When the Met department announced that the monsoon was 13 days ahead of its time, a record of sorts after 1960, there were happy faces all around. A strong start early in the season helps farm output as about 55% of the country’s arable land is rain-fed and holds down inflation, a critical concern for the UPA government, which is preparing for elections in 2014. But then there was a sudden change in the pace: from being a calm and soothing monsoon, it is now almost like a marauding bull.
In Uttarakhand, the worst hit, 60 people are feared dead due to landslides; 50 people are missing and it has washed away several buildings. The worst hit areas include Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi where the river Mandakini is in spate and the water of the river has entered the market area in Rambada.
It has even caused a flood in Haryana and in Himachal Pradesh, another favourite tourist destination in summer. About 1,000 tourists and locals were stranded at various places. In Delhi and Mumbai, civic authorities have once again been caught unawares: flooded roads, delayed trains and even an embarrassing water-logging in Delhi’s swank international airport.
All this brings us back to an old question: can we ever enjoy the monsoon without such attendant problems? While natural disasters are difficult to avoid, its ill effects can be reduced if proper planning is done and rules are followed. For example, watch the TV grab of a house tumbling down into the swirling Ganga.
Was there ever a case for building a three-storey house right on the bank of the river that flows through an ecologically fragile area? But then civic permission in India is all about ‘connections’ and money and civic maintenance is about maintenance, and not improvement. So year after year, it’s the same old story of clogged drains and house collapses, making the monsoon something to fear rather than enjoy.