India Uncut

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Saturday, January 01, 2005

Despatches 8: Very Important Persons

Madhu Kumar, the gentleman I meet in Pandasalai, has one huge complaint, something which infuriates him so much that his eyes widen as he tells me this, and I can sense his fists clenching.

"Why do you think the government machinery is not working," he asks. "Because it is busy with VIPs, that's why. VIPs keep coming all the time, making routine visits to show their importance, and they have an entourage of cars and traffic detail and security, and the local authorities are busy looking after that. They even waste time lining the streets with bleaching powder [a disinfectant] instead of where people died, where they are really needed. It is a waste of manpower, and it costs life. If VIPs really want to help, they should come quietly, without so much bandobast.

"After all, there are no terrorists here."

I know just what he is talking about. The doctor I had spent a fair amount of time speaking to at Akkarapettai, Dr Narasimhan, also told me that the goverment machinery at Nagapattinam, the affected area, had been busy for the last four days making arrangements for the visit of important dignitaries including the chief minister and the prime minister.

"You should have been on the highway on the day when that hoax warning about the tsunami was circulated. One by one, official cars bearing VIPs passed by, and the people they had come to help were left alone with a few workers from NGOs. It is shameful."
amit varma, 10:26 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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