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'Why delay calling the army?'

By Colonel (Dr) Anil A Athale (retd)
August 01, 2005 16:48 IST
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Maharashtra as a well administered state takes justifiable pride in the fact that it has seldom called out the armed forces for aid.

But the recent rains, the heaviest in this century, presents an extraordinary situation and this is no time to stand on false prestige.

Anyone familiar with Maharashtra politics would know that credit-mongering is a major issue here. So maybe the politicians, civil administration and police are reluctant to share the 'glory' with the armed forces.

Thanks to the 24 hour television channels, the entire nation's focus has been on Mumbai.

Armed forces deployed in Mumbai for rescue work

It is also true that the government has enough resources in Mumbai. What was lacking was their use and co-ordinated action.

Maybe the army was not needed in Mumbai.

But what of the outlying and remote areas of Konkan? Unfortunately these have been totally absent from the radar screens of both the media and also the government.

The heavy rains snapped all communications with the remote areas and it is doubtful if the government even knows the extent of damage and the number people who are in distress.

The first priority therefore is to send fact finding teams and establish wireless communications to know the extent of devastation as well as the type of aid needed. The army is ideally suited to do this.

Navy to the rescue in Mumbai

A more uncharitable view in understanding the reluctance of the political leadership and civil administration in taking the army's help could well be the lure of 'flood money.'

With the recent example of Goswami of Bihar flood relief fame, the reluctance in not calling the army can be understood.

But should we let people die or suffer just because some one wants to put his finger in the relief pie?

Finally, the utter inanity of various government functionaries busy giving sound bytes to the television media.

One wonders how the decision-makers have so much time to waste in front of the television cameras, when they should be hard at work organising relief and rehabilitation.

It is indeed an extraordinary situation, and it is time the state leadership sheds its reluctance to take the help of the armed forces and puts the interests and lives of people above political or monetary gains.

 Terrible Tuesday and its aftermath

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Colonel (Dr) Anil A Athale (retd)