Responding to Disaster

In the backdrop of the recent earthquake that devastated Sikkim and also the numerous warning signs of impending disaster/s striking a vulnerable place like Nagaland, the launch on October 10, 2011 of Nagaland’s own State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) is a welcome development. Full credit should go to those people in government who made this happen despite whatever limitation they may have been faced with. This newspaper has been more often than not critical of the manner in which our political establishment and bureaucracy had all along sidelined this all important issue. While the launching of the SDRF is no doubt a step in the right direction, however there is still a long way to go as far as institutionalizing disaster management and ensuring a thorough professional approach towards its functioning as a vital cog of our public service. For this to happen, the government must start to give due attention to the entire aspect of disaster management. Complacency must give way to concern. The State Steering Committee (SSC) on disaster management headed by the Chief Secretary must meet more often. Similarly, the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), which is headed by none other than the Chief Minister with elected representatives as members should actively work towards strengthening all aspect of its running, right from fund allocation and its proper usage.
The need to be prepared at all times is actually the best solution to tackling the unknown such as natural disasters or calamities. Here we need to look at disaster management beyond natural calamity. It includes not just earthquakes or landslides but even accidents in the nature of forest fire, a deadly pandemic, road mishaps etc. A state of preparedness and ability to respond quickly can considerably mitigate loss of life and property and the human suffering and restore normalcy at the earliest. And to prepare for this we need to have the right kind of trained personnel to respond to a crisis. This is absolutely vital to the success of managing disaster. This newspaper had made several suggestions in the past on the need to raise a combat ready team preferably from the police force to take on the challenge of fighting disasters and undertaking search and rescue operation on the ground. We are therefore glad that the training of the first batch of SDRF drawn from Alpha Company of the ‘Daring Ninth’ (9 IRB-NAP) was formally inaugurated on Monday at Central Training Institute (Home Guards & Civil Defence), Toluvi. The Chief Secretary Lalthara who inaugurated the training is right when he says that disaster management is very much in nature a police job and helping people in times of need and distress is in the original charter of the role of police. The importance of having a full fledged professionally trained SDRF would also entail that all necessary infrastructure support must be given including the latest equipments so that our trained personnel can effectively respond when disaster occurs. Just having a Nagaland State Disaster Management Authority (NSDMA) office at the Secretariat and a handful of trained personnel is not going to be enough.