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This submerged statue of Shiva at Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh Ganga emerged as the symbol of devastation caused by floods and mudslides in Uttarakhand in June, 2013. Photo Courtesy: AP

A ll of us have been stunned, shocked and shaken up by the intensity of the recent Uttarakhand tragedy in which thousands of innocents lost their lives due to floods and mudslides caused by cloud burst and heavy rains.

Buildings collapsed, vehicles were washed away, floods and landslides disrupted communication and the young and the old were trapped if not killed in various mountainous pockets of the small state.

The region which has popular pilgrim centres such as Kedarnath and Joshimath among others is frequented by lakhs of tourists every year. It is therefore inexcusable that the state and central authorities never anticipated the possibility of a disaster and did not have an effective disaster management plan in place.

Amidst this colossal failure the nation witnessed the ugly spectacle of politicians and political parties trying to draw credit for rescue operations when in fact it was the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the National Disaster Response Force who played a key role in providing relief and saving lives of the unfortunate victims.

A place that is frequented by people in their thousands has to be prepared with a fool-proof disaster management plan. All the more so in difficult terrain such as the mountainous regions of Uttarakhand. The question “What if?” has to be contemplated upon by the government administration and Plans A, B and C worked out for implementation in the event of a disaster. Clearly, this is what was lacking in Uttarakhand and this is by and large the state of affairs across the country.

 More often than not, we in India are caught unawares and unprepared whenever and wherever disaster strikes- be it a school, hospital or a pilgrim centre. More lives are lost and the tragedy compounded not because of the disaster itself  but due to the delay and inefficiency of relief and rescue operations. Is this the result of the shoddy “Chalta hai” attitude which is a national trait and by which we accept half-measures and let things pass by as they are? This is a point for contemplation.

Our Briefing this month is on the need to promote entrepreneurship in the country  to generate wealth and employment by creating a conducive environment for start-ups. The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) ‘10,000 start-ups’ programme is a step in that direction and worthy of support from one and all in the country.

Making a Difference features the extraordinary story of Charul and Vinay, a young couple who gave up the pursuit of professional careers to devote their lives to campaigning against child labour, strengthening the cause of communal harmony and other social issues. What is striking about Charul and Vinay is the powerful manner in which they convey their message to varied audiences across the country through deeply moving compositions sung by them.

Interesting essays, features and articles are spread across our other sections. Do visit them and write to us with your suggestions, thoughts and comments on the issues raised.

With best wishes,
Abhay Vaidya

Editor, Change for Better


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