If this suffering makes you feel sick

In the face of tremendous odds, some ordinary citizens of Orissa are showing great spirit

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015 | 02:50:09 AM

It may sound sick, but for the survivors of the supercyclone that lashed Orissa on October 29, it was perhaps easier to have perished. Or maybe not, because the dead are not going away. They are present in the stench of rotting corpses and carcasses, which bears the ominous portents of epidemics. For thousands of people, life is simply a prolonging of the agony that stormed into their lives on the cataclysmic winds.

The agony has been compounded by the fact that those who claim to govern, who get paid for studying the weather and issuing forewarnings of approaching disasters, failed. But, perhaps, there is an excuse or two for the administration in the fact that the intensity of the cyclone was unimaginable. But the people cannot make excuses because it does not help them survive. And, they have been reduced to the status of 'survivors'. Yet, what they can do -- what some of them have done -- restores our faith in humankind.

There is the story of a farmer who lost everything, including his land, but adopted an orphaned boy. Another describes how 1,000 people took shelter inside a building meant to accommodate only 200, and survived the storm. There are stories of those who have started rebuilding their homes, without waiting for governmental relief. This is the spirit that has seen us through since the time humans began to evolve. And this human spirit is sadly absent from India's governance system.

There were reports of three district magistrates, highest officials at the district level who were crucial links in the relief work, were absconding from duty. The state government diverted Rs 100 crore from the relief fund sent by the Centre to pay salaries. The Centre itself was busy installing a new governor in the state, a move that reeked of politicking in the face of a human catastrophe.

The cyclone has also caused widespread destruction of the environment. Chilika, Asia's largest inland brackish water body, which is already facing a threat from encroachments, may have been adversely affected. It may take many years for the agricultural fields to recover from the salt that the seawater has left behind. The preliminary estimate of the damage to forests and wildlife has been estimated around Rs 400 crore by the Union ministry of environment and forests.

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