Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Politics of Deluge

From the flood front, the story of a man who reached home late, a child who missed school and a boy who did not turn up for his girl

Nischay Pal

If a man reaches home late, there is a human story involved. If a child misses school, there is a human story involved. If a boy fails to turn up for his girl friend at the rendevous, there is a human story involved.
But not so for the governments in Punjab and Haryana. Nearly twenty people have died in floods, thousands of acres of land lies submerged in flood waters, many lives are at stake, thousands of victims are going hungry and uncared for, and hundreds are making efforts to plug breaches, dig up roads to create water channels and do all they can to pick up pieces of shattered lives.
But amidst all of this human tragedy, much of it man made, the governments of Punjab and Haryana have come out as the most petty stake holders, blaming each other for having diverted the flood waters to the other and hurling accusations of who was supposed to do what.
For the two governments, there is no human story involved even if a father did not come home, a child missed school and a boy did not turn up at the rendevous point because one was washed away by the flood, one was electrocuted and one had to rush to retrieve his parent's body. Now, don't ask who was electrocuted, and who got washed away or lost his parent, because for those who were supposed to care, there was no human story involved.
For the farmer who had taken a loan for paddy transplantation, who had fought at the railway platforms to get migrant labourers, who had taken a tractor on rent, and whose daughter was to be married in a few months' time, the flooded fields meant a shattered life. He can't face his daughter and tell her he would have to reschedule the marriage, fixed in the month of the harvest, because someone had dug an illegal canal in Haryana or diverted some Ghaghar water into the SYL.
A Dostovesky would have plumbed the depths of the soul of such a bride not-to-be, and a more sensitised government would have been seen carrying a cross and working overtime to get relief to the people. In an evolved democracy, you would have seen teams of pyschologists fanning out to deal with the trauma that young children would be facing at the turn of events. But in Punjab and Haryana, all you see is news of more breaches in canals and irrigation drains, and some more mud-slinging.
The politicians, whose careers are built around an 'After me the deluge' philosophy, have used even a tragedy of this level to serve their petty ends.
Even as trains stood halted and terminated at various stations enroute, and TV channels flashed frightening pictures of gushing flood waters from the SYL breach, the stress was not on getting the information through about how bad the situation is and what could be expected next, but on who was to blame.
For the man who reached home late, for the child who missed school, for the boy who could not turn up for the rendevous with his girl, the simple question was: Who is managing the things for us in such a way that a couple of days of rain has led to tragedies of such proportions?
Not one voice was heard that said, "Oops! We seem to have messed up." No political party said it was calling for a shut off to mobilise people for large scale community efforts to get the relief through. No media house announced a campaign to get large number of volunteers to areas where they were needed.
Hope lived on only in the form of local communities discovering the inherent strengths in working together. The men at the gurdwara, the youth in the village, the local dera sadh and his devotees, and the village sports club people, they were all there, mostly without a shirt on and with torrents of rain trying to bust their reservepools of camaraderie and strength.
Across the flood affected areas, the rag tag self-inspired armies of such dedicated  men and women were seen trying to do what governments failed to even attempt with all the resources at their command.
Instead, sophisticated insults were being flung on the people. Politicians sitting with the Deputy Commissioner of the area and other senior officials in inflated motorised boats venturing out to estimate the losses, another boat ferrying the media corps bringing up the rear. Who can let go of such a photo-op? The flood waters in the background, the mike thrusted in your face, the cameramen clicking like men possessed. After me the deluge. It was all so customised. "Look behind me. Can you see the deluge?" If only the politician could. He is the deluge. Behind him in the photographs are only human stories of the man who reached home late, the child who missed school, the boy who could keep his date.
Relief comes marked in boxes that scream "Relief". And politicians distribute it only after the banner is hung properly that shows the benevolent faces of men who are supposed to be caring for us. Every little step should be an opportunity to display your loyalty.
Unfortunately, neither the man, nor the child, nor the boy were in the queue when one or the other minister was contriving such potential photo-ops. They are miles away, stuck amid gushing waters and shattered lives, wondering what a couple of days of rain have done to their lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment