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An ostrich mentality

Despite the devastation, why is the Uttarakhand CM not keen to review the state's development policy?

india Updated: Jun 25, 2013 22:20 IST
Editorial

Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna is brimming with confidence even though the state he leads is facing a crisis of epic proportions. In an interview to Hindustan Times this week, Mr Bahuguna was asked whether he was rattled by the criticism that his administration has failed to provide proper relief to the victims of the monsoon fury.

The CM said he was not unnerved by the criticism because he is answerable to his conscience. Not content with making such an astounding comment, Mr Bahuguna asked the interviewer: did the cloudburst at Kedarnath happen because of wrong commercial constructions?

Surely there is someone in the CM’s team to explain to him that there is a strong link between unplanned development in an area, which is prone to erosion, landslides, seismic activity and rainstorms, and the scale of destruction. This is not rocket science and living in denial will not do the CM or his administration any good.

In fact, Mr Bahuguna’s absence in the initial phases of relief activities must be scrutinised. According to a report in the Hindustan Times, he was missing in action for the first few days and even some Congress chief ministers were not able to contact him. Moreover, his administration could only set up helplines at Dehradun when the Indian Army and the National Disaster Relief Force personnel started operations.

What is more alarming is that Mr Bahuguna is speaking the same language as his predecessor the BJP’s Ramesh Pokhriyal who during his term defended the hydroelectric projects despite large-scale protests by the green lobby. In the interview, Mr Bahuguna said that he will not scrap the hydroelectric projects because “activists are against it”.

Can we remind Mr Bahuguna that even the Comptroller and Auditor General in 2009 had warned the state government against building bumper-to-bumper dams in this ecologically fragile state? Mr Bahuguna should understand that this is not the time to be so adamant on one issue and that he must review his government’s development policy, especially the one on dams.