It's that time again. In the last three days alone, floods in North Karnataka have taken 156 lives (officially), rendered tens of thousands homeless and destroyed lakhs of acres of agricultural crop. In the decreasing order of deaths reported stand Bijapur, Bagalkote, Raichur, Gulbarga, Koppal, Bellary, Davangere, Chitradurga, Gadag, Belagavi, Uttara Kannada, Bidar and Dharwad. These districts cover nearly 50% of the total land area of Karnataka. The flood has hit Andhra Pradesh too, but the losses there are considerably lower.
Hundreds are dying in Karnataka as I write this, and tens of thousands losing everything they have. Let's not forget this: we are experiencing a bloody, huge, flood.
The whole pattern of heavy rain followed by water released by dams in Maharashtra, followed by Government of Karnataka applying to the Central Government for help for even petty things such as helicopters - is not new. The Government of Karnataka is openly helpless in protecting its own people from these almost predictable disasters.
The Central Government, too, has failed in ensuring that neighbouring states work out a decent plan for handling river water excesses. Why wasn't Maharashtra asked to stop releasing Krishna waters before all these lives were taken? And why were helicopters not kept close to flood-prone areas? Flood relief efforts are so badly organized that these helicopters, which fly in from faraway areas, run out of fuel when they get to the spot! Does it take rocket science to station them locally? Or does it take a highly centralized administration (which converts state-governments into havens of low-calibre people)?
Of course, all this is still flood-relief. It's high time we start using the other term: flood control. States which take the lives of their citizens seriously do flood control, not flood relief. While floods caused the Netherlands to start (and yes, complete) the Delta Works and England to build the Thames Barrier, our heads of government, at best, to go to the river to offer prayers to the River Deity!
We have a long way to go before we learn how to
Picture courtesy: AFP