Management of Disasters and Crisis Situations in India with Focus on the Poor

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MANAGEMENT OF DISASTERS AND CRISIS SITUATIONS IN INDIA WITH FOCUS ON THE POOR Katar Singh and Vishwa Ballabh1,2,3

1. Introduction and Background Natural and man-made disasters have been a bane of India’s economy since time immemorial. In ancient Indian literature, there are references to natural disasters such as prolonged droughts, flash floods, hail storms, land slides, cyclones and forest fires. All those disasters were generally then attributed to planetary factors and evil spirits (Kanwar 2001: 3). According to the Kautilya's Arthashastra, disaster management was a prime duty of the state. The state used to provide relief, when the distress conditions became acute (Sharma 2003: 3). According to the Indian Famine Commission (1888), droughts were the root cause of the devastating famines of the nineteenth century in India. In a nutshell, we could say that India was then and still is vulnerable to almost every type of natural disaster. About 60 % of the landmass in India is vulnerable to earthquakes; over 40 million hectares (ha) is prone to floods4; about 8 % of the total area is prone to cyclones; and about 68 % of the total area is susceptible to droughts. Eight thousand kilometer long coastline is prone to severe cyclonic formations. About 55 % of the total area lies in Seismic Zones III-V and is vulnerable to earthquakes. Sub-Himalayan regions and Western Ghats are vulnerable to land slides. (Kanwar 2001: 7, and GOI, 2004:32). Besides, man made disasters such as fires; air, road and rail accidents; industrial accidents; strikes and bandhs, civil commotion; and wars take a heavy toll of thousands of lives in the country every year. The vulnerability of India’s population, especially the poor, to both natural and man made disasters, has been increasing over time, with the increasing population densities, unplanned growth, urbanization, industrialization and other factors such as global warming, green house effect, social violence, terrorism, civil unrest and conflicts. Almost every day, news papers publish stories of natural and man-made disasters and crises occurring in one part, or the other of the country, and television channels show scenes of mishaps and their effects on people.

Katar Singh is Honorary Chairman, India Natural Resource Economics and Management (INREM) Foundation, Anand-388 001 and Vishwa Ballabh is RBI Chair Professor, Institute of Rural Management, Anand-388 001. 2 Acknowledgements: Many persons and organizations have helped us in conducting this study and preparing this paper. We are thankful to them all. However, we would like to place on record our gratitude and sincere thanks to the following persons and organizations for the courtesy, extended, materials provided, and views/opinions and experiences shared with us. Dr. Mