Srinagar: Disaster management has been one of the key areas where the government cannot boast much. Even the various disasters like the deadly 2005 earthquake, the floods in Leh during 2010 or the massive deluge of 2014 that hit most parts of Kashmir Valley, have not been enough to make the government realize the actual requirements.
Even after so many years have passed, the government has failed to delve on ways to handle disasters despite the fact that the state is vulnerable to natural calamities including earthquakes.
Though Disaster Management Cells in the Divisional Commissioners office has been set up to tackle disasters. However, the government has no disaster management policy in place as the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) and its offshoots at divisional and district levels are headed by ministers, MLAs and bureaucrats while experts have been sidelined.
Worse the government has constituted two task forces, but these are not well equipped to deal with such tragedies. The Chief Minister is heading the SDMA while Cabinet ministers and bureaucrats are its members.
Has anybody visualized what sort of response will this kind of a body evoke in terms of an emergency situation. Even in July 2015 the government had approved the first-ever disaster management plan for the state in an effort to reduce the vulnerability to hazards and cope with disasters and natural calamities in a more effective manner.
The government then had said the plan was long overdue as there were lessons to be learnt from the devastating floods of 2014 in terms of real-time rescue missions for timely evacuation of people.
For any disaster management plan to take roots, the government needs to involve various consultants who have managed the field for many years before actually putting any mechanism in place. But, the government it seems has faulted on the very first step.
The Administrative Department of the Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction has engaged persons having qualification in disaster management as Disaster Management professionals on the ground that there is a provision for human resource support for engaging Disaster Management professionals in the Centrally Sponsored Schemes.
Ten Disaster Management professionals have been picked fresh from the University. These were deployed in the Jhelum and Tawi Flood Recovery Project (JTFRP), which is funded by the World Bank as per the tripartite agreement reached between World Bank, J&K Government and Department of Economic Affairs of Ministry of Finance, Government of India.
The selection of the Disaster Management professionals has a number of flaws. Primarily, the engaged persons lack the first qualification required and that is the number of years (experience) they have gained while carrying out the sensitive job of disaster management.
The government should reconsider its policy of accommodating the fresher’s as consultants and should work out to get some experienced professionals to manage the job more efficiently.