At the break of dawn on Monday, people from the northeastern parts of India were jolted out of their beds. An earthquake of 6.8 magnitude hit Manipur and its neighbouring states that killed eight people and caused great damage to property.
People here are used to mild jolts. The NE region has a history of frequent earthquakes. But this was powerful. Thankfully, most houses in the region are not high rise. Else, the story would have been far more tragic, with casualties rising in hundreds.
Generally, it takes a couple of days for the Centre to wake up from its slumber in such scenarios. Help and aid is slow to reach this part of the country. But this time, as luck would have it, when the tremor hit the region, Home Minister Rajnath Singh was in Guwahati. So the reactions were quite prompt. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted at 6.47am, on Monday: ‘Spoke to Rajnath ji, who is in Assam, on the situation arising due to the earthquake & asked him to oversee the situation.’
It was a little surprising to see our PM springing into action just a couple of hours after the earthquake. By afternoon, government help started trickling in, with initiation from the PM’s office. The Army and Air Force started working on relief and rescue operations in Manipur. Three National Disaster Response Force teams were sent; two to Imphal, and one to Silchar, Assam.
It was only the government relief that was working its way in the areas. Except probably one or two national news channels, the rest just did the lip service of mentioning the calamity and moving onto other TRP-raising news items.
People from the NE are not exaggerating their displeasure when they say that aids and efforts are lax, and how the media has been lagging behind in covering the disaster. The NE has been treated as the ‘other’ in the Indian psyche. It’s always the exotic and ‘somewhere there’, part of India, populated by people with ‘chink’ eyes. The knowledge stops at that.
No tragedy in these parts of India is BIG enough to garner attention. At times, people don’t even feel it has happened in India. The ignorance is the collective mindset of our people. Educated or not, the average Indian would be satisfied by the aid that the government offers. Our responsibility stops at that!
Major media houses would be content to run the news sourced from government agencies. If it’s the NE, there will hardly any mainstream media stomping the ‘faraway lands’. There is not any major international relief packet that has reached the victims. I believe a bigger number of casualties would have attracted more eyeballs.
Whenever disaster hits India, it’s always the military that springs into action. Isn’t it a shame that we all do nothing when the time arrives? The billionaires are nowhere to be seen when any calamity hits us. I guess it’s time we stop complaining about the Army thriving on our taxes. They are our only savior!