The aftermath of floods in Kerala has been as tumultuous as the floods itself

The devastating floods in Kerala has shaken and stirred the country in an unprecedented manner. Nature’s fury, tragic scenes, political wrangling, communal rhetoric, diverse India uniting and a dash of comedy have ensued in the past fortnight. It all started when the Home Minister of India made a quick visit to Kerala and announced a immediate relief fund of Rs. 100 crores. Problem was, Kerala Govt. had asked for more than Rs. 1000 crores. Then the PM wanted to do an aerial survey and assessment of the affected areas with his team. Problem was, thousands of people were stranded in the floods in inaccessible areas where only helicopters could reach them. For rescue, military personnel deployed were only in hundreds. All state TV channels were impressively covering flood affected areas to the best they could. Politicians and government officials in the name of aerial survey were using helicopters that could have been used to rescue people. Moreover their aerial survey was inhibiting the rescue operations. They should have simply stayed at home and watched TV.

Then the Central govt. announced a flood relief package of Rs. 600 crores. The simmering social media erupted. A Govt. that has thousands of crores to give as loans to other countries and for building statues did not have enough money for saving it’s own people’s lives. The reasons were quite evident. The communally harmonious society of Kerala has never allowed BJP to plant it’s roots in the land even though RSS has been actively trying to find some ground. The frequent clashes between RSS and Communist cadres is the clear testimony of that. RSS has even gone to the extent of eliminating it’s own people for defaming the Communists as has been found out from police investigations in some of the cases. The Left parties won the last assembly elections and are in governance of the state now. Moreover Keralites have unanimously rejected any ban on eating beef. The Central govt. has been at loggerheads with the state govt and the Kerala society as a whole which got clearly reflected in the callous approach of the Central govt. towards the time of crisis.

What the Central govt. needs to understand is that Kerala is a part of India and is one of the highest payer of central taxes and excise duties to the Central govt. Kerala govt. had only asked for the support and assistance it is entitled to get. As per 2015-16 estimates, Kerala has 2.7% of India’s population and contribute 4.4% of its GDP. For every ₹1 Kerala pays to the centre, they get only 25 paisa back. And Kerala gets only 3.25% of its GSDP from centre. Every Malayali who stays in Kerala pay ₹12572 per year to centre in different form of taxes (2015-16 data). Rejecting the requests of Kerala govt. and offering measly sums as relief packages is clearly a violation of the federal structure of governance of the country.

Meanwhile a comical episode started off on the side when the ruler of UAE met a prominent Indian businessman and apparently told him that he would be willing to give a relief package of 100 million USD to the Kerala govt which was in turn conveyed to the Kerala CM. Then the ruler of UAE tweeted a statement of support and solidarity towards the people of Kerala which was responded by the PM with a tweet of gratitude. The next thing everyone got to know is that the Central govt. had rejected the offer of help from UAE citing an incident from the past when the erstwhile UPA govt had refused to take help from foreign countries. The ruler of UAE in turn stated that he never made any explicit offer of help. All of this made me wonder why people in important places are tweeting and talking about providing assistance for such a huge calamity on social media when they should be working towards getting help to the affected people. So essentially the Central govt. neither showed willingness to do enough for flood relief nor allowed governments from other countries to help which got totally exposed with this incident.

The communal elements across the country did not sit idle either. RSS was trying to spread it’s own organizational propaganda in the name of helping flood victims. Posts and comments started pouring in on social media about why the people of Kerala should suffer because Keralites still continue to eat beef and the women of Kerala are trying to desecrate the sanctity of Sabarimala by trying to get equal rights to enter the temple. Arnab Goswami has even gone on record to call the people of Kerala as shameless ones. All of these are stark reminders that we have only found freedom from foreign rule and we are a long way away from cleansing our society of the many evils and darkness that has taken control over our minds and thoughts.

