As the cyclone beats a retreat, the congress jockeys for position
As the devastating cyclone fizzled out the congress party moved in swiftly to claim credit for the massive evacuation efforts that resulted in remarkably lesser number of human casualties during the thick of the calamity. In a hurriedly called press conference at the party headquarters, the central minister for science and technology, Mr Jaipal Reddy patted the back of the UPA government and took all the credits for managing the disaster in a better way.
Notwithstanding the fact that the situation at the ground level was managed in an outstanding manner this time, the attempt of the congress to own the success singlehandedly runs contrary to the facts and amounts to politicizing a natural calamity for narrow political gains.
One may not be in disagreement with the claim of the minister that the government has made huge investments over the years in augmenting the technological capabilities of the metrological department. The minister must be speaking by the book when he said that the government invested rupees 750 crores that went into purchasing supercomputers, sophisticated radars and satellite warning systems that modernized the department making the job of metrological forecasting reliable. This certainly gives some merit to the minister’s claim that the UPA government was responsible for the successful evacuation of the masses enabling them to escape the fury of the cyclone.
Yet, the assertion of the congress needs to be taken with a pinch of salt because it is improper and wrong on two fundamental counts – facts and ethics.
Why the congress is wrong in taking credit of the evacuation drive is the fact that evacuation of such large number of people counting to 1 million can’t be possible without tremendous effort of the local administration, police and other state agencies. The state government administration personnel of both the states put in tremendous efforts to save the people. The Odissa government set an inconceivable target of zero death and it really meant it. People, like the collector of the Ganjam district who went without sleep for 72 hours to ensure relocation of nearly 1.5 lac people to safer places, are the real heroes whose herculean efforts helped the state governments in getting their ducks in a row. Hence, the attempt of the congress to take credit of the success singlehandedly without giving any credit to the BJD government is factually not tenable.
Further, it is ethically not proper to rake the issue of taking credit at a time when the dust raised by the storm has not yet fully settled. The governments still need to put in tremendous efforts in terms of manpower and resources to bring the cyclone affected areas back to track. All the people who are relocated from their homes are to be rehabilitated and, as most of them are terminally poor, they need to be set on their feet. Hence, this is certainly not the time to indulge in credit business. If the central government feels that it has invested in weather forecasting technologies, it is good; it is exactly what is expected out of a government. It is their job. To raise a hue and cry over a job which is expected out of the minister is nothing else but a sinister attempt aimed at taking political mileage out of a calamity. It shows desperation.
It is time to demonstrate our expertise and technological prowess in the field of weather forecasting to the outside world in an apolitical manner. It is certainly not a time to indulge in political rhetoric on what is essentially a non-political issue.
Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2013