Disaster Management Itself A Disaster

India has been at war more than once with a couple of its neighbouring countries. We do not have very good terms with two of our nuclear endowed neighbouring countries — China and Pakistan. Other than this, it is also well known that the eyes of terrorists have India in constant focus. They don’t miss any opportunity to spread anarchy and violence in the country. Time and again, the Intelligence Department has warned that terrorists can create disturbances in India by using both biological and chemical weapons. Obviously, it is very important that our country should meet the highest criteria of disaster management. Along with danger from its neighbouring countries, there are other natural calamities like floods, droughts, earthquakes, tsunamis and other unwanted manmade
disasters that have in the past taken a ghastly toll and can do so in the future as well. However, it is a matter of great regret that even today,
despite these dangers, India is deficient in disaster management. In contrast, European and other countries have already taken many initiatives in disaster management. Countries like America, France and England give special importance to disaster management. Recently, when a tsunami struck Japan and one of their nuclear reactors started leaking, a major accident was averted due to efficient disaster control management. Here in India, what happened in 1984, when the gas tragedy struck Bhopal is well known. Thousands of people lost their lives. Even today you can see the adverse affects of the accident in Bhopal. The accident disabled and deformed thousands of people. Disabled babies are still taking birth near the affected area. Similarly, when an earth quake struck Bhuj and it’s surrounding areas in Gujarat, the inadequacy of disaster management was clearly evident. In Southern India, when a tsunami took a heart breaking toll, it took quite a long time to improve conditions. The Mumbai terrorist attack is too recent to need further recounting. These are examples where only a small part of the country was struck by calamity. What will happen if the whole country faces a crisis situation is, as of now, anybody’s guess.
Uttar Pradesh does not seem to have learnt any lessons from calamities that have struck elsewhere and still lags way behind the required efficiency standards of effective disaster management. The recent leakage of ammonia gas from an ice factory in Lucknow brought home this fact starkly, The Government has formed a Department for Disaster Management and manned it with a sufficient number of employees. But this Department doesn’t know how to deal effectively with a disaster. If we look at the manner in which disaster management has been conducted in the last few years, then it seems that after any accident, apart from providing some remuneration to the victims, no real relief work is done. There are papers and files filled with various recommendations and remedial measures to be carried out during a disaster. Equipment is also available. But none of this can be seen at the ground level. Neither is there is any kind of testing or mock-drill programme organised from time to time in the State nor there is any seminar or other programme held to create awareness among the people. The few efforts which are made are negligible in number. No efforts have been made to find suitable means or alternatives to stop any gas leakage technically nor is there any suitable information about how to deal with a situation when any accident occurs in a populated area.
Lucknow has developed fairly rapidly in the last few years and proportionately, small industries have also been growing. From the narrow streets and densely populated areas right upto to the new colonies, there are many such industries where, along with ammonia, many other gases and inflammable chemicals are used indiscriminately. But arrangements for disaster management are made neither by the owners of the industries nor does the Government tighten the screws on them. If any accident occurs then there are no arrangements available to deal with it. It is deplorable that to pump out the ammonia gas that was leaking from a tank in an Ice Cream factory in old Lucknow, the technicians from gas agencies took four whole days to deal with the situation. Throughout this period, the foul smell of ammonia gas was continuously spreading in the whole area. When asked about the strategies employed by the Government, the officials said that during any natural disaster like floods, lightning, house or building collapse, fire, epidemic and earthquake, the police and related officers are first sent to the area where the incident has occurred. The people who are affected by the disaster are provided with financial benefits. The emergency operation centres are provided with the equipment to deal with, say, floods, but when it comes to expertise, then the Government doesn’t have any kind of expert teams to deal with emergency situations like leakage of gas or chemicals. The State Disaster Management Authority, Uttar Pradesh, doesn’t have any thing chalked out for hands-on management of any disaster. The Department has got strategies to tackle the situation after the incident has occurred. This is a situation which should be rectified on an urgent basis.

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