Stop the rout

Heavy rain has left a trail of death and destruction in various parts of Karnataka. Some 86 people are reported to have died so far and most of the victims were either washed away by rivers in spate or killed when their houses collapsed. The districts worst affected by the downpour are Bijapur, Belgaum, Bidar, Raichur and Gadag. Three days of incessant rains have forced people to take refuge in trees and on roofs of houses. Electricity and telephone lines have collapsed and thousands of people, especially those living in villages along rivers, are marooned. Rescue operations are on. Helicopters have been pressed into service to aid rescue efforts in areas that are completely cut off. The worst is, however, not over. Heavy rains have been predicted for another couple of days more and flooding of rivers can be expected to worsen. While the government is focusing on rescue operations at the moment it needs to take steps to ensure that people in low-lying areas are warned ahead and evacuated before disaster strikes. It also needs to prepare for outbreak of epidemics.

Meanwhile, chaos on the streets of Bangalore thanks to waterlogging continues. Officials of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) are blaming the torrential downpour for the waterlogging. But heavy rains at this time of the year are routine and the BBMP should have acted in anticipation of it. Officials of the BBMP and the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board (BWSSP) are busy blaming each other for the open drains and pipe laying work that have made Bangalore’s streets a virtual deathtrap during the monsoons. It is hard to understand why road repair work and pipe laying activity is taken up when the rainy season begins.

Politicians and officials who are now thinking of taking off on aerial surveys of flood-affected areas should bear in mind that this will only impede ongoing rescue and relief operations. Instead, they need to ease procedures to ensure that food and medical supplies reach Bijapur and other flood-hit districts at the earliest and that relief is reaching those most in need of it. North Karnataka is a backward area. Medical and other facilities here, limited at the best of times, will be inadequate to cope with the current crisis. A one-time financial dole as compensation for losses incurred in the rains will not suffice. People here will need support to rebuild livelihoods.

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