Madhu Purnima Kishwar
Profile of Madhu Purnima Kishwar

Madhu Purnima Kishwar is Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)—a social science research centre, based in Delhi. Director of the Indic Studies Project based at CSDS aimed at the study of diverse faith traditions and cultures in the Indic civilisation. She is the ...

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    “I have a horror of all isms, especially those that attach themselves to proper names”.
    -- M. K. Gandhi --
    Posted on: 26.06.2013
    Neither a Rambo Act Nor a Publicity Gimmick
    Modi Led Relief Efforts in Uttarakhand
    First Published in : The Economic Times

    When Saturday evening T.V channels brought the news that Narendra Modi’s visit to Uttrakhand to oversee relief operations had kicked off a major political storm, I decided to go and check for myself whether this was indeed a cheap publicity gimmick as alleged by the Congress and its minions or a serious response to a humongous tragedy. During the course of my study of post 2002 Gujarat, I had heard glowing accounts of how Narendra Modi had handled the reconstruction of towns and villages affected by the Bhuj earthquake.  Even during the Surat floods, Modi combined efficient short term relief with long term measures to avert such tragedies. All that was in past tense. I wanted to see if the Disaster Management system was still in place.

    Those who disparagingly called Modi a Rambo or a publicity hungry politician have no clue what they are dealing with. He is an institution builder par excellence and a statesman who believes in using state power to serve people and knows how to do it. This is proved by the fact that:

    • Gujarat today has a fighting fit bureaucracy because it was enabled to develop expertise, team spirit and deliver results under the most adverse circumstances. It is also empowered and encouraged to take on-the-spot decisions rather than wait to seek “permission” from “higher ups”.

    • The Gujarat Disaster Management Authority (GDMA) has become a thoroughly professional institution capable of responding to natural or manmade disasters.  It has a 24x7 monitoring system and well publicized helpline numbers well known to Gujaratis—both in the country and abroad.
    • Modi has succeeded in conveying to the citizens of Gujarat that the Government is always there to serve them. That is why the first response of Gujaratis anywhere in the world is to contact the CM’s office if they are caught in a calamity. He himself acts with lightning speed, anticipating problems and finding advance solutions rather than be overwhelmed by them.
    • Modi’s deep personal knowledge of every region of India and contacts with an amazing range of people and institutions in almost every part of India, thanks to the years he spent as a pracharak are a big asset in responding creatively to sudden challenges.    

    For example, Modi arrived in Delhi late 17th night for a meeting with the Planning Commission on 18th when news of cloudburst and landslides was telecast on TV. He held an emergency meeting to take stock of the situation since he knew that thousands of Gujaratis are likely to be among the Chardham pilgrims. Due to his close personal knowledge of Uttrakhand he anticipated it had the makings of a major tragedy. Right away, a camp office was opened at Gujarat Bhavan and the Resident Commissioner’s team in Delhi were made responsible for coordinating with Gujarati pilgrims.

    The relief centre set up by the Government of Gujarat in Dehradun with the help of Gayatri Pariwar

    On 18th morning, Modi called Dr Pranav Pandya of the All World Gayatri Parivar to provide space and infrastructure in his Shanti Kunj campus for the relief centre proposed to be set up by the Gujarat Government. He chose this campus because of his close knowledge of and rapport with this Gandhian institution which can house and feed thousands of people at short notice. It has a 2000 strong community of dedicated swayam sevaks on the campus plus 3000 odd students of the Dev Sanskriti University who are also infused with the seva bhav that is the hallmark of Gayatri Pariwar. The 90 acre campus also has a well-run hospital. This institution for social service and national reconstruction was set up by Acharya Ram Sharma who took his inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi whose message of service is infused in every aspect of Gayatri Pariwar.

    Modi’s personal rapport with Dr Pandya dates back to his pracharak days. Gayatri Pariwar had also joined hands with Gujarat Government during the reconstruction work in earthquake affected villages in Bhuj. Therefore, this was a tried and tested institution for Modi. Even on its own it was also providing food, blankets and other necessities to stranded pilgrims and local population through the air force helicopters.

