognize that his climate calendar  is undergoing  a change;  therefore,  the government has to adopt a policy and be equipped to face it in full force. The strictness now being displayed even in the matter of relief work,  has to be replicated in the caution not to land in such dire straits.

 

It is not only the way tragedy hit, but also the way we faced it that has not been like last year’s.  During the last flood, right from the beginning it was a spectacle of the government and the people moving hand in hand.  And taking a lesson from the previous disaster, the government moved far ahead this time in issuing warnings and in setting up defensive safety facilities.  

But at the same time, one cannot help observing that in rescue efforts on the spot and in co-ordination of disaster relief measures,  the level of vigilance and agility did not match last year’s.  There have been complaints that in Puthumala in Wayanad there was laxity in rescue operation.  In Kavalappara where landslide happened on Thursday night, the government was not there in the lead before volunteers for search operations.  And disaster relief mobilization and distribution are also yet to pick up.  

The chief minister is of course monitoring the progress from his base in the capital, as also the collectors from district headquarters.  But it is a usual courtesy that when disaster strikes a region, ministers and people’s representatives lend their presence there together with the local population.  But they have not been able to measure up to such natural expectations. A local MLA was even keen to hide the gravity of the disaster and to find fault with the media who reported the matter.

Sadly enough, there are some anti-social quarters too who made some counter propaganda against the government when it was working overtime to save people from disaster, and even tried to block the flow of aid.   And the less said the better about those who chose the hour of calamity to satisfy their racial animus with scant regard for the present situation and the past. It is not fitting that those who hasten to the scene of hardship for service insist on putting up their signage. But it is not desirable either to drive away people from scenes suffering from inadequate manpower and equipment, just because their identity is displayed.

Our strength, and of the country, consists in unity where everyone embraces everybody else. Let our haste be to give those fellow beings, clothed in mud and soaked in flood, a feast of revival. May the sky that has cast a cloud over Keralites’ life clear up; and may the mind of Malayalis too.

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