The recent Chennai floods have left the city devastated. But this calamity has given way to a huge issue that I assume, a very few of us have noticed. The argument is, how much prepared are our cities when any such disaster takes place? What mitigation techniques do we have to save ourselves when we get stuck in such situations? The people are hardly aware of the precautions that one should take at such times. And this is because of the much prevalent loopholes in our administrative system. It is the government’s shortcomings that they have not educated the masses about disaster management, nor have they set up a proper governing body which is accountable in such tragic and harrowing times.
Well, good news has come our way. Finally, someone is showing concern for building safer cities. The Hindu has come up with an idea called ‘fix our cities’. This is a six-part series on disasters preparedness in large metropolises, engines of India’s economic growth. This initiative talks about the existing safety measures, their implementation and the requirements of a full-fledged disaster management team. Three out of six parts are already out and this is undoubtedly a great effort in the context of our safety.
This step is inspired by the Chennai floods as to what happened to the city and what actions were taken to rescue the abandoned people.
The first part of the series talks about the need of having a well-functioning disaster management team. At the time of inevitable accidents, the centre and the state government takes nearly forty-eight hours to come in terms with the whole situation. And the Indian Army reaches before the government to carry out extenuate operations. There is the need, and urgent need of separate rescue teams so that our army forces do not get minimised to a mere mitigation troop. During the Chennai floods, the forces rescued a lot of people through their choppers. And of course, the vigour demonstrated by them was commendable.
India needs a nodal agency to ascertain rescue, relief and rehabilitation at the time of natural emergencies. We need a functional National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). In 1999, after the cyclone in Odisha, a plan was proposed to establish NDMA and in fact, a lot of paperwork was done, but it took many years to form this department. In 2005, NDMA was set up but it is not functioned properly. The Chennai floods are the recent example that at the time of emergency, the army was called and the NDMA had nothing to do with the mitigation process. The NDMA needs to be modified, evaluated and functioned appropriately.
The second part strikes a chord with the lack of information about the people and families in trouble when an emergency hits. And the age-group that is affected the most is the old and the dependents. A kid, a youth or a middle-aged person can do something in order to save own self at the time of a disaster. But what about an old person who is not even able to walk without a stick? Yes, it is the duty of the people around them to provide them with aid, but the people need to alleviate themselves first in order to save any other life. This condemns the lack of information about the people, especially the senior citizens who need to be rescued. In Chennai floods, the maximum number of people who could not reach relief camps were the senior citizens. We need a mechanism that alerts and detects, where the help is required the most.
The third part enforced the plight of the patients and the grim reality of medical services in India. During the Chennai mishap, the hospitals fell short of space to admit patients. The treatments and services were also inferior because of water logging at the ground floors of the hospitals. The government blames it on the population issues, but, even if the population is large, the people have the right to incur relevant treatment in a time of crisis. It is the obligation of the government to look after the logistics and the basic specifics.
This initiative is definitely something which was never thought of before. A similar tragedy like Chennai can strike again. A few months ago, an earthquake struck the northern part of India, including New Delhi. Usually, the people tend to wait for the government to take any action and this stoic attitude of our population has encouraged the government to show so much lethargy. But now the time has come to question our administration that what safety measures do we have at the time of a natural calamity and what have we learned from the Chennai floods?
‘fix our cities’ is an urge to build a safer society. But this initiative will be useless if we do not take it seriously. It is in our own hands to make a well-planned society. If we don’t, don’t you think we are certainly doomed?
You can catch the whole ‘fix our cities’ story here.