In the meantime, the govt. of Kerala got pulled into a couple of raging debates. One was about the handling of excess dam water and the opening of dams which ensued in large scale flooding. OPIndia, an online news platform has falsely interpreted a NASA weather report and claimed that the timing of the opening of the dams resulted in the floods across Kerala (http://www.opindia.com/2018/08/nasa-confirms-delayed-opening-of-dams-coupled-with-rains-led-to-kerala-floods/). NASA’s report (https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2018/nasa-captures-monsoon-rains-bringing-flooding-to-india/) only mentions that above average rainfall caused floods in certain parts of India. Nowhere does it link floods with the management of the dams. Commonsense says same amount of water would have flowed out regardless of when the dam was opened. Only difference would have been in the amount of pressure of the released water. In normal case, rainwater swells rivers which ultimately flows out into the sea. In this case, excess rainwater swelled up river banks and water flowed into human settlements where it got stuck causing floods. Excessive rainfall, human encroachment of land, poor maintenance of drainage systems can all be blamed, but questioning the timing of opening of dams is blatant blaming and false propaganda against the Kerala govt. The Minister of Fisheries of Kerala has stated in an interview on a state TV channel that people had claimed land from the rivers for their constructions and farming and the rivers simply took back those lands which was the best way to explain what had happened. Flooding in human settlements should not be blamed on any governments in particular. The civil administration (municipalities, corporations) should be taken to task for illegal constructions, unplanned expansion of towns and cities and poor maintenance of infrastructure.

The second one was about a 2011 environmental report which stated that large scale sand mining and deforestation is damaging the environment and destabilizing the natural ecosystem of the Western Ghats. This is not for any one govt to take blame. When there is no control over population growth and we venture out into destroying nature for our needs, nature will take it’s own course of corrective actions to stabilize itself. Destruction of nature has been happening across all the states. Nature conservation and environmental protection is a national level problem which the Central govt. and all state govts should come together and discuss upon. Maybe it is time we took a leaf out of China’s development model. Every year a certain amount of forest land is acquired for development activities and at the same time a certain amount of unused or waste land is marked for conversion back into forest area.

In between such a massive tragedy and all the ensuing chaos and mud slinging three factors have stood as silver linings and shining beacons. The first one is the communal harmony of the Kerala society which has only grown stronger in the face of the calamity. In the aftermath of the floods, pictures have emerged of Muslims cleaning a temple compound, something unimaginable in most places in India. Second is the absolutely massive level of support and solidarity Kerala has received from all over India. Support in the form of relief funds and materials have flowed to Kerala right from Jammu and Kashmir. Just the ideal reminder that we may be divided by many reasons but it takes just one reason to unite our minds and thoughts.

The third one is the best of it all. The fishermen of Kerala swooped into the flood waters to save lives as if they were from another world. None of the military might of the world can match their skills in water. They ride the huge waves and choppy waters of the seas in their boats and ships like normal people walk in the park. They moved in silently into the flood waters, saved thousands of lives and went back expecting nothing in return and earning the highest respect from all quarters. When high seas ravage their dwellings and they have to rebuild their lives year after year the rest of the state lives in complete ignorance about it. It is high time the state govt. starts working towards the betterment of the fishermen community.

I am not sure if we have seen the last of the controversies yet. Someone has tweeted questioning the possibility of using the gold stored in the vaults of the Padmanabhaswami temple in Thiruvananthapuram. I am waiting to see if this is going to stir the hornet’s nest. The problem with using the gold is, if we knew why so much gold was accumulated and stored we would also know when to use it.

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An objective look at terrorism

The Charlie Hebdo massacre and the latest wave of terrorist attacks has rocked the citadel of fashion and love. As the world mourned the loss of innocent lives and prayed to the Almighty for peace, the social networks became inundated with different ways of showing solidarity with the people of Paris. I did not change my Facebook profile photo as many of my friends did because the definition of terrorism has become “random people killing random people randomly” and humanity as a race has become irrational and our existence in itself is becoming irrelevant.

We need to first understand what terrorism is. It is any activity that creates terror in people and traumatize them. The hidden agenda of terrorism lies in the word itself. To understand where it comes from, we need to dig at it’s roots. Its building blocks are difference of opinions. We are all unique in our own ways and that is the most defining characteristic of humanity. Our mind neither represents the brain nor the heart. When we are conceived, we have no mind. The mind gets built up from the information that is supplied to the brain through our five senses. The mind captures the knowledge and wisdom from this information and keeps remodeling our character and personality continuously. This is what gives us the ability to think uniquely and act differently based on our experiences. This high level of uniqueness would have had never allowed us to evolve as a species, that is why we created a society, we have religions and we have castes. The primary objective is to make people conform to a certain set of rules and suppress our need to think uniquely. Everything that is meant to divide us, like religion, caste, etc. is also meant to unite us in very subtle ways. What we basically have is diversity within a bigger ambit of unity. Our world would have had been a paradise of peace if we had focused on the larger aspect of peace than knit picking on the diversity and differences within it.

