Orissa deaths a tragedy and more

“Why does the weather have to be like this?”, my friend Naveen asks me. Always full of high spirits and enthusiasm, he is unusually depressed over the state of nature over which he can exert no control. Far from critical thinking and anger, its despair and sadness that loom large on him.

In Orissa, India, the heat strokes are claiming lives every day. On top of it, power cuts are so frequent, that no wonder we have more than 300 deaths already.

There are at least two ironies here. One, the most economically “backward” state of India is the worst hit. Two, the most mineral-rich state happens to be the most economically hit.

I am not sure where the economists and meteorologists intersect with the administrative planners. But the dark humor is glaring. Orissa populace has huge underemployment (helpers of small businesses), seasonal employment (farmers/cultivators) and disguised employment (housewives). In addition, temporary workers, road-side vendors who work without infrastructure, and daily wage laborers constitute most of the workforce. The livelihood depends virtually on everyday prospect of selling commodities and various services. Even the academic intellectuals rely on other petty bourgeois for regular sustenance. Clearly a system in place to become bedrock of support for people in time of crisis such as natural calamities (which are predictably regular) lacks because of the overall economic situation of the state.

So if one envisions a change of time in working hours (to avoid the sun), one falls into a trap of electric supply irregularities. If one continues to work in the daytime, the various complications cannot be avoided. Even if some buildings and houses have ACs (extremely privileged small percentage of people in this case), the irregular electric supply makes the matters worse. And for working professionals like Naveen, going out on the roads is highly risky. Wet towels, lots of salt water and umbrella are a must. But pets and street animals of course do not even understand that its weather which will eventually wear itself out. Hence they suffer the most.

In such a disarray that declares calamities on the most economically hit state, one wonders if there are any effective ways to combat. The state bureaucracy of course hastens to not act. Even an editorial in Pragativadi (a local daily) blames the government for acting its usual.

The second irony of course is that Orissa is one of the most mineral-rich state of the country (indeed of the world). In terms of forest wealth, biosphere reserves and mineral resources, Orissa stands unparalleled. Yet commercial exploitation of Orissa’s ecology has threatened its environmental balance.

Merely 10 years back, the situation was quite different. The rainfall rates were better. The summers were more pleasant, and winter quite enjoyable. Just 20 years ago, even wild animals roamed the streets with a pride and health. I am wondering what future holds for this state, aptly called “Soul of India”, in the future decades.

If human interventions (from using Orissa for extensive mining works for commercial gains to making grounds for missile launching pads) have led to natural disasters of unprecedented measures (from heatwaves to supercyclone of 1999), then only human interventions can help mitigate the present crisis. The administration can no more render pathetic excuses for blatant power cuts, for lack of public shelters, lack of civic initiatives to restore the ecological homeostasis. Sixty years of political freedom may not necessitate economic prosperity, but is enough to cry another war of freedom to gain appropriate attention from the central government to be provided with required support.

After ripping away the natural rights of people to live with dignity in their homelands, by displacing them and forcing them to clog the urban areas in name of industrialization, by letting them be utilized as cheap and often unpaid workers by private concerns who are hand in glove with the governments, the State must realize its responsibility towards the citizenry and pitch with extra efforts to regulate. Its not the fault of the peoples of the land who are left at the mercy of the nature. It’s the fault of the ruling class of the state who have forced the peoples to let themselves be left at the mercy of an indifferent, stoic, and callous series of disasters which are definitely more man-made than bestowed by nature.

The power must be brought back to the people and the unreasonable, illegal and profit-motivated infrastructural growths in the otherwise green state leading to deforestation must be stopped at any growth and resentment to Baliapal as the missile testing zone needs to be proliferated.

Every day is not going to be 44 degree Celsius. When the masses will revolt, the temperature will be way higher. The babus with business contracts, beware!

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Author: Saswat Pattanayak

Journalist, Generalist, Atheist, Poet, Lover, Photographer, Communist, Third wave Feminist, LGBT ally, Black power comrade, Peacenik, Anti-capitalist, Critical media theorist, Radical film critic, Academic non-elite…

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