    P.K Parmar, Principal Secretary and Relief Commissioner at reliefcentre in Dehradun

    One phone call to Dr Pandya on the 18th and by the same evening a set of computers with internet connection, along with telephone lines, T.V and all other paraphernalia required for Gujarat Government’s Relief Operation set up. Therefore, when a team of Gujarat Government IAS, IPS and IFS officers led by Principal Secretary and Relief Commissioner P.K Parmar came, they could get going within minutes of reaching Shanti Kunj. Their team included two officers who hail from Uttarakhand with close knowledge of the terrain to guide both the stranded pilgrims as well as rescue teams on the safest possible routes to take. Assistant Director General of Police Mr Bisht who hails from Uttarakhand went straight to Gupta Kashi from where the rescue operations are being launched. He has trekked to Kedarnath, Gaurikund and other places to track down trapped pilgrims. A team of seven doctors trained in handling such emergencies, led by an orthopaedic surgeon, not only put in place an efficient first aid service but were also attending to those severely injured. Here again the approach was pro-active. They went to other relief camps and railway stations to attend to non-Gujarati pilgrims as well.

    Fleet of buses mobilized by the Government of Gujarat to transport rescued pilgrims

    The mandate of Team Gujarat in Uttarakhand is: take good care of rescued pilgrims as they arrive. But once they are recovered, send them home at the earliest possible in the most comfortable manner. Don’t worry about expenditure or numbers.This is the standard approach of Gujarat government: 'Plan for all, not a set number. Be prepared to handle as many as need the services rather than turn away people for lack of resources.'

    As always, officers on the ground have been empowered to take on the spot decisions, to decide how many luxury buses or taxis they need, how many pilgrims need to be sent by air and what kind of air craft to order. It is not as if the rich are being sent by air and the poor by buses. The decision is need based. 

    Thus when Modi landed in Dehradun, Team Gujarat was already in control. Far from attacking the state government, he offered all possible help to CM Bahuguna. In addition, he synergized resources, energized BJP workers to get going, not just for immediate relief but also long term reconstruction work. All his officers were provided phone numbers of BJP functionaries of all 190 blocks in Uttrakhand and vice versa. As usual he worked 20 hours a day to guide and streamline the operations. The spirited enthusiasm of Gujarat govt staff and BJP workers had to be seen to be believed.

    I saw senior IAS officers working 24x7 alongside very junior staff in one single room as a close knit team.

    Similar help counters have been set up at the railway stations and airports in Gujarat to help people reach their homes safely.

    Congress Party is understandably upset because the UPA government is not only scam ridden but also rudderless. Congress run state governments have proved either lackluster or disastrous as in Uttarakhand. Congress party machinery is in disarray, Congress Sewa Dal workers are nowhere in sight, Rahul’s Youth Brigade is clueless even in routine situations, leave alone know how to face a crisis like the Uttarakhand deluge.

    Phobic responses to Modi and hate campaigns against him for doing the right thing make the Congress Party look ridiculous in its vulnerability and heightens its image of incompetence and venality.


    An edited version of this article was published in The Economic Times on 26th June, 2013 (


    रिस्पेक्टेड मधु जी

    इकोनोमिक्स टाइमस ने जो आप का आर्टिकल एडिट किया और तुरंत ही एक जर्नालिस्ट होते हुए भी आपने विरोध किया वह सराहनीय है इस परिस्थितियों मे और जो कुछ उतराखंड मे श्री मोदी जी का कार्य विधि जानने के बाद बहुत संतोष हुआ और मिडिया वाले टीवी चेनल वाले क्या क्या गप और जूठ चलाते है उसका पता चला
    Posted By : Bharat, On Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
    very impressive search and truth u discovered. it has improved our belief and faith that modi has a vision of future and he is a man with management skill.On the first day,our eyes were on modi,what he will do for ppl trapped in uttarakhand.No move was seen as HE ALREADY MANAGED IT BACKDOOR WITHOUT ANY PUBLICITY,HE MOVED HIS GDMA TEAM TO UTTARAKHAND.His quick response and Moving ahead despite controversy is an EXTRAORDINARY EXAMPLE OF LEADERSHIP.i dont know 10000 or 15000 people were moved by his team, i am sure that WHEN HE STEPS IN, HE MOTIVATES MANY AND FORCES OTHER LAZY PARTIES TO WORK(OTHER PARTIES DO WORK IN FEAR OF MODI'S PUBLICITY)
    Posted By : minesh, On Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
    According to Harsha, throughout the journey the ticket examiners kept asking them for proof to show they were stranded pilgrims from Uttarakhand.

    "At Mehsana, one Railway Protection Force official threatened to penalise us for illegally occupying the coach. All this happened because we were not given any identity proof," Mahesh says.

    Harsha says she overheard people at Fata saying that had this tragedy struck Gujarat, the Modi administration would have managed it excellently. "And I was feeling proud of my state. But after our experience, I think the state government should have done concrete work instead of making cheap publicity stunts for photo-ops," says Harsha.

