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Normally, I confine myself to professional topics, but the flood situation is grave and affects all of us, hence these posts.
As I write this post, the flooding is still at high alert. For example, Dadu and Bhan Saeedabad cities are facing the danger of getting flooded. The death toll has risen to 1486 with 536 children. The estimate of damage has escalated to US$ 30 billion according to Reuters.
Pakistani people are generally good at heart, and usually rise to the occasion to help. However, this help may not always be organized. In the current scenario, people response, including those of NGOs, may be divided into four categories.
Organizations which have the experience of working in calamity-hit situations activated their operations immediately. Armed forces, Rangers, Al-Khidmat, Akhuwat, and many other organizations raised requests for help. They put up collection centers in various locations and started collecting whatever was offered. Water bottles, food items, ready-to-eat foods, dry rations, clothing, bedding, tents, medicines, money, anything, and everything was needed. After collection, they sorted these and dispatched to their field workers in the flood affected areas. Because they have operations on both sides, they know more precisely what is needed where and can divert the goods accordingly. The geography is wide, the needs are big, the approach is difficult, and the emotions may be running high. Only those people can provide proper service who understand these issues and are equipped with the resources. Plenty of organizations have claimed that they are working in the flood affected areas, but one needs to be resourceful to do so. People are also advised to check the credibility of the organization.
As mentioned in the last post, the first impulse of the government is to open Prime Minister’s Flood Relief accounts in all banks and ask people to donate generously. Unfortunately, the confidence in the government is at the lowest ebb, and people prefer to contribute to non-government organizations whom they trust better. This is a huge setback. The other major source is corporate donations, which the government forces to get. Government has the largest resources to take care of logistics, arrangements, and distribution at the right places. No one can mobilize resources like government can. The performance of government so far is less than desired. The federal government is at odds with provincial governments, who are scrambling to do something and blaming the center at the same time.
Prime Minister has taken some aerial visits and issued few statements; the actual relief work is not seen. The spirit, energy, and passion which was usually displayed by Shahbaz Sharif is completely missing. It may be the burden of PMship, or the internal rifts or whatever, but people are suffering.
Sindh, which is the worst affected, has shown the least response. The ministers are absent, the CM had a casual visit, and the ruling party is not even looking at it. The other political parties are also silent.
Curiously, all political parties have distanced themselves from the flood affected people. From KPK to Balochistan, there is no activity, not even a statement. It is an extremely disappointing state of affairs and has eroded whatever little legitimacy there used to be.
Individuals as well as small NGOs are trying to take small amounts of material help to various places. While their spirit is highly appreciable, but this effort has several issues. One, they really do not know where to go. Two, they cannot go very far. Three, what they are taking with them is too little compared to the requirement. Four, they are mostly reaching the same places and dumping their goods. In this way, some areas may be oversupplied, while others may stay deprived. Five, it is impossible to reach some areas without aerial support or boats, which they do not have, nor they can arrange. Such unorganized help may cause disruption in relief activities. Their sporadic buying may cause undue shortages and price increases of common commodities. In spite of good intentions, the outcome may not be as good. It is therefore better to coordinate with organized sector and work with them or through them.
The world is not without the heartless, senseless people who would try to make money out of any situation. Many stalls have sprung up with names that were unheard of before. There was a small news item once in a major newspaper that police had closed one hundred fake stalls who were collecting goods and cash. After that, nothing was heard, and no one knows further. Some of the stalls are particularly suspicious because they have been set up by some individual who is not a social or political figure. Taking advantage during such a calamity is the worst kind of crime and it should be severely punished, but we also understand it may not happen in this life.
The second class of opportunists are the ones who have hoarded stock, caused artificial shortage, and increased the prices manifold. Be it tents, or food items, or vegetables, the prices shot up. This activity should also be considered as crimes against humanity and severely punished. There are plenty of them and the existing prisons will not suffice, therefore, some other form of punishment may be considered, such as heavy fines, confiscation of properties etc.
Third class is which will steal or buy at nominal prices those goods which are coming from abroad as aid for flood victims. These shall be sold later at good prices, because of being imported items. Included in this class are also those who will hoard the aid items rather than distributing these to the needy.
All opportunists are guilty of crimes against people. It is high time that political and social pressures are done away with and these people are given a befitting punishment.
Natural calamities can be unpredictable, but we do know that due to climate changes, the occurrence is on the rise everywhere. The events are more frequent and more deadly. We may keep blaming the industrial nations, but it will not change the incidence. We have to be better prepared which we are not, though we have an NDMA – National Disaster Management Authority and PDMAs in all provinces. They also seem to have disappeared because there is no news from them. We shall beg from the whole world, but no one will give us billions of dollars for reconstruction and rehabilitation. We want to stay corrupt, unethical, insensitive, immoral, heartless, opportunists, criminal, lazy, and pathetic, but we are waiting for miracle to happen. Yes, the fear is that the miracle may come, not to save us, but to destroy us.
Some broad suggestions are here.
- People should work through organized channels, rather than working alone
- Random items should not be purchased, the money should be saved to be put to reconstruction effort
- Government should at least start coordinating the relief effort besides begging at home and abroad
- Political activities should stop. Political workers should focus on rehabilitation
- Undue expenditure on social, religious, political, corporate functions should be stopped and money be donated for rehabilitation.
- We must all do our bit, whatever small or big we can do. No one should stay aloof.
- Borrowing from Mustafa Kamal Pasha, one day bribery money be donated for relief effort, rather than one day salary.
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