From getting involved personally in the framing of the rescue plan to donating a month’s salary for the relief effort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi left his imprint on India’s rapid response to the Nepal earthquake.
Just over three hours after the killer quake struck Kathmandu on Saturday, Modi was chairing an emergency meeting of senior ministers and key bureaucrats.
“We have to reach out to as many affected people as possible, not just Indians,” he said, telling officials they should not hesitate to call him directly if required, and that they should update him through the day.
Modi referred to his experience in the Gujarat earthquake of January 2001 — when he was a BJP organisation secretary — and instructed officials to prioritise finding survivors below the rubble in the Nepalese capital.
The PM swiftly got on the phone to half a dozen chief ministers, including Bihar’s Nitish Kumar, UP’s Akhilesh Yadav and West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, whose states were also affected by the quake, and asked them to send buses to Nepal for evacuating people. He also called Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav and PM Sushil Koirala to assure them of his help.
Modi’s orders to respond quickly resulted in India’s first relief flight getting to Kathmandu within five hours of the quake.
“The PM actually led from the front… he was also personally keeping track of developments in Nepal in social media,” said a senior government official.
Home minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament on Monday that Modi “knew of the incident before me and took swift action”.
“Just five minutes before the earthquake, I was with the PM. He later called me about the earthquake and said there would be a meeting at 3pm. The quick response that should have been shown by me as home minister was shown by the PM,” Rajnath told the Lok Sabha.
On Monday, a government statement said Modi had donated one month’s salary to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund for assistance to those affected by the quake.
Late in the evening, he was at it again, meeting officials on the relief and rescue operations. He is understood to be even keeping tabs on the roles of the individual ministries involved.