In May, a 7.9-magnitude earthquake killed an estimated 87,000 people in China. In the aftermath of the quake, victims complained that corrupt officials weren’t properly dispensing aid and relief supplies. Last month, villagers attacked police, claiming they had been cheated out of relief.
Following the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November, there was also public outcry in India that led the government to admit to lapses in security.
A blogger at “2point6billion” compares the two countries’ attitudes toward transparency and their different approaches in the aftermath of these tragedies.
Dealing With Tragedy – China & India’s Differing Perspectives
Within just six months of each other, both China and India experienced tragedies that impacted each of the respective nations nationally and internationally. While China lost over 60,000 people in the Sichuan earthquake, India was confronted with a vicious terrorist attack in its financial capital that left close to 200 dead and over 500 wounded. Yet the ways in which the two countries have responded could not be more markedly different.
The Sichuan quake, a natural disaster, lead directly to accusations of corruption and shoddy building work across the region. The immediate response from the Government in terms of pragmatism was to send in the troops – many of whom remain there today assisting with reconstruction work and stabilizing the living conditions of the living and wounded.
International aid too began to pour in. However, in terms of dissatisfaction with the quality of buildings, locals were prevented from raising issues with the media. Additionally, aid could only be sent through official, Chinese sanctioned channels.
Today, the country has loans from the World Bank to assist with reconstruction work, but those most affected – people living there – are as effectively cut off as ever. Tourism and traveling journalists are discouraged on the grounds that it is dangerous. In more damning news, courts in China were instructed not to hear any lawsuits brought by victims of the disaster, and that the government itself would handle compensation. Any accusations of shoddy construction or corruption would therefore be kept out of the picture. The people would rely solely on the government for support, with it remaining their voice and sole provider.
Compared with Mumbai, the very nature of the event was entirely different. Terrorists landed, and machine gunned locals and visitors in hotels and bars, in a siege that lasted nearly three days. Yet the political and social aftermath was very different.
Within days, Indian government ministers had been forced to resign on charges of incompetence and the lack of any security to repel what was essentially an invading, aggressive military unit. The public, shocked and outraged, found their voice through the media. Government was held accountable by the people, and they had to respond. They did, troops were sent in and an entire reshuffle of coastal defenses and security put into place. Money was made available for victims, rebuilding and national security.
Today, Mumbai has made great strides in recovering, affected hotels and bars have re-opened. It’s an act of defiance that anyone would find it hard to imagine under similar circumstances in China. Hotels and bars where victims perish in China are shunned; superstitions still die hard in this emerging giant.
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