Anticipation of calamities is clearly not a strong point in India. It is true that the monsoon came ahead of schedule and hence the extent of devastation in Uttarakhand. But once the tragedy struck and there was clear indication that there would be let up in the inclement weather, the authorities should have anticipated that after the landslides and floods, there would be the possibility of an outbreak of vector and water-borne diseases.
So, it is alarming to see that it is only now that medical teams to deal with this are moving to the area. So far, the army has been providing medical aid to the affected. In fact, the authorities went to the extent of asking the armed forces to help dispose of the bodies, something the latter has refused to do on the ground that this is the responsibility of the state administration. But the delay in disposing of the bodies and the lack of sanitation are bound to lead to a surge in diseases which will claim more lives. The authorities should have had medical teams on standby in the first place given the fury of the rains.
Now, there is only so much and no more that doctors can do given the number of people affected and the difficulty in reaching the interiors in this weather. The medical efforts should have gone on alongside the rescue process and not now when even the best efforts will prove too little too late. It would also have helped if the state administration had been more specific about what sort of help it required in material terms. Well meaning people have been flooding the area with all sorts of items, not all of which are useful for the victims. In fact, having to deal with unwanted aid packages only adds to the work of officials. The authorities should have put out in the media their priority requirements which they don’t seem to have done so far. Medicines and disinfectants should certainly have been on top of the list.
The weather is not likely to let up for some days to come. If the authorities don’t get their act together and make a more coordinated effort, we are afraid that there will only be more bad news in the offing.