September 16, 2009

Lessons from the recent Visit to New Orleans, La

A little over ten days ago it was the Labor day weekend which was an extended holiday across the US. We decided to take this opportunity to accomplish two things at the same time. Visit family in New Orleans and also take in the sights and sounds of this recently hurricane devastated city. It sounded like a good plan and this time we decided to undertake a road trip instead of an flight. I am glad we did it because the drive showed me a completely different part of the US, something which is yet wild, sparsely populated and still relatively natural.
The trip to Louisiana's Katrina-ravaged city helped me learn several lessons. The biggest lesson was that even in America the government doesn't bother about its poor and underprivileged. The trip exposed the murky underbelly of American capitalism and how the government, corporations, and the majority of this continent-sized country have simply ignored the small minority of people (estimated 1.5 million) who were affected by the Katrina. Despite the fact that US receiving millions of dollars of aid in cash from several countries including the poorest nations of the world. Here is a list of countries which provided cash-aid to the US when Katrina hit.

Kuwait$500 million
Qatar$100 million
United Arab Emirates$100 million
South Korea$30 million
Australia$10 million
India $5 million
China $5 million
New Zealand $2 million
Pakistan $1.5 million
Bangladesh $1 million

When I saw these numbers I was surprised to note that the developed nation of New Zealand contributed much lesser than India, which is a much poorer and still a third world nation and has a much larger population. Even Bangladesh which reels under its own floods, hurricanes, every year has given $1 billion towards aid. Apart from these contributions, US and international nonprofits have raised about $4.5 billion and corporations pledged about $1 billion.
According to the Wikipedia article the total devastation in New Orleans has been estimated at about $90 billion. Federal aid to provide relief to affected people a mere $16.7 billion for housing, $5.5 billion for roads, and $2 billion for highways and bridges. A few million here and there for other purposes. I am surprised that despite such widespread damage, fatalities and devastation the federal government has not done enough.

Even after five years of Katrina the lower 9th ward of New Orleans looks like a ghost town, broken down houses, uninhabited neighborhoods, home sites overgrown with weeds and brush, etc. If this were the scene in a third world nation I would not have been so surprised, but in the US which has flattened two nations in the past decade and which claims economic, military, infrastructural supremacy over all other nations in the world, this is pathetic.

Anyway I guess this is the way poor and oppressed are treated even in the heaven of freedom and equality.

This is where I will end today. I will be posting pictures and experiences of a swamp tour, handling alligators, a wild party night on Bourbon street and the return journey in the next few days.

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