When Nature Hits Back: The Uttarakhand 2013 Story
Uttarakhand, which was formerly called ‘Uttaranchal’, is a Himalayan state in the northern part of India. On account of the fact that many holy Hindu temples and pilgrimage centres are found throughout the state, Uttarakhand is often called the “Land of the Gods”. People from across the world visit this Indian state in search of spiritual salvation and soul food. Gifted with natural scenic environs and blissful locales, this Himalayan region has always been a haven of peace, a haven where Gods would undoubtedly love to dwell in. Over the centuries, with its pristine offerings of verdant landscape, large rivers and their feeding rivulets, variegated hues of floral life carpeting the plains, the monumental hills, complemented by the odd snowcap, this been an idyllic retreat for all, irrespective. Until Now!
A little past the fateful midnight of June 16, 2013, a furious cloudburst occurred near Vasu-ki-tal, a glacial lake at an altitude of 14,200 feet above sea level and the aftermath was a trail of devastation in the adjoining temple valley of Kedarnath, one of India’s holiest pilgrimage centres. This sudden cloudburst led to the overflowing of the lake causing flash floods down the hills in Kedarnath. Within hours of the this natural occurrence, thousands of people and many structures, including the Shankaracharya memorial, were washed away without a trace while the lodges and food stalls around the Kedarnath temple were filled with slush and debris, some of the rocks to be swept down are almost the size of large trucks and even adult male elephants.
One of the worst recorded natural calamities in India, the Uttarakhand disaster can never be forgotten by millions of people whose lives were directly or indirectly affected due to it. The once bustling Kedarnath valley by the legendary Mandakini river is now a reminiscent of its hallowed past; it resembles a haunted island today. There is an eerie silence and the stench of rotting bodies fills the area that once bestirred with nearly 10,000 people at any given point of time. What was and is fast becoming a superstitious belief is the fact that the famous Kedarnath temple itself remains unscathed and in one solid rock piece on account of divine intervention, much to the wonder, amazement and well confirmed conviction of all devotees, worldwide. What remains as a surprise and a shame is the fact that scavenging ascetics and local miscreants have made the most of it. The remnants of the calamity is being used to the optimum by people whom the public looks up to, the ‘sadhus’ or wandering ascetics who otherwise make a living out of offering holy advice to gullible tourists in the name of the Almighty Lord Shiva. Ironically, these saffron-clad men have literally tried to cash in on the biggest natural disaster that the country has ever faced. In fact, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has recovered over Rs.One Crore in cash from these ‘sadhus’ in the Kedarnath region. This money was not only looted from the temple coffers, it was also taken off corpses, whose gold jewelry, cash and other valuable items such as mobile phones were relieved of them by these unscrupulous merchants of materialism. According to NDRF IG Sandeep Rathore, “about Rs.1,14,83,000 primarily came from the SBI (State Bank of India) branch in Kedarnath. But looking at some coiled notes”, he adds, “…one can’t rule out looting of bodies.”
On the other hand, the political circus is an entertainment of its own kind. The media makes the most of the harrowing coverage, while the politicos fight with each other (in the literal sense) to capture maximum mileage for their own parties. The only folk serious about the rescue operations is the Indian Army and Air Force. The constant drone of the chopper rotors across the valley still instills one’s diminishing faith of the democracy called India. The Army in its maritime condition has put in more effort than the entire political system does in the pursuit of its own personal gain.
With facts such as to the number of people yet to be evacuated from ground zero and more obscure guesses about the exact death toll figure, it is but obvious that the country requires a more people centric answerability, be it the government or the administration. The Chief Minister of the State himself is clueless about the exact statistics, so we as normal citizens can only pray!
Many believe that this is a direct effect of mass industrialization, commercialization and other man-made causes, but whatever it is, it is definitely a lesson from nature for all of us inhabiting this planet. After all. we are just another species, and to the best of our limited comprehensibilities…, are considered an intelligent one!
We at Simplilearn are doing the least we possibly can, we have Google People Finder in place and are donating a part of our salary to the bereaved and affected, hoping that it reaches those we wish it to reach…if you wish to be a part of our efforts (and the overall human race’s), you can visit: www.tinyurl.com/iliut. Remember, All monetary contributions are tax exempted u/s 80G.
We all have loved ones, let’s hope this never happens to them!
Radhika Mohan Singh Roy is the Manager for Communities & Social Media at Simplilearn.com. He is a Master degree holder in English and a certified Six Sigma Green Belt. He has previously worked with Apple Computers, Google and Bank of America.