Monday, April 27, 2015

Operation Maitri: India treading with caution

New Delhi: When the 7.9 Richter-scale earthquake hit Nepal on Saturday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepped out boldly to declare that India would go all out to help its neighbour in its hour of calamity and tragedy. He went into action, met his cabinet colleagues and then the bureaucrats. Planes, relief materials were flown into Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. On Monday evening, three of the central government's top secretaries -- foreign, home and defence -- along with the head of National Disaster and Relief Management and the director of the Indian Meteorological Department briefed the media. The tone was subdued.

The focus was on bringing back stranded Indians, of giving help to the Nepalese government, of assessing the damage due to the ripple effects of the quake in the Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh.

It was interesting to note that the vintage IL 76s and AN32s, the transport planes, have been pressed into service along with the hip C130s and C17s, the latest big toys got from the United States. It became clear that the Kathmandu international airport is not able to handle the planes flying in with materials and wanting to pick up the stranded tourists. The Indian planes were picking up the Indians, obviously. Apparently, 30 foreigners were also flown out.

The helicopters, Mi17s, have now been sent to nearby Pokhara. This was one of the ways of de-congesting the Kathmandu airport.More medicines, more tents are being sent in, but there was no assertion that India was managing the relief operations. The foreign secretary said that India was dealing with Nepal government with regard to relief operations.

When the home secretary was asked about the news of 10,000 RSS volunteers going to Nepal to do relief work and whether they went there as part of an NGO, he was a little taken aback and said that anyone who wanted to help could go.

The disaster management head said that any voluntary organisation which wanted to send materials to Nepal could contact the organisation.

The meteorological department director said that there have been no tremors on Monday. He said that it could mean that pressure is building up and it could result in a bigger tremor. But he was confident that there will be no more tremors and he assured that weather in Kathmandu will remain fair.

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