Fadnavis faces flak for election campaigning amid Maharashtra flood
The Chief Minister took an aerial survey of the affected areas only on day 4
After facing flak for prioritising his Maha Janadesh tour over the floods in Maharashtra, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis finally surveyed the flood affected areas in Kolhapur on Friday. The flood situation, owing to incessant rains in western Maharashtra has affected nearly 51,000 people in 200 villages along with 67,000 hectares of crops.
Assessing the situation, CM Fadnavis, directed authorities to make necessary arrangements in terms of food, drinking water and other essential relief material amidst relocation of the flood victims in Kolhapur, Sangli, Palghar and Raigad districts. “While there’s a lack of petrol and diesel, with no electricity for almost 2 lakh consumers, our primary concern will be safety and relocation of the victims”, he said in a press conference held in Mumbai on Friday. More than 53,000 people from Sangli district were shifted to safer places, while around 11,432 people were so far evacuated from Kolhapur and 3,000 from Raigad, he informed. He also added that 38,000 victims from 152 locations had been sent to relief camps or to their relatives.
Speaking about the current situation, Sahil Shinde, a resident of Kolhapur said in his Facebook post, “The damage control that CM is trying to do right now, would have been more effective if he had visited us earlier. He has no idea about what the victims have gone through. The only reason he’s here is because he faced a lot of flak on social media for not paying us a visit. Else he would have still continued to be on his mass outreach tour across the state. This just shows he cares more about his political image than the thousands of lives that we have lost in two days.”
Comments on Shinde’s post comprise of citizens highlighting the fact that CM cancelled his Maha Janadesh yatra for a day when senior BJP member Sushma Swaraj passed away, but he only cancelled the tour for flood victims after he received the flak from public. Fadnavis also stated in the press conference that 5 navy teams, 2 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams, 2 State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) teams, 2 additional rescue teams from Pune have been called in to join the rescue teams from Goa, Punjab and Gujarat that have already started rescue operations. The CM also said 5 rescue teams have been sent to Sangli by the security council.
Mahesh Lagad, a Pune-based activist who has been arranging relief material since last two days has criticised the CMO for not understanding the urgency of the situation and further deceiving the optics with what seem like superficial moves. “While I don’t support any political parties, it truly is shocking how the CMO has handled this situation so casually. Calling in NDRF or providing boats could have been done earlier too. He could have directed authorities over the phone itself, why wait until now? I have been in touch with few victims who have lost their dear ones in the last 2 days, providing them mental and financial support. And most of them have complained about the lack of boats and delayed response of rescue teams.”
Lagad further added that ground level rescue operations are facing a lot of difficulties in terms of delegating tasks amongst volunteers. This has affected the distribution of relief aid too.
“There are several food packets here for the victims. But due to a lack of proper system, multiple volunteers take the food packets to the same areas or camps, resulting in an uneven distribution and shortage of food. When we contact the government officials regarding this, they bluntly ask us to adjust with whatever we have.”
According to the CMO, nearly 60 boats are currently engaged in rescue operations. One of the rescue boats in Bramhanal village of Palus tehsil, overturned while it was carrying 32 people, leaving 14 dead and 9 missing. “It was a boat that was alotted to the Panchayat after the last major flood in 2005. It was operational since last 2-3 days and had already ferried a lot of people to safety. When it arrived to pick up the victims, more than 30 people got on the boat. The boat was not meant to accommodate so many people at once, and secondly, one of the tree branches got stuck in the engine, causing the boat to overturn”, said Vishram Patil, one of the volunteers working with rescue teams in the flood affected areas.
Addressing the mishap, CM Fadnavis stated in the press conference that, “I think the people have been panicking, which has resulted in such a situation. When the boats arrive, victims – who are already in a panic mode, race to sit in them without calculating the capacity of these boats.” He has also informed that airlifting will only be used in places where other rescue operations can’t reach and help out.
Santosh Agarwal, member of Indian Youth Congress, questions the CM’s statement saying, “Why is CM Fadnavis partly blaming the mishap on victim’s fears? Isn’t it the job of the rescue team official to check how many people are on the boat before they leave? And most importantly, if there would have been enough boats, scared civilians wouldn’t have “raced” to sit in this specific boat. There’s clearly a dearth of rescue resources which the government has failed to look into.”
Sujat Ambedkar of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, stated in a recent Facebook post that the government’s aid and rescue operations have failed to reach most of the victims. Sujat, along with other VBA leaders like Gopichand Padalkar have released videos urging volunteers to help the flood affected victims by arranging essential relief material like food, clothes, medicines, hygiene products, etc. NCP chief Sharad Pawar too, has urged the government to waive off farmer loans of farmers who hail from flood affected areas. He also declared that all Public representatives of he party will be donating their one month’s salary for flood relief.
While the cause of the flood hasn’t been determined exactly yet, both Karnataka Chief Minister B. S. Yediyurappa and Devendra Fadnavis have engaged in a blame game claiming the other state to be the culprit. Yediyurappa has claimed that instead of releasing 25,000 cusecs of water from the Koyna dam, Maharashtra released 1,25,000 cusecs of water flooded parts of Karnataka. However, Devendra Fadnavis has stated that Karnataka did not release the required amount of water from the Almatti dam, thus being responsible for the flood situation in the state. “We believe the floods originated from the backwaters of Almatti dam. We have talked with the Karnataka CM requesting him to release 5 lakh cusecs of water from the dam which will reduce water level in Sangli, bringing the situation under control”, Fadnavis said.
Makar Parisar is a student of College of Engineering Pune who’s family is stranded in the floods. Talking about the government’s rescue response he says, “It’s unfair that the government failed to do their jobs properly and we have to pay a heavy price for it now. Fadnavis still expects to become the Chief Minister of Maharashtra despite his incapability to handle the situation. It’s also obvious his Janadesh tour was important to him than the thousands of victims. While he aerially inspects the situation, our families have lost their house, valued possessions and dear ones in the flood and nothing can compensate that.”
Sayali Bhide, a friend of Makar’s and his neighbour back home in Kolhapur expressed her opinions about the upcoming state polls saying, “Though we are disappointed with the way this flood situation is being handled, most of our family and friends will still end up voting for BJP because we remember how Kerala flood victims had received no help for not voting BJP. What if that happens to us again especially when state governments are at fault? They cannot afford to take such risk anytime in the future.”
While floods in Maharashtra have caused 27 deaths and affected thousands, CM Fadnavis has announced a compensation of Rs.5 lakhs to the families of the deceased. Although people seemed satisfied with this announcement, a number of social media users have shown disappointment in CM’s announcement of allotting ₹5,000 and ₹10,000 as compensation to flood victims in rural and urban areas respectively.
According to the Indian Meteorological Department, the weather is expected to be the same over the next 2-3 days thus predicting an aggravation of the current floods.