India said no to Russia help offer,wary of foreign role

Within days of flash flood in Uttarakhand,a plane with 150 well-equipped Russian rescue workers was on standby

Written by VijaitaSingh | New Delhi | Published:July 2, 2013 3:12 am

Within days of flash flood in Uttarakhand,a plane with 150 well-equipped Russian rescue workers was on standby in Moscow to carry out search and rescue missions in the state.

The Russian Emergency Situation Ministry chief,Vladimir Andreyevich Puchkov,had on June 21 offered help to India. But New Delhi sat over the proposal for a week and then declined the offer on June 28 stating that the rescue operations were almost over.

The Russian team has carried out over 70 operations in Russia and 17 international missions,including in China earthquake and the tsunami in Indonesia. It takes pride in their reputation of “saving a life every 12 minutes”.

Puchkov in a letter to Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had proposed assistance by their elite rescue teams,ready to reach India “within a matter of few hours”,a top source told The Indian Express. Puchkov’s offer was reiterated by secretary of Russian security council Nikolai Platonovich Patrushev to National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon.

The National Crisis Management Committee led by Cabinet Secretary A K Seth discussed the Russian offer last week. Wary of Russia’s offer to step in with advanced technologies,the general consensus was not to allow a foreign country in rescue works. Officials believed that it will lead to bad name for India as lot of inside detail and preparedness of the government will be thrown open to another country.

The Russian Ministry for Affairs for Civil Defence,Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters has 1,821 rescue workers and have handled emergency situations in Tajikistan,China,Cuba and Myanmar among others.

They have mobile rescue teams with debris cutters and machines to detect life under slush. The teams have been stationed across Russia at the airports and air force bases. The workers also stock essential items like blankets,beds,tents and food,and are capable of setting up mobile hospitals in just a few hours.

This was Russia’s first offer to help after Shinde and Puchkov signed a pact in April to create an Indo-Russian commission on emergency situations. At that Puchkov had said,“We should work out a simplified model to provide aid to each other… It is true that our Indian colleagues do not like to ask for aid and we also do not like. However,during large-scale disasters,floods,tsunamis and earthquakes,specialists’ joint efforts help minimize the losses.”

According to the commission’s mandate,they will inform everyone about the direct threat from catastrophes and help train specialists. Russia and India will exchange info on research studies and plan projects. Sources said Moscow will help India set up a centre similar to the National Crisis Management Centre of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry.

Despite New Delhi’s refusal,Russia has offered help in reconstruction activities in Uttarakhand.

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