Flood response shows India's blind spot

Our contrasting reactions to flooding in two corners of the country - Kerala and Nagaland - are likely to reaffirm concerns about the neglect of the Northeast

By The Editorial Board
  • Published 11.09.18
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Natural calamities do not discriminate. Floods take a toll on life and property wherever they occur. Kerala, which suffered its worst flooding in a century, is limping back to normalcy. Around the same time, Nagaland, too, was lashed by high waters. Unprecedented rainfall and flooding have, according to some estimates, led to the death of over 10 people. More than 13 per cent of the population is said to be affected by the deluge. Several roads, including an important highway, lie in ruin and there are reports of massive power outages. The Centre's quibbling about foreign aid with the Kerala government notwithstanding, India had stood resolutely behind that state in its hour of crisis. What was particularly heartening was the public response to the catastrophe. Appeals inviting assistance by philanthropic organizations and corporations rang loud and clear; social media platforms were used, either by individuals or collectives, to mobilize resources - for days, the calamity in the southern state remained at the heart of the public discourse. Shockingly, the nation's response - political, civil and corporate - to Nagaland's woes has been markedly tepid. Even though the crisis has lingered for days, the state has been left to wait for the much needed financial assistance from the Centre. Some celebrities have come forward to help. This benevolence, evidently, is rare among other citizens. Discussion of the floods, or their causes, has only been sporadic in the media.

India's contrasting reactions to flooding in two corners of the country are likely to reaffirm concerns of the neglect of the Northeast. Of course, apathy is not the only expression of the alleged alienation. Northeastern citizens, including students, have been discriminated against and assaulted in various sites of metropolitan India. These transgressions reveal a worrying faultline that continues to undermine the Idea of India. Representativeness is the fulcrum of democracy. The marginalization of the Northeast in the nation's consciousness proves that Indian democracy cannot yet claim to be fully inclusive.