    When contacted on phone, Bipin Bhatt, a special officer of the Gujarat government camping in Haridwar, says, "Everyone cannot get a flight. What is important is to send them back home at the earliest by whatever mode. We sent them (Mevadas and others) in a coach that was provided to us by the railways. As for what happened to them during the journey, in such circumstances such things happen."

    "People have too high expectations," he adds.
    Posted By : Kalpana Bala, On Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
    As expected, your article was quite insightful, however I felt somewhat disappointed this time. You promised us that you'll come up with exact videos and statistics, which are missing in this article. I request you to publish an article which contains details of every single effort of rescue being made there, with statistics and videos; and yeah a comparison is must.
    Posted By : Parin Vipul Shah, On Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
    kitne paise diye hain aapko modi sarkar ne?
    Posted By : XXX, On Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
    Read the article . Nicely written. Could see Mr Modiji's work through your writing.

    Instead of bashing him, other parties should emulate him by doing good service to public. In future, people will vote only for good work and not for money
    Posted By : Ramesh S, On Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
    Good scrutiny of a great work which is the best example of good micromanagement in odd conditions.I salute Modi with my best wishes.
    Posted By : Durgesh Gupta, On Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
    Very Good Job Madhu and Excellent work on revealing facts! Thanks for bringing out the truth on this. I wish the MSM will take note of this and even if they dont the vibrant Indian citizens will for sure.

    Thanks again!
    Posted By : Shishir, On Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
    thanks for telling the truth. pls keep telling every true info pls.
    Posted By : Venkat, On Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
    Modi has acted and fooled the people. His comments has disgraced the soldiers who are working hard day and night. He was trying to fish from this disaster.. He can never be a superman.. He was self-boasting that he took back 15,000 Gujarathis safe home. This is like teasing the soldiers. Shame on him.. Playing cheap n dirty politics.

    Most of the rescue work is being carried out by the Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. They don't discriminate on the basis of the victims' state of origin or religion.. So pls try to understand the truth. Salute the Militants not the bigots or actors... Jai Hind... pls b secular bro.. I am not against anybody or supporting anyone else, but ...

    Modi tried to milk from this disaster, now when he understood that people has realized his acting, he hez trying to blame the report on somebody else. What a shame.. Feel pity upon Modi. Playing all kind of dirty, cheap, third rate politics to come into power..
    Posted By : Raghavan, On Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
    Readers please spread this message to all Indians in India and overseas. I still can't
    understand why mainstream media criticizes his every action.
    Posted By : Radhacharan Patel, On Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
    Well Written! As citizen many have not grown beyond admiring action heroes in movie theaters, raising whistles and claps in a dark environment where there is light only on the screen. When in reality an individual jumps into the field and takes action with a dedicated team, we tend to laugh at it and ridicule. How to make these men and women sensible enough to see the truth in front of them. I hope this article opens up the eyes of few blind with the healthy eyes open.
    Posted By : Suresh Rajagopal, On Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
    Kudos for writing a non biased article.Hope you are not being harassed for speaking your mind in this world of transparency.
    Posted By : Anand Kumar, On Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013

    With all due respect madam even after BJP and #Feku denying the #Rambo act,u r still going on about it.

    You can be a writer of Hollywood disaster films.

    Full on respect.

    Posted By : Aleem Sah, On Date: Thursday, June 27, 2013
    Please stop using Uttarakhand strategy for political gains. Things, which mighty Indian army can't do, Modi army is able to do. There is no way, he can bring 15000 ppl in 2 days. Pl don't do media hype and go back to your normal work than creating Modi as superior to GOD
    Posted By : Sai K, On Date: Thursday, June 27, 2013
    Extremely well written article. Instead of praising a good work done why are people pouncing on him? By reading a few comments above i feel the people who curse him deserve to be served by politicians who just show up and speak to the victims or release funds remotely. They do not deserve good governance.
    Posted By : Karthik, On Date: Thursday, June 27, 2013
    This needs to be widely publicized for the consumption of critics of MODI
    Posted By : V N Grover, On Date: Thursday, June 27, 2013

    The tragedy in Uttarakhand is so humongous that putting numbers to anything -- people rescued, people missing, people dead or the economic loss -- seems rather foolish at this stage.

    But then, we are a nation obsessed with figures -- we want them immediately, even though it may be inaccurate.

    So we news channels, officialdom and politicians coming up with numbers, which, obviously have wild variations.

