Wednesday, August 8, 2007

India government ineptitude complicates recovery

In the wake of torrential rains and flooding that has displaced millions, India is demonstrating how unprepared it is to deal with such a large population under crisis conditions. As disease, hunger and homelessness afflict hordes of flood refugees, systems for delivering medicine, healthcare, food and shelter are proving not up to the task. This in a country accustomed to annual monsoons and flooding, with a population known for extensive poverty and vulnerability.

In an analytical article by Reuters reporter Simon Denyer (I'm assuming it's pronounced "den-yer" rather than "de-nye-r"), government ineptitude is taken to task.

More than 100,000 people are still marooned -- many perched on rooftops -- in eastern India's Bihar, a state that is a byword for poverty at the best of times. Anger is rising at what is seen as the lackadaisical response of the state government. Four air force helicopters were pressed into action in Bihar this week, not nearly enough to bring food and drinking water to all the victims, U.N. officials say.

To add insult to injury, officials have been accused of stealing or hoarding food, while a 17-year-old boy was killed when police opened fire on an angry crowd.

The United Nations says state governments, especially in Bihar, simply do not have the capacity to deal with a crisis of almost unprecedented proportions. The governments themselves admit to being overwhelmed and say they are doing their best.

But a lack of planning for the vagaries of the annual monsoon seems to have left parts of India cruelly exposed.

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