QUESTIONABLE DISASTER MANAGEMENT

After being hit by natural disasters consistently during for few years, the then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed approved the first-ever disaster management plan in the state that was welcome by one and all in the state. Though the rolling out of the maiden disaster management plan came in line with the old adage ‘Better Late Than Never’ yet as of today the state of affairs on this front as per the available information seems to be not only dismal but could prove much more disastrous than ever before. While the plan was rolled out after hectic consultations and deliberations with the experts and prepared by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) Mumbai, and at that point of time the then CM Mufti Mohammed Sayeed himself had exuded full confidence that the new disaster management plan will work to identify and anticipate potential risks and ensure continuity in critical operations post-incident, it was also hoped that strategizing disaster risk mitigation technique (reactive, adaptive, and anticipatory) or adaptation planning that requires a thorough assessment of the social profile including the vulnerability of the region; exposure of the community to extreme events or chronic risks, development practice and preparedness had been taken due care of in the said plan. As divulged at that time by the concerned authorities, the announced disaster management plan would also improve the understanding of disaster risk, foster disaster risk reduction and last but not the least it would promote continuous improvement in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery practices. Today the government’s preparedness remains questionable especially in view of the revelation that as on date in Kashmir which is having a population of 72 lakh people, there are only 600 odd men, 12 boats and inadequate life-saving tools that form the government’s first line defence to address a natural calamity. While the strength of the state disaster response force (SDRF) stands reduced by about 150 men following retirement of its personnel, it is really astonishing that neither has the government filled up these vacant posts nor has it completed the recruitment process for another 200 positions advertised by the SDRF way back in 2012. Not only this, what is further alarming is that presently at least 20 percent of the staff is in the elder age group. On can very well anticipate the failure on the part of the SDRF in case of any eventuality with its just 20 to 25 personnel each allotted to 11 districts across Kashmir including Ladakh for disaster management and to carry out rescue and relief operations in case of emergency. The number is beyond any doubt not enough to manage even a small locality or a village. The situation in Jammu province is all the more worse, with this region having been always discriminated against by the successive Kashmir centric governments. As per the experts, in view of the vulnerability of this state to disasters, each district needs at least one SDRF company comprising 110 men to properly handle the crisis in case of any eventuality. Realizing the enormity of probability of hydro-meteorological hazards in this state it is hoped that the government rises to the situation immediately addresses this most vital concern of the people of this geographically vulnerable state before it is too late.