Op-Ed: Don’t Compare Tragedies, Rise Above Politics!

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Making comparisons in a human tendency. People, who either witnessed or were the victims of 1999 super-cyclone, are already comparing it with Fani which wreaked havoc on the state’s coast on May 3.

It is being pointed out that the scale of casualties was much bigger in 1999 with around 10,000 people dying according to official estimates. In worst hit Ersama and other parts of Jagatsinghpur district bodies were littered on village roads making the task of relief and rescue workers that much more difficult.

A large number of cattle had also perished in 1999 triggering a temporary milk crisis in some of the affected areas. The gale with windspeed reaching 300 kms per hour was almost as destructive as Fani flattening houses, electric poles and huge coconut plantations. It had blown away everything that came in its away.

Fani’s windspeed in comparison was much less, the maximum being 210 to 250 km per hour. But the big difference was that while the effect of the wind during the super-cyclone had tempered by torrential rains that accompanied it, this time it was the raw force of the wind that caused maximum destruction. Rains, in fact, followed the wind instead of accompanying it.

All this notwithstanding it is inhuman to make comparisons between two tragedies. The scale of casualties may have been much higher in 1999 but human misery brought about by Fani is almost of the same level, if not more. Thousands of people in the affected villages and even towns like Puri are still crying out for water and electricity.

Restoring the power infrastructure, in fact, is the biggest challenge that the state government faces in the wake of Fani. Parts of Bhubaneswar, where power is yet to be restored fully, have witnessed a riot like situation with people attacking electric sub-stations where now police have been deployed to ensure the safety of employees.

Rescue and relief workers from outside the state have pitched in and Odisha government must thank them for working round the clock to bring the situation back to normality. There are, of course, complaints of lack of coordination and shortage of vital electrical equipment without which restoration work cannot move forward.

The state bureaucracy has been making all kinds of claims in what appears to be a massive PR exercise. But any such exercise, unless backed by solid proof, has the potential to backfire which could cost the government dear at this juncture.

It is good that Centre has chipped in with timely help. The Prime Minister was magnanimous enough to announce immediate financial assistance for Odisha. He also made an aerial survey of the affected areas alongwith the chief minister and then heaped praise on the latter for saving many precious lives by mounting a timely evacuation operation. The chief minister returned the compliment.

Many Odisha observers have seen politics behind this exchange of compliments between Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and chief minister, Naveen Patnaik. But it is not always good to see things through the prism of politics. Sometimes it is better to rise above politics in our own interest.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)