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Miles to go before leap (Dec.)

 

Statesman, Delhi, Wednesday 4th December 2013

India has moved miles ahead in its preparedness to face calamities of the scale of the deadly Odisha cyclone in 1999, believe experts the world over. The country can boast of a widely acclaimed mega evacuation program in Odisha prior to Phylain this year, but the loss of lives and property questions the dimensions of its ability to deal with the catastrophe of such a scale.

However, the country has an edge over the response mechanism given its vast trained and disciplined armed forces.

“I am really afraid of the ill-preparedness of India if  the calamity of the volume of Phylain occurs again,” said Mr Aslam Parweiz, head of  Disaster Risk Management Systems of Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre in Bangkock.

Speaking on the sidelines of the International Conference on Humanitarian Logistics organised by the Indian Institute of Management Raipur, Mr Parweiz said, that India has undoubtedly moved miles ahead of its much touted ill-preparedness since the Odisha cyclone of 1999.

But there are countless grey areas in its handling of mega-disasters as was displayed in recent Uttarakhand flash floods in June this year, he added.

Since the Indian armed forces command a great deal of trust among the masses, they easily reign in the toughest situations at hand and even bring the law and order under control, Mr Parweiz told  The Statesman.The unprecedented preparedness, India, especially Odisha, has shown, could be the landmark to dealing with the mega disasters, he pointed, adding that the early warning system and joint endeavors by the centre and the state government made the impossible, possible. Since Odisha has a long coastline and has witnessed numerous calamities, it has developed its own social and community based vast network of responding to the disaster, Mr Parweiz said.

However, he made it clear that we still have a lot to do before we reach the level of disaster preparedness of Japan, which is prone to all calamities including volcanoes, earthquake, typhoon, and nuclear disasters.

Similarly, Indonesia also has a well advanced disaster response mechanism in place and in practice for years, we should learn the Japanese zeal to live safe, he suggested.

Participation of communities is a key to face the disasters effectively,  Mr Parweiz along with scores of other experts pointed out. Ms Smita Gupta from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences stressed on the need to creating Self Help Groups to ensure better participation of the people. However Lieutenant General Anil Chait expressed the reservation of armed forces to look beyond the military domain to train the people for disaster preparedness saying the psyche of our society is not well developed to the level of armed forces and that is the reason we hear the news of basic needs being sold at unbelievably high prices.