Thursday, November 4, 2010

Floods 2010 in retrospect

Although it is too early to review the recent flash floods that devastated the entire length of Pakistan astride River Indus, let me do it lest we forget that horrific calamity. We were caught off guard courtesy the Metrological Department which other than predicting heavy rains, failed to “analyze” the impact of those unprecedented rains and raise alarm as if hell was to let lose – which in fact finally did.

OK, I take their naivety for the reason that in their entire career, none of the officials would have ever encountered such heavy rains, so the rested well after issuing the onset of heavy rains like any routine news and information on various TV channels. Next comes our Disaster Management Authority, which was specially created after the 2005 Earthquake to deal with natural calamities and disasters of very high magnitude. The NDMA was all high and dry to deal with the situation. It the Chairman of NDMA awhile to confess on state TV that NDMA was only a monitoring authority and did not have any wherewithal to deal with any kind of calamity or disaster physically. It could at best monitor the scale of disaster after gathering reports from other agencies.

Both Met Department and NDMA absolved them of any discredit and “came out clean” of any blame game. As for the provincial governments, to start with the Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KPK), they were caught off guard and were baffled with the magnitude of the calamity as they did when earthquake hit the northern areas of Pakistan and KPK just five years ago. There were no tents, packed food, clothes, rations and other essentials for immediate dispatch to the flood hot areas.

So who could do it? Who to turn to when such calamities hit us? Army, who else!! So everyone sat back and let the army handle the rescue and relief operation. The entire local government machinery, government departments seemed paralyzed, rather perplexed. The so called public representatives of both national and provincial assemblies found refuge in their comfortable abodes, and even days after the muddy onslaught, hardly a few out of hundreds ever surfaced to come forward and render a helping hand. Those who did vanished after photo sessions or made headlines while riding on motorbikes.

After Army, it was the people of Pakistan, poor, rich and the philanthropists who gave and collected donations from their communities and sent whatever they could to the flood hit areas. But for the first few days, there was no organized body or government agency, other than the Army, to receive the relief goods and distribute among the devastated people.

The media did a good job in reporting the flood devastations, but every channel was trying to win the race by flashing slides “First reported by …..” Like elected representatives they also made their coverage a photo sessions. The lady reporters wore make up and gaudy attire when people around were in a mess and in muddy clothes. Instead of focusing on the relief efforts, they would people who would lament for not being helped at all, thus trying to white wash the efforts of those who were doing their best to embattle the monstrous floods ever.

For as long as the water did not reach the Arabian Sea, our TV channels were full of reports and footages of distressed people. But as water moved forward, so did the media, leaving the people of the previous areas to their fate and were forgotten. Now that the rivers have dried up of the muddy flood waters, so has the media dried up of any news about What Now??

It is sad to see that we do not have any follow up journalism in our country. Our media has found new news to report, the fuel price hike, the disappearance of sugar, discussions of fate of present government, considering of options and what not. Suddenly those 20 million people have been forgotten and left to themselves to live a new life from scratch. All claims of building houses and model villages have become echoes of the past. Except for issuance of Watan Cards, there is no news about the plight of the flood hit people and their rehabilitation. There are now reports that even the Watan Card holders have started to sell their cards (I do not who is buying these and why) to get some relief.

Any word from the government and the political parties? Not a word. No one talks of floods anymore. The government for obvious reasons of hiding its failure to address the issue, and political parties – they have other issues on their agenda. One party is Musharaff specific and is dying to put him on gallows, as if that is the only thing they should be concerned about. Others are too busy in finding additional benefits from the government or elsewhere. It is only those 20 million who remember the floods, it seems, as they suffered and continue to suffer God knows for how long.

I urge all and sundry to keep the tragedy alive and let us not forget those who suffered and lost their lifetime fortunes and possessions. Let us keep following their rehabilitation process through active monitoring and point out loopholes and weakness in the efforts by the federal and provincial governments so that corrective measures could be taken.

Let us just not forget those 20 million, please.

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