Inevitably, the monsoons in India, whether ahead of their scheduled time or delayed, create the same fluttering of the thirsty eyes and hungry hearts, before they give in to the ubiquitous instances of rain rampage and downpour disasters. Every year, India embraces the rains with the same level of unpreparedness, both in the cities and in the hills, as rivers overflow, roads get waterlogged, floods overwhelm the bustling metros and life-giving waters metamorphose into demonic gusts taking everything along in their path. As heavy rains lash parts of north India this season, two weeks ahead of time, thousands are left stranded in the hilly states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. In the picturesque Uttarakhand, nearly 26 people have lost their lives already, with over 60 missing after record downpours and floods washed away buildings and roads, leaving vehicles caught in an unbelievably long gridlock for over 48 hours. More than a dozen have died in Rudraprayag district, with landslides burying buses, while halting the pilgrims’ progress on their way to Kedarnath. The monsoon mayhem runs like a common thread through the years, though this year they have already created a environmental emergency of sort, with the army and paramilitary troops now being engaged in rescue missions too dangerous for others to participate in. With homes flooded, people have been left without access to food, clean drinking water and shelter, while the water level of rivers Ganga and Yamuna rises to dangerous levels, hinting at the possibility of even greater catastrophe. Even the swanky new Terminal 3 of the Delhi international airport, deemed the second best in the country only recently, has been caught in a precarious situation with rain waters flooding the area and making lives of the passengers absolutely miserable.
In the light of the frequent disasters, whether manmade or natural, hitting the country, ostensibly due to excessive urbanisation and deforestation, the perpetual laxity and inefficiency of the respective states, and particularly, the absolute failure on the part of the National Disaster Management Authority to effectively counter the significant loss of life and damage to property and infrastructure, come into sharp relief. Obviously, India lags behind most of the global powers in terms of disaster preparedness, with efforts at mitigation and prevention of environmental or other calamities preposterously below the international standards. Ludicrously enough, the NDMA, though headed by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has been found wanting in every sphere of its operations, unable to stop or reduce the onslaughts of ecological or urban catastrophes. In fact, according to a performance audit submitted by the former CAG Vinod Rai, India still remains thoroughly unprepared to adequately avert all kinds of natural disasters, although enough funds have been allocated to the government organisation. Intriguingly, at a time when India wrestles with the rampages of the heavy rains, critical posts within the NDMA lie vacant, and no proper action plan has been laid out to offset the ritual ravages of the yearly monsoons. Whether it’s an earthquake, cyclone or just plain showers, it is India’s heedlessness that makes the global headlines, along with the avoidable human tragedies.