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After Tuesday’s deluge and many people staying indoors on Wednesday, due to state government advisories advising to do so, most of the people in Mumbai were back to work today. I too had to stay overnight in my office and reached back home on Wednesday morning. After staying at home yesterday, I came back to work today by the local harbor line train. Rains had stopped late night on Tuesday and on Wednesday, there was hardly any rain, most places in Mumbai experiencing a sunlit day. Still, on Thursday morning, as I reached my local railway station, there were unexpectedly huge crowds waiting on the station. I soon found out that two previous trains on harbor line had been cancelled and the train expected to start from the station in the reverse direction at 7.50 AM had not arrived even by 8.00 AM. It eventually did arrive and started back at around 8.10 AM, with twice or three times the regular number of passengers, because the previous trains had been cancelled and this train was itself running late. Throughout the 1 hour 10 minutes journey, as I was observing the mad rush of people, jostling for bare minimum space to at least stand on one foot, some questions kept on nagging me.

Why is it that almost 30-36 hours of no rains and hence, availability of ample recovery time, the trains services had still not normalized

Why is it that there was a complete absence of timely warnings about the impending heavy rains prior to Tuesday, so that people could have been warned well in advance, and could have stayed at home?

Why is it that all the advisories started pouring in only post noon on Tuesday, when the maximum damage had already been done, and the trains had already stopped functioning? How could the people stranded at workplaces be expected to reach back in such a scenario and of what use were these advisories then?

Why is it that there were predictions of continuous heavy rains for 24-48 hours after Tuesday, and then there was actually no or little rain recorded? Who is accountable for this absolutely off the mark forecast?

Why is it that the authorities are as helpless in handling the rainfalls in Mumbai, as they were in 2005? Why is it that the financial capital of the nation came to a standstill with only one-third the amount of rainfall that had fallen in 2005, and that too 12 years later? Who is accountable for these lost 12 years of no preparation to handle such a situation?

Why is it that the people of Mumbai had only each-other for their help and support, somehow trying to grapple with the crisis situation? Who is accountable for the non-existent disaster management system in a city which experiences 4-month long monsoons every year?

Many, I am sure would be struggling with innumerable questions like the above. These will be discussed in small groups among people for a couple of days, and then all will be forgotten, till the time another adverse situation knocks on the door. People will continue with their lives, putting up with whatever is thrown their way, occupied in the struggles of their day-to day existence. The authorities will be blamed for a day or two, and then narratives will slowly start shifting. We will slowly be told how well the situation was actually handled and if not for the same, how much worse it could have been. The same authorities who were being blamed and trolled will then be rewarded for their excellent work. The narratives will gradually be shifted, and we will not blink an eye, because we will be too busy in managing the affairs of our personal lives.

The process of shifting the narratives has already begun in case of the Panchkula riots. The very Chief Minister who was under the dock till yesterday, is slowly being tried to be portrayed as a hero, because had he not handled the situation so efficiently, the death toll could have been ten times what it was now.

Each one of us needs to seriously introspect today and ask ourselves, which direction are we all headed in? What is the kind of world that we want to create for ourselves? What is the kind of life that we want to provide to our future generations? Have we forgotten the meaning of the term ‘dignified life’? Are we ready to put up with anything and everything? If yes, then for how long do we expect such a kind of world to sustain itself? Or are we not bothered about this at all? Because in all probability, it might just sustain for the duration of our lifetimes. Is that what everything has been reduced to? Is that how dangerously selfish and apathetic the human race has become that it is incapable of thinking and feeling beyond oneself? If yes, then nothing really matters anymore.

Nivedita Dwivedi has done MA in Elementary Education from Tata Institute of Social Science.Blog at http://fromwordstovoid.blogspot.in

2 Comments

  1. Pratap Antony says:

    All your questions are relevant and it looks like there is no good answer to any of them. They are a first step towards analysis and reflection for all of us citizens, and the government. We much to lose and a lot to fight for. Yes, it does seem as though nothing really matters. We seem to have reached the tipping point in matters of societal care, civil rights and civic rights. It looks like things are going to decline even further unless there is a miraculous change of heart amongst us and we look at ourselves and the society and the environment we live in with more care and compassion.

  2. Thank you. I am reminded of the US experience, also in 2005, of Hurricane Katrina, which the authorities did not help people prepare for or do much afterwards, then private companies made huge profits in “cleaning up”. It seems the 2017 Texas disaster is following the same path, and the observations you made can be seen in Houston too.