Nepal earthquake: India reaches out in right time
by Ashok B Sharma on 01 May 2015 3 Comments

India has rightly played its role as a friendly neighbour by reaching out to Nepal immediately after the terrible earthquake with an intensity of 7.9 on the Richter scale struck the Himalayan nation. Indian teams for search and rescue operations reached Nepal first, and so far India has sent 10 teams of the National Disaster Response Force, each team consisting of 45 personnel who are fully equipped with modern equipment to deal with search and rescue operations. These teams have medical and para-medics experts and sniffer dogs and equipped with live detector machines, cutters to cut steel, concrete and wood, and food and immediate relief materials.


The first batch of 62-member Chinese team that landed in Nepal has six sniffer dogs and relevant rescue and medical equipment. Of these, 40 belong to the 38th Group Army of the People’s Liberation Army, Beijing Military Area Command, and have experience in participating in international rescue missions.


China is facing the same problem as India. An earthquake struck southwest Tibet almost at the same time. But Indian earth scientists believe that this earthquake has a different epicenter from the one in Nepal. The impact of the earthquake in Nepal was experienced in many states of north India including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, West Bengal, Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan, with casualties and damages at some places. Tremors were felt in Bangladesh.


Indian rescue teams have, however, had the added advantage of reaching by the land route as well.  Despite the intermittent closure of Kathmandu airport, the Indian teams took every opportunity to land at appropriate times, as also at other helipads.


This is not the first time India has reached out to an immediate neighbour in distress. As recently as December 2014, India transported over 1,000 tonnes of fresh water and reverse osmosis facilities to Maldives when a water crisis engulfed the archipelago after fire broke out at the Maldives Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC). Both Indian Navy and Indian Air Force were pressed into the operations.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that South Asian neighbours are his priority and true to his words he has acted in time when situations arose.


According to Indian earth scientists, an earthquake of magnitude 7.9 on Richter scale occurred   at 11.41 am IST (Indian Standard Time) on April 25, at a depth of 10 km with its epicenter located 77 km northwest of Kathmandu at Pokhara. The effects of this earthquake were severely felt in all northern and central parts of India including in the capital city of New Delhi. About 46 aftershocks of the intensity of 5 and above on Richter scale were felt in the entire affected region for two days after the initial occurrence. However the intensity seems to be tapering off. But Indian earth scientists have cautioned that aftershocks will be continued to be felt in the coming days till the process of release of energy is completed.


Even though there are deaths, casualties and damages at home, India has taken up the onus of bailing out Nepal from the current crisis that has witnessed thousands of deaths (still unaccounted) and severe damage to property. After rescue operations, rebuilding of Nepal will be another responsibility for India. Financial and logistical help is pouring into Nepal from other countries. Since in the present situation it is difficult for other countries and international agencies to reach Nepal, many have sought permissions for over flights.


Apart from rescue operations, Indian teams are engaged in evacuating thousands of trapped Indian nationals and tourists from other countries as well. This is a good humanitarian gesture. Similar humanitarian gesture that India made recently was evacuating other foreign nationals, particularly South Asians, who were trapped in the recent crises in Iraq and Yemen.


National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has proved its competence in crisis management in a most difficult situation. It is aided by the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Sashastra Seema Bal, the force that guards the Indo-Nepal border. Food and relief materials are being organized all over the country to help the victims. Indian Army (‘Operation Maitri’) has invoked its own Gurkha ex-servicemen for guidance, relief and rescue. Apart from food and immediate relief materials, reverse osmosis plant for supplying water and oxygen cylinders are being sent.


Nepal has been undergoing unending political crisis after monarchy was deposed. The world was eagerly waiting a quick transition to a republican democracy with a well drafted Constitution. But the process of drafting of the Constitution was delayed due to implacable differences between political parties. The nation had to undergo elections to elect a second Constituent Assembly as the first one failed to produce a Constitution. The second Constituent Assembly has also failed twice to meet its self-imposed deadlines. India has said that it would keep its hands off and let the Nepali people decide their Constitution through consensus, rather than interfere in the internal affairs of the Himalayan nation.


It was during this political stalemate that the earthquake struck. India, as a responsible neighbour, rushed to bail the Nepali people out of this terrible tragedy. Once these conclude, it will be a long haul towards reconstruction of the devastated nation. It is to be hoped that the Nepali leadership will rise to the occasion by agreeing to a constitution to give direction to the nation’s future.   

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