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Paradise lost?

Paradise lost?
India has rightly played its role as a friendly neighbour by reaching out to Nepal immediately after the terrible earthquake with an intensity of 7.9 on ritcher scale struck the Himalayan nation. Indian teams for search and rescue operations reached Nepal earlier than the Chinese could send a 62-member team. India has sent 10 teams of National Disaster Response Force, each team consisting of 45 personnel who are fully equipped with modern equipment to deal with search and rescue operations. These teams have medical and para-medics experts and sniffer dogs and are well equipped with live detector machines, cutters that can cut steel, concrete and wood and food and immediate relief materials.

The first batch of 62-member Chinese team that landed in Nepal has six sniffer dogs and relevant rescue and medical equipment. Out of the 62 members, 40 are from the 38th Group Army of the People’s Liberation Army, Beijing Military Area Command and have experiences in participating in 
international rescue missions.

China is also facing the same problem as India. An earthquake has struck southwest Tibet almost at the same time. But India’s scientists believe that this earthquake has a different epicenter from that in Nepal. The impact of the earthquake in Nepal was experienced in many states of north India including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, West Bengal, Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan with casualties and damages at places. Tremors were also felt in Bangladesh.

Indian rescue teams have, however, the added advantage of reaching by land route. Despite the intermittent closure of Kathmandu airport, the Indian teams took the opportunity of safe land at appropriate times and at other helipads.

This is not the first time India reached out to an immediate neighbour in the hour of distress. Recently in December, last year, India transported over 1,000 tonne of fresh water and reverse osmosis facilities to Maldives when water crisis engulfed archipelago after fire broke out at the Maldives Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC). Both Indian Navy and Indian Air Force were pressed into the operations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that South Asian neighbours are his priority and true to his words he has acted in time when situations arose.

According to Indian earth scientists an earthquake of magnitude 7.9 on ritcher scale occurred   at 11.41 am IST (Indian Standard Time) on April 25 at a depth of 10 km with its epicenter located 77 km northwest of Kathmandu at Pokhara. The effects of this earthquake were severely felt in all northern and central parts of India including in the capital city of New Delhi. About 46 aftershocks of the intensity of 5 and above on ritcher scale was felt in the entire affected region in two days after the initial occurrence. However the intensity seems to be tapering off. But Indian earth scientists have cautioned that aftershocks will be continued to be felt in the coming days till the process of release of energy is completed.

Even though there are deaths, casualties and damages at home, India has taken up the onus of bailing out Nepal from the current crisis that has witnessed thousands of deaths (still unaccounted in numbers) and severe damage to property. After rescue operations rebuilding of Nepal will be another major task for India. Financial and logistical help are pouring into Nepal from other countries. Since in the present situation it is difficult for other countries and international agencies to reach Nepal, many have sought permissions for over flights.

Apart from rescue operations, Indian teams are engaged in evacuating thousands of trapped Indian nationals and tourists from other countries as well. This is a good humanitarian gesture. Similar humanitarian gesture that India made recently was evacuating other foreign nationals, particularly South Asians who were trapped in the recent crises in Iraq and Yemen.

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has proved its competence in crisis management in most difficult situation. It is also aided by the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Sashtra Seema Bal – the force that guards India-Nepal border. Food and relief materials are being organised all over the country to help the Nepali victims. Indian Army has launched ‘Operation Maitri’ with teams consisting of medical personnel, engineers, food and relief materials. The Army is also working with its own Gurkha ex-servicemen for guidance, relief and rescue. Apart from food and immediate relief materials, reverse osmosis plant for supplying water and oxygen cylinders are being supplied by the Indian Armed Forces.

Nepal was undergoing a political crises after monarchy was replaced. The world was eagerly waiting for a quick transition to a republican democracy with a well drafted Constitution. But the process of drafting of the Constitution was delayed due to the differences between political parties. The nation had to undergo elections to elect a second Constituent Assembly as the first one failed to produce a Constitution. The second Constituent Assembly also failed twice to meet its self-imposed deadlines. India has said that it would keep its hands off and let the Nepali people decide to draft its own Constitution through consensus. It does not prefer to interfere in the internal affairs of the Himalayan nation.

It is a sorry state of affairs that while Nepal was struggling to come out of its political crisis, a Himalayan tragedy struck the nation in the form of a terrible devastating earthquake.

India, as responsible neighbour cannot just be a spectator and therefore it has taken the right decision in right time and in right earnest to bail out the Nepali people out of this terrible tragedy. Relief and rescue operations will not just be enough for India as responsible neighbour. It should take up the proactive role in reconstruction of Nepal and allow people to decide their own destiny.

Ashok B Sharma

Ashok B Sharma

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