Srinagar: The State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) is ill-equipped for the task it is meant to do. Officials of the SDRF department told Kashmir Reader that they lack both equipment and manpower to carry out their work.
Despite being a highly disaster-prone region, the state of Jammu and Kashmir did not have a single airplane to be used in times of natural disasters until September 2014, when a devastating flood swept through the Valley.
“Our department needs hi-tech equipment and much more of the basic equipment. We have only 33 Life Saving Jackets and 11 boats, of which 8 are lying in Dal Lake. We have no dewatering pumps and breathing apparatuses. We are just not prepared to handle a 2014-like situation,” said an official of the SDRF department.
“In our department we are lacking in both equipment and manpower,” said SDRF Commandant Bashir Ahmad Sofi. “We have boats, livewire safety tubes, life saving jackets, rubber boats, etc, but they are not sufficient to tackle any disaster. We are hoping that the World Bank will provide Rs 27 crore for purchasing more of such equipment.”
The total manpower strength of SDRF is 783 persons for the entire J&K state, including Leh and Kargil.
“Since 2012, nearly 200 positions are lying vacant,” Sofi shared. “We don’t know why they cannot recruit. It will be a huge relief if we can get more manpower.”
Sofi also spoke of the need for awareness programmes at school, university, and locality level. “We believe the community is always the first to respond to any disaster. If the community is well equipped and knows what it has to do in the situation of a disaster or emergency, it is half the problem solved,” Sofi said.
In 2012, the Jammu and Kashmir government created the SDRF by converting two battalions of auxiliary police into the Jammu and Kashmir State Disaster Response Force under the 2005 NDMA Act of the central government.