The deluge has left a trail of death and destruction across states—Kerala, Karnataka, adjoining areas of Tamil Nadu, Andhra-Telangana and Maharashtra. Also count Assam and Bihar, where floods are but a season of suffering on the annual calendar. This is a country were we swing between bizarre extremes. The Deccan landscape has barely survived a long and frightening paucity of water. In Raichur, North Karnataka, a village called Jegarkal that was scarred by drought till the other day has now leapt seamlessly into floods.
The Indian map has an unreal look if you scan it across time, with zones of aridity facing sudden inundation. For, the southwest monsoon did indeed play a cruel game of hide and seek. First, the Met Department was predicting deficient monsoon, prompting Maharashtra and Karnataka into a damage limitation dialogue, at the end of which the upper riparian state refused to release water without a signed quid pro quo document. And then came the sheer excess, rainfall ranging up to 177% above normal in the last seven days across states.
The extent of devastation could have been restricted had water been released gradually, instead of bringing on the threat of reservoirs bursting at the seams. Dam management has come into serious focus since last year’s Kerala floods. But policymakers, at the state or the central level, clearly could not put their heads together to come up with a common template to avoid a recurrence.
So, this time it’s not just Kerala but practically all of the Deccan that’s under water. But then, there’s that boy in Gulbarga who risked his life to guide an ambulance full of people to safety, the Army jawan who waded through the spate carrying senior citizens on his shoulder, and a temple in Dakshina Kannada that gave food and shelter to its Muslim neighbours. Where governments fail, the human spirit still triumphs.