By P.T. Bopanna
While the Coorg (Kodagu) district administration has responded positively to the death and devastation triggered by the floods, the political leadership, including Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, has not covered itself with glory.
Coorg deputy commissioner P.I. Sreevidya (in picture), has played a pivotal role in responding to the challenge posed by the killer landslides which have caused panic among the people.
Being a woman, she has empathized with the victims impacted by the deluge and geared up her administration to calm down the nerves of the panic-stricken people.
Besides, the district administration has been pro-active on the social media by putting up posts on the developments and the actions being taken by the administration to mitigate the suffering.
To check whether the social media posts were a mere window dressing, this reporter visited the areas impacted by the landslides around Madikeri, Makkandur and Madapur and also the relief centre at Suntikoppa.
The relief operations were being carried out by the officials in a satisfactory manner and victims felt they were being attended to well by the administration.
Unlike the officials, the politicians led by district in-charge minister S.R. Mahesh, created an unseemly controversy. Being the host, he should not have asked defence minister Nirmala Sitaraman to cut short her interactions with the ex-servicemen, to address a review meeting with officials. Sitaraman, known for her fiery temper, hit back at Mahesh for his boorish behavior. Even she too could have avoided the public spat by standing her ground, instead of losing her cool.
According to reports, the ex-servicemen were urging the defence minister to implement the Kasturirangan report to protect the environment of Coorg which has been battered by landslides.
Apparently, the district minister and the local MLAs were not happy with the K word (Kasturirangan) and wanted the defence minister to wind up her interaction with the ex-servicemen.
This reporter who spoke to villagers in the flood-affected areas, expressed their apprehension that more landslides could be in store if the rains continue to lash the district.A visit across Madikeri town gives the impression that the area is prone to landslides as the earth has caved in at several areas. In the circumstances, there is an urgent need to protect the environment from further degradation.
The decision of the JD (S)-Congress government headed by Kumaraswamy to reject the Kasturirangan report, allegedly at the instance of Kerala timber lobby, could worsen the situation in the coming years as more and more trees are felled, triggering more landslides on the scale of the Uttarakhand tragedy.
It is time chief minister Kumaraswamy took a long term view of the situation and accept the Kasturirangan report, instead of dumping the report to avail short term gains in the form of funding from the timber lobby for next Lok Sabha elections.