Why Assam floods hardly evoke any reactions, while for Mumbai rains all cry
Mumbai, August 30: On Tuesday, our focus quickly shifted from violence-hit Haryana to flood-hit Mumbai. Since late last week till Monday, pan-India attention (as television studios would like us to believe) was concentrated on the conviction and sentencing of rapist Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh which fanned violence across Haryana and Punjab.
The images of cars drowned in floodwaters of Mumbai after the city received a record rainfall of 468 mm in a couple of hours on Tuesday were enough for television studios to pan their cameras from Haryana to Mumbai.
The situation in the Maximum City really turned from bad to worse as rainwaters inundated roads, hospitals, airport, railway tracks, offices and almost every nook and cranny of Mumbai.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who of late has been at the receiving end of critics for his delayed reaction on violence in Haryana, was quick to post a couple of tweets on Mumbai floods on Tuesday.
Centre assures all possible support to the Government of Maharashtra in mitigating the situation due to heavy rains in parts of the state.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 29, 2017
Urge the people of Mumbai and surrounding areas to stay safe & take all essential precautions in the wake of the heavy rain.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 29, 2017
Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis too swung into action as he visited police control room to personally monitor the situation. The CM also spoke to the media and requested people to stay at home and not go out, unless and until it is really important.
Apart from the swift reaction from the PM and the CM, the media, especially social media, kept the subject burning. Social media, like during Chennai floods in 2015, proved massively helpful as Twitter users continuously posted official advisory, helpline numbers and dos and don'ts to be followed by flood-affected people in the city.
Some Twiterrati also opened their homes for those who were stranded and were looking for shelter to remain safe from the deluge.
It is not just Mumbaikars, on Tuesday, entire India prayed for safety of the city as the situation looked really scary. Thankfully, the intensity of rains reduced on Wednesday, however, the residents continued to struggle as the entire city looked like a marooned island a day after the deluge.
It was really heartening to witness such support and sympathy for Mumbai from across the country. Such gestures help to keep our belief in humanity intact in difficult times. However, why don't we see a united India when floods kill people in hundreds in remote corners of Assam and Bihar?
Are Assam and Bihar not part of India? Or are these poor places, unlike Mumbai, the financial hub of India, are doomed to face natural calamities without anybody ever noticing the plight of the affected people?
Along with the media that is often accused of neglecting the sufferings of people in the hinterlands, our politicians in Lutyens' Delhi hardly reacted even when at least 830 people died in Bihar, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal due to floods, this year.
Whereas 482 people have died in Bihar (the highest so far in any state of the country due to floods), 157 lives were lost in Assam, 101 in UP and 90 in WB, say reports.
The impact of floods in Assam is far more adverse (as death toll figures indicate) than what Mumbai has experienced in one day. According to authorities, at least five people have died in Mumbai due to heavy rains and subsequent flooding in the city.
Here we are not trying to compare the tragedies of Mumbai and Assam. Even if one life is lost it is really sad, but what is more distressing is the fact that even similar nature of miseries fail to evoke similar reactions.
That is why perhaps every monsoon people of Assam blame India as a whole for neglecting their plight caused by floods. This year, PM Modi visited Assam only after he was slammed by critics for ignoring the deadly situation in the state, whereas he immediately went for an aerial survey of his home state Gujarat, where also floods killed people during July.
Probably, even floods, generally a great leveller, can't bridge the geographical and mental barriers faced by remote corners of the country like Assam.