[This tragedy is an old one, but not an unavoidable one. The natural world is not the main culprit for poverty or disaster in India. The reason that so many poor people live precarious lives, the reason so many suffer on the edge of survival, is because of how wealth and power are organized under capitalism. The poor people of India and other Third World countries are not valued as human beings by capitalism. Besides their value as producing cogs in the capitalist economic machine, poor peoples are mostly considered expendable by the capitalist system. Capitalism is a system organized around profit. Capitalism is not organized to serve the people or the Earth. Capitalism is irrational from the standpoint of balancing ecological and human needs. Instead, communities are not planned in harmony with the natural world nor are poor communities protected from such disasters. This irrationality is part of what Karl Marx called the anarchy of the capitalist mode of production. The reason that poor people lose their lives in such disasters is because capitalism does not value them enough to create the proper infrastructure to prevent such problems. The reality is that such disasters are the result of hundreds of years of neglect inflicted by the wealthy, the feudalists, the capitalists, the imperialists, the First World, against the proletarian and the poor classes, against the Third World. The reality is that natural disasters are as much man-made as natural. Such disasters are yet another crime by the rich against the poor. The reformists, global institutions, the reactionary state, the capitalists refuse to place the blame on capitalism itself. Instead they repeat the same old lies. They say that the system can be fixed. The reality is that they will never fix their system because they are the system. The nature of capitalism is to serve the wealthy, not the poor. From their point of view, from the standpoint of the wealthy, capitalism is working fine even if poor peoples are slaughtered. Revolution is the only real solution. — NP]
Relatives of missing in India floods maintain hope
LUCKNOW, India (AP) — A day after the government said it would treat more than 5,700 people missing in floods in northern India last month as presumed dead, relatives said Wednesday they still held out hope that their loved ones had survived.
The provisional death toll — officials said some of the missing still could turn up alive — would make the Uttarakhand floods the worst natural disaster in India since more than 10,000 people were killed here in the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.
The toll was worsened by the presence of tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims visiting the state’s temples and the many vacationers who head to its cool hills to escape the summer heat. The government said it was presuming those missing for a month were dead so it could start giving compensation to their families.
Anuradha Raizada, left her home in the state of Uttar Pradesh and went to the temple town of Kedarnath with her husband and two sons – Ashwal, 18, and Atharav, 16. She returned home alone.
On June 16, a wall of water struck the hotel where they were staying. Her husband and one of her sons were swept away.
“There was a deafening noise of water and rain. I clung to my younger son, who had injured his leg and could not walk,” she said. The next day, when he complained of thirst, she left to fetch him water, but she got lost when she tried to return to him. That was the last she saw of him.
She later stumbled across her husband’s dead body, recognizing him from the shirt he had been wearing. She still holds out hope for her children.
She met Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, who assured her that every corner of Kedar valley would be searched for her two sons, she said.
“I know my sons will return one day. They are safe somewhere in the hills,” she said.
Since the flood, Manoj Jaiswal, 40, has not heard from his brother, sister-in-law or their two children, who had been on a pilgrimage in the area. He said the morning just before the flood, his brother called him to say they were staying an extra day.
“This proved fatal for them,” he said.
Jaiswal had gone to the area to search for his relatives. “The hotel where they were staying is badly damaged. Twenty-eight people died in that hotel, but my brother’s name is not there in the casualty list,” he said.
The state government has been criticized for poor emergency preparedness in a disaster-prone Himalayan area, and chaotic development has been blamed for exacerbating the damage from mudslides and overflowing rivers.
Bahuguna said the government would address those concerns.
“We will devise a scientific system where a balance could be maintained between development and nature,” he said.
More than 1,100 roads were damaged because of the rains and landslides and many of them remained cut off, said R.P. Bhatt, the chief engineer at the Public Works Department. Entire villages were buried in silt and debris.
Ramesh Pokhriyal, a former chief minister of the state and a top official with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party said many villages could not get food supplies and he feared people would begin dying of hunger if immediate action was not taken.
Bahuguna said the government was working on alleviating the suffering.
“Work is under way at a great speed to redevelop and reconstruct the affected areas and to provide relief to those hit by the disaster,” he said.
A report sent to Parliament by India’s top audit body in April, said the state was badly unprepared for disasters, even though it was vulnerable to earthquakes, landslides and torrential rain.
One state body formed to deal with disasters has never met since it was formed in 2007. Another group, the State Disaster Management Authority, set no rules, regulations or policies since it was formed the same year.
A disaster management plan was still being prepared, there was no early warning system in the state, communication infrastructure was inadequate, emergency service jobs were left unfilled and medical personnel were not trained to deal with disasters, the report said.
“The state authorities were virtually nonfunctional,” it said.
Nevertheless, army troops, paramilitary soldiers and volunteers rescued more than 100,000 people who had been stranded by the disaster.
The air force and private companies made thousands of helicopter sorties to pick up people stuck on rooftops or marooned on hilltops and to drop off food and drinking water.
In a rare feat, a mule stranded in a small island in the middle of the Alaknanda River, was tranquillized and airlifted by a helicopter to safety a month after being swept away in the floods, Captain Bhupinder of Sumit Aviation said. The owners of hundreds of other mules and horses staged a sit-in demanding the rescue of their injured and starving animals.