Each nation had to scramble its resources and was put to test when Mother Earth was at unrest. From the mighty USA post Katrina, to the resilient China and India which have endured earthquakes and floods. No nation on earth is immune to natural disasters. We list a few,
1976: Volcano in Colombia: 25,000 killed.
1985: Earth quake in Mexico City, Mexico: 25,000 killed, 40,000 injured.
1988: Earth quake in Armenia 25,000, Killed 15,000 injured, 400,000 homeless.
1993: Earth quake in Latur India: 22,000 people were killed in 36 villages
1995: Earth quake in Japan: More than 5,100 killed and 26,800 injured
1998: Tsunami in Papua New Guinea: At least 2,000 found or presumed dead
1999: Flooding in Venezuela 5,000 to 20,000 people killed
2001: Earth quake in Bhuj Maharashtra 19,000 killed & 600,000 homeless.
2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami: 225,000 people in eleven countries,
2005: Hurricane Katrina killed 1836 people
2008: Earth quake in china. 10000 killed.
To the credit of India and compared to other departments like sports it has a nice and structured disaster management department in place. It’s commendable that there are serious minds in India working to anticipate, alleviate and restore normalcy over the vast geographical land scape of India when confronted with natural disasters.( http://www.ndmindia.nic.in/.)
India is currently facing its worst flood in 50 years with 250,000 acres of farmlands submerged under water and millions of people displaced in the state of Bihar. It is a disaster which may not have the appeal of tsunami’s but has complex immediate and long term issues.
Let’s look at a few solutions. The government of India has rightly acknowledged that floods are a calamity which has a repetitive feature in India. The most important things which are needed in a post flood situation are boats to reach the affected people, shelters for temporary accommodation, food for the displaced, medicine and hygiene for survivors, and safe disposal of the dead.
Disaster Management Team: What is happening now is that for each natural calamity the army is called in to clean up. While it’s considered the duty of the army to come to rescue of the affected during natural calamities its equally important and strategic to have a national disaster and rescue team as is done by countries like Japan. Considering that floods are the most common natural disaster should not the nation ( At least the northern states which are affected by floods the most ) build a fleet of low cost and boats as stand by. The quantity of boats can be varied. From as less as 100 boats to a total of 500 boats. The total cost of such kind of operation can surely be accommodated as a special one time tax or even better, transfer corruption funds from a few departments of the government for say 3 months a year. During non flood periods these boats can be leased out to fishermen or just be moored off shore. This would in the first place create jobs for people who are needed to maintain these boats. Second such a team will not keep the nation stranded and helpless. It will also help politically as the government can say that it responded well to a calamity thus deny the opposition any mileage. An added advantage is that the minsters can have another department to play favouritism and make liberal use of their power.
A few disaster management teams from the world
United Nations: United Nations Disaster Management Team
Japan: Fire and disaster management agency
USA: Federal emergency management agency
Germany: Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology
China: Integrated disaster risk management of china
Let’s not pretend and lullaby ourselves into believing that India is not capable of putting up a top class disaster response team in place. When it matters for the political class of India they deliver it. A classic example was the NSG (National special protection group) which came into place because the lives of politicians and VIP’s were threatened. May be the government should gift an acre of land to each MP in all the areas which are affected by floods. It means giving away 540 acres of land. When their own land is flooded it may drill in them the urgency to put up a disaster response team.
Help from International rescue teams:While there are plenty of window shop NGO’s peddling other goals under the guise of humanitarian aid, India should not hesitate to take the help from international rescue teams which have demonstrated both in Infrastructure and response that they are capable of providing genuine help.
Other States to the Aid: India has 26 states which need to have their own disaster rescue teams in place. While they would continue to provide aid to their states as a priority they will also be in a position to loan them to other states on a need to basis. Fortunately apart from national and continual disaster like corruption, natural disasters are more reasonable and strike only on a single or few states at a time. Such teams when loaned to other states will help strengthen the foundation of federal structure. It may also help stitch political combinations and give another tool for the politicians to play around and amuse the national public at the expense of state exchequer.
Post kartina and pre -Gustav: After the disastarous management of Katrina hurricane USA has acted well in advance to minimise loss of life with approaching gustav hurricane. That is surely a pointer to India.
This present flood in India is a national disaster and all states of India should respond in full measure. The loss of 2,50,000 acres of farmable land can have an impact on food production for the next season and will put pressure on the already rising inflation affecting the poor of the country. It’s important for the minister of Agriculture Mr.Sharad Pawar to take a break from cricket and writing autobiography to fix the problem before it drowns the poor and middle class of India. Politics and personal glory can take a pause.