When difference of opinion or diversity can no longer coexist, it creates situations of conflict. But then, we have the uncanny ability to survive conflicts and thrive through them. All the people we revere and call as greats have risen from the clouds of conflicts. This is a throwback to evolution and our cave dwelling days. We were living in constant uncertainty and conflict with nature. Will we find food for the day, will we be able to survive the hunting of animals or fishing in the sea, will our kids survive the onslaught of diseases and grow up, the list goes on. We still live in the same uncertainty. But now, the uncertainty is not from our conflict with nature. What is making our lives uncertain are our own creations. A speeding car can come and knock me down when I am crossing the street. A kitchen knife can become a murder weapon. Social networks can destroy lives. We have evolved into a situation where we need to be in some kind of uncertainty and conflict all the time to survive and evolve.

Terrorism is an extreme and demented form of conflict. For that matter, any conflict that results in taking another human’s life is terrorism because people’s lives get scarred the most when our lives are taken away by a fellow being. Revenge and retribution will never let us be in peace again. All wars are and should be considered as acts of terrorism. It cannot simply be washed away because countries are involved in wars. Every living being has it’s own value and reason to exist and we are accountable for every life we take. So how does a conflict nose dive into the monstrosity of taking the lives of fellow beings? What fuels such hatred towards each other? For the longest time, it has been in the name of God and for the sake of religions. The Crusades is a great example of this. The Vatican brainwashed the Kings of England and France into believing that Jerusalem, the holy land is flowing with milk and honey and it was their duty to free it from the hands of infidels (Muslims). When the Crusaders entered the gates of Jerusalem after long and costly battles, they found it to be a barren place. Why did the Vatican initiate all the bloodshed then? Popular belief is that they wanted to find out about the Ark of Covenant and many other artifacts that were believed to be in Jerusalem. There were hidden agendas behind the veil before and there are hidden agendas now as well.

Religion is still used as a front, that’s why the terrorists in Paris called out to Allah before starting indiscriminately pumping bullets into innocent people. But now all of the bloodshed is for money because money has become the supreme controller over authority. Who benefits the most when a conflict starts or a country goes to war with another? The greatest beneficiaries are the financial institutions and weapons manufacturers. Weapons manufacturers supply weapons to parties on both sides of the conflict so their profits shoot up. Any conflict or war drains a country’s economy and it’s resources so financial institutions get to play a pivotal role in rebuilding the country. These are enough reasons for these stakeholders to incite conflicts. The very next day after the Paris massacre, share prices of weapons manufacturing companies soared up (http://theantimedia.org/stocks-prices-for-weapons-manufacturers-rise-sharply-after-paris-attacks/). What does this indicate? The cloud of suspicion now hangs over every conflict and war in the 20th century, from the World Wars to Cold War to Vietnam and more recently to 9/11, it’s fallout in Afghanistan and Iraq, what happened now in Paris and every other conflict in future.

The history of humanity is shrouded in mystery to the normal people. Governments and organizations are hiding many secrets in their cupboards that can redefine humanity and human history. We need to be aware that the information that is being fed to us through the media outlets is what the powerful elite wants us to know. We need to be very objective in our understanding and judgement of people and situations. Terrorist attacks are happening in Africa, Asia and the Middle East every day. All of them have been fomented by the western countries on behalf of the corporate, sometimes for oil and mineral resources, sometimes to gain control over governments and sometimes to sell weapons. We need to show solidarity with the entire humanity, not based on country, race, skin color, religion or any other reasons. The destiny of our survival and evolution into higher beings is in our hands. No God is going to come down from the sky and solve the problems which we have created. The faster we accept and reconcile with this fact, the faster we can get out of the rut we are in now.