Sunday, October 30, 2005

Disaster Management

Disasters seem to striking India on a continues basis. Some are due to mother nature and others due to human negligence and wickedness. Yet, India doesn't have a functional Crisis Management System that would respond to various emergencies. This results in each crisis being handled in a ad hoc manner with little or no coordination between various agencies.

Just yesterday, three different man made disasters stuck India all attributable to lack of judgment and terrorism.
  1. A train was allowed to pass through a flooded bridge causing it to be washed away leading to over 100 casualties. Even after 24 hours, the pictures from coming from scene depict a chaotic situation with bodies being handled in a very casual manner. The least, Indian Railways can do is to treat the bodies with respect and wrap with a white sheet.
  2. A tragic road accident near Trichy due to greed and utter disregard for road safety. Here again, the bodies handled in a callous manner and several more people died due to lack of immediate medical attention.
  3. The day ended with multiple coordinated bombing in Delhi killing 70+ innocent people who were out doing last minute Diwali shopping. There was utter chaos in the blast scenes with lot of anxious citizens wanting to know about the fate of their loved ones.
Even though these kind incidents seem to be happening in regular intervals, India doesn't have a well oiled crisis management system at various levels. For each crisis, the response has been ad hoc resulting severe hardships to the victims.

Who can forget the ignominious 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu, Nepal. India missed the golden opportunity to trap the plane in Amirtsar resulting in it ending up in Kandahar, Afghanistan. This episode ended with a flight by the Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh to Afghanistan escorting a dreaded terrorist to his freedom. The world later learnt that, the high level Hijack Crisis Management Team didn't meet for the first seven and even after that the response was not properly coordinated between different arms of Indian Government. This resulted in a mixed signal to the hijackers and who were bolstered to harden their position.

While these disasters can ever be fully prevented, India should at least be prepared for it. It is high time India instituted a functional Crisis Management System at various levels of government that ensures prompt and efficient response to emergencies in a coordinated manner.