Bhuj (Gujarat), Feb 23 (IANS) Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, on a six-day visit to India, on Tuesday landed at the desert district of Kutch in Gujarat, which 15 years ago was a face of devastation akin to what his home country was last year after a killer temblor, for a first-hand account of how the region rose like a Phoenix.
A battery of enthusiastic Gujarat government officials unfolded before Oli and his delegation the story of the unprecedented revival of the state’s largest district that was completely reduced to rubble on the Republic Day, January 26, 2001.
The Nepalese team witnessed an audio-visual presentation of how Kutch was put together brick-by-brick from a near-impossible state to the spick and span picture it presents today. The presentation was by officials of the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) and the Bhuj Area Development Authority (BADA).
Gujarat Governor O.P. Kohli and Health Minister Shanker Chaudhary, who is in-charge of Kutch, were among those who witnessed the presentation.
The officials, led by GSDMA chief executive officer Anju Sharma, explained that the top priority was given to relief and rehabilitation of the people who were left with absolutely no resources and eked out a living under tarpaulin sheets.
Such was the devastation that the people had virtually no provisions to begin their morning chores. Thus, the first thing was to provide them essential commodities. They were soon put up in temporary sheds equipped with proper electricity and water supplies.
Sharma explained how a proper coordination network was put in place between the state government and the centre for quick decision-making on policy issues and how systems were put in place for disaster management and for ensuring complete transparency in the mammoth re-construction work.
Former GSDMA CEO P.K. Mishra recounted a slew of tough challenges before the administration. Giving instances, Mishra explained the kind of financial, public-oriented and administrative issues that cropped up during the rehabilitation work and how they were tackled.
He said the mammoth relief and rehabilitation of the sprawling district that suffered the most in the earthquake, could not have been possible without relentless international aid hand-in-hand with the joint efforts of the state and union governments.
The Nepalese prime minister was accompanied by his wife Radhika Sakya, Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa, Finance Minister Vishnuprasad Paudel, Home Minister Shakti Bahadur Basnet and a host of top bureaucrats and officials.
The delegation also visited the Kutch Civil Hospital that was raised from scratch after the quake to a modern state-of-the-art facility and visited a rehabilitation site in Bhimasar village of Kutch district.
The Nepalese prime minister later departed for Mumbai, from where he will fly back home on Wednesday.
Some 19,000 people – 17,000 in Kutch alone – died in the temblor, whose intensity was placed at 6.9 on the Richeter scale by the Indian Meteorological Department and at 7.7 by the US Geological Survey. Some 166,000 people were injured and property worth crores of rupees was destroyed in the quake, which had its epicentre at Chobari in Bhachau taluka of Kutch district.
(Darshan Desai can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)