Disaster Task-Force Missing

Following the incident of fire which gutted the official residence of the Chief Minister, the Nagaland Cabinet in an emergency meeting held on Wednesday has informed that an enquiry committee “may be” set up to find out the “cause of fire” and also to “fix responsibilities” besides to suggest ways and means to avoid recurrence of such incidents in future. The problem with the communiqué coming from the Cabinet is the uncertainty over whether a probe committee will be in fact set up since the cabinet has used the term “maybe”. Since the Chief Minister has also clearly stated that the cause of the fire was due to short circuit, the question is whether there is at all a need to institute a probe team for this purpose. It will be wastage of time and money. However we would welcome a high power committee to fix responsibilities and to suggest a coherent strategy to tackle such kind of disasters. Both the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police can head this team, which should include other appropriate persons and officials. More than a probe, what we need now is a coherent strategy and also to fix responsibilities. A chain of command needs to be put into place so that there is no confusion when it comes to management of disasters such as the one that occurred on Tuesday night.  
The fire incident involving the CM’s official bungalow has also brought into focus, the contention especially from our VIPs that their homes built decades ago are not safe anymore and they need to get better houses built for them. But then as the CM has also rightly pointed out we do not have the funds to go for such modernization plans of our official residences. Also it may be true that official bungalows may have outlived its life. However it will be unfair to bracket only the VIP homes in the category of outdated homes. In fact most of the government quarters of the majority of employees are also similar or some of them could be even in far worse condition. Unless the Government of India is generous enough to grant us the huge amount of money needed to rebuild our government quarters, we may well have to do with what we have now and protect these assets from such accidents however debilitating they may be. For now our VIPs should not complain and live with what they have. We simply cannot afford to divert our meager development funds for building huge castles for our VIPs. At this time our focus should be on better preparedness to deal with a range of disasters. Funds from Delhi will come and go but how well we are able to utilize this besides how we can generate our own resources should be our concern. For now let us not divert our attention from the vital objective of disaster management and preparedness.
With the dry season now coming and our experiences of forest fires which can also threaten urban settlements such as Kohima, the State government must take some urgent steps to prepare ourselves better for any eventualities. It makes sense for the State Steering Committee (SSC) on disaster management headed by the Chief Secretary to meet soon on priority. An appraisal of the so called Disaster Management Committees at District, Sub - Division & Village levels is also needed. The Chief Secretary as the head of the SSC should call for a meeting at the earliest and fix responsibility so that a semblance of preparedness is put into place. We have commented in these columns about the need to institutionalize Disaster Management in the State Government machinery and also to inculcate a culture of preparedness and prevention in Nagaland. In one of our editorials it was suggested to the Chief Minister to “seriously consider restructuring one or two departments and making it a full-fledged department dealing with Disaster Management and related areas”. The need for disaster management preparedness must be underscored.