    Therefore, I don't care about the number of Gujaratis that were rescued following the tragedy. We can't forget that every dead person, or those who have lost their close ones or their livelihoods, are all Indians.

    Modi is one person, whose very presence in any place, seems to divide opinions down the line.

    But I can believe that Modi may have used the resources of Gayatri Parivar to do whatever he did, or wanted to do.

    Because, he did not have the fear of being branded a communalist or somebody inclined to give such Hindu institution publicity.

    Imagine the Uttarakhand government tying up with Gayatri Parivar. How it would have explained its secular credentials?

    I remember that during a train tragedy in Fatehpur district of UP, a masjid, opposite the district hospital, was turned into a make-shift hospital to serve the injured. Here the government needed no excuses to tie up with a religious place obviously belonging to Muslims, because it apparently supports them.

    But how can a "secular party" tie up with a Hindu institution?
    Posted By : Prashant Pandey, On Date: Thursday, June 27, 2013
    Well written article about the efficiency of Gujarat Babus and their commitment to a social cause. Hats of to NAMO for keeping the Babus highly motivated. Our White Topi-wallas aka Congressman cannot digest this and through the connivance of Print and Electronic Media are making a hue and cry. Shame on them for this skullduggery. How about writing and exposing the sham of diverting funds from MPLADS to Relief Fund and in the bargain creating an impression as though MP's and MLA's have donated personal funds?
    Posted By : Anand Kumar Vajapeyam, On Date: Thursday, June 27, 2013
    As is usual now a days with Ms. Kishwar's scholarship concerning Modi the article is long on eulogy and short on facts.

    1. First of all, evacuating people from Dehradun/ Gayatri Pariwar campus, which were well connected and remained so with rest of the country and were not in disaster zone, can not be called Rescuing.

    2.The RESCUE part was obviously the sole preserve of ITBP, Armed Forces, NDRF and other agencies pressed into service. There compassionate daredevilry and painstaking work saved and rescued stranded pilgrims.

    3. There is not a word from Kishwar about 15,000 Gujarathis flown out with Modi. Naturally, because it was simply a fairytale.

    4. The evacuation efforts of Modi were projected far more than what was actually accomplished. केहते है ना, चार आने कि मुर्गी ओर बारह आने का मसाला.

    5. Uddhav Thackeray of Shiv Sena too mentioned in Samana editorial the term Congress used to describe Modi's heroics, फेकू, to indirectly tell Modi, येह बात कोई हजम नही हुई. Looks like Modi went too far this time for even a staunch Hindutva ally to stomach the boast.
    Posted By : Sadanand Patwardhan, On Date: Thursday, June 27, 2013
    I too was thinking how Modi could save many people a day. I thought it's just an exaggeration. But, came to know about the truth. Thanks Madhuji.
    Posted By : K S Nirupama, On Date: Thursday, June 27, 2013
    "एक मोदी क्या कर सकता है"
    वोह सब ने मे उतराखंड के द्वारा देखा
    सब राज्य के मंत्री और केन्द्र सरकार जागृत हो गए
    राहत और बचाव कार्य करने के लिए खीचा खिची होने लगी !!
    अगर देस को एइसे 549 मोदी मिल जाये तो ....!!
    Posted By : Bharat, On Date: Saturday, June 29, 2013
    This article is one more product of Modi's hype machine.Why the hell you ppl r trying to prove this ordinary politician a superman.In Gujrat most of the development programs were initiated by Keshubhai government and Modi pushed the things effectively. but this does'nt mean that he has ability to propel the country also. he is the same publicity hungry cheap politician like many more.
    Posted By : Rajesh, On Date: Monday, July 22, 2013
    I hope you can take criticism. and learn from it.Please learn some decency when debating.I was watching your debate on ndtv about secularism.It is sad to say your name has a professor, i am sure hard earned but a national debate has been so poorly articulated and you were debating with no logical sense or response and at many times making faces, interrupting people when they are talking and making it casual like talking to your friend.The way you debated on the issue can only be called rude and also crude.I am neither into congress or bjp but hurts to see such poor some professionalism and yes if ego doesnt hurt you can still learn basic decency and not act like a joker on a debate where you are called because of your depth of knowledge.I am a sure you have a lot to learn from the man from brown university who also spoke on this programme.It is a pity that we have such low standards in academics and not surprising with professors like you in universities who are more emotionally charged and less logical or dont conduct themselves backed by facts or proof.
    Posted By : reddy, On Date: Saturday, July 27, 2013
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