First the earthquake and now bureaucracy -- by Manisha Parikh Srivastava Back   Home  
Gujarat probably needs another Gandhi to help its people. People who have been first been struck by the devastating earthquake on January 26th and now with a snail-paced indecisive government drowned in bureaucracy.

On May 1, 2001, as the state celebrated it's 41st formation anniversary, by splashing full centre page advertisements in newspapers, spinning around the success of Sardar Sarovar Dam, the resurgent industry, tourism and handicrafts development work, and the little information on rehabilitation work of its quake affected citizen was, "the four largest towns of Kutch - Bhuj, Anjar, Bhachau and Rapar will be rebuilt at a cost of Rs. 1729 crore, with the financial aid from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank."

Has the government even after three months of disaster been able to formulate a time-bound plan for the completion of the rehabilitation work? Does it even have a final count on the numbers of houses it needs to build? Does the government have the foresight to consider the plight of the people living in the temporary shelters and tents in the monsoon? All these seem to be far-off dreams as it is not even clear whether a comprehensive plan for rehabilitation and resettlement package has been formulated as yet.

The Indian Express (May 2,2001) in its report, `Police fails to arrest a builder indicted by Forensic Science Laboratory report' brings to light the delay and inaction which permits an Ahmedabad-based builder to roam scot-free three months after the quake. This is despite a report of the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) indicting the builder on two counts: faulty construction as well as use of poor material. The Outlook (May 7,2001) in its report on the Bhuj, Anjar relief scam, (a must read), points how long-procedures, paperwork and clearances, slow government communication are creating stumbling block which are frustrating, demoralising and driving away even the best of the corporates and NGOs from the housing and rehabilitation projects. The same report also carries the Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel's announcement that Kutch's homeless would have to wait for at least two years for houses to be built for them.

Strange that the BJP-led NDA alliance at the centre should cry hoarse about integrating the Indian economy with the global world, license free regimes and yet ignore the traditional bureaucratic hues of the BJP government in Gujarat which is creating misery for its own people.

The Parliament in the recently concluded Budget session failed to discuss the status of the rehabilitation work in the state. As even our Prime Minister had other matter to attend to, like a bruised ego on being called names by the Opposition parties. The Congress stalled proceedings in the House over the Tehelka expose but did not find this issue important enough to be raised in the House. The situation can hardly be brushed aside as a State subject as it is clear that the Gujarat government is almost in a perpetual state of exhaustion and its bureaucratic tangles instead of fading in the backdrop of human tragedy is flourishing.

The NDA-government in the first week of February had hurriedly announced an all-party national disaster committee aimed to suggest steps for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction in the earthquake-affected areas and deliberate on the necessary legislative measures needed to deal with national calamities in future. Has this 34-members strong jumbo political committee formulated anything constructive till date? Maybe these issues are supposed to wait until our politicians free themselves from the State Assembly elections.

Compare this response to the disaster calamity planning in San Francisco. In the mid-thirties, when an earthquake struck the city, the fire that broke out following the quake also caused large-scale damage. Due to the quake many of the underground water tanks and pipes were damaged and this hampered the fire-fighting capacity. The city as part of its future disaster management plan built water reservoirs atop surrounding hills to withstand future earthquakes and thus prevent any repeat fire-tragedies.

Whereas in India, even after repeated cycles of drought, floods and now earthquakes, we are unable to formulate even a basic rehabilitation plan. When the country's disaster management committee is formed with politicians instead of experts can it honestly progress? Can one Sharad Pawar (with his experience in Latur) heading the committee makeup for the stars of political arena like Laloo Prasad Yadav, Jayalalitha, Balasaheb Thackeray, Sharad Yadav, G K Moopanar, Kanshi Ram, 34 of them in all onboard?
This article was published in Recently, my friends here, who donated for the rehabilitation work in Gujarat said they saw a feature on BBC about the bureaucracy in Gujarat. I feel sad.. when I hear such things. Why people behave like inhumans.. just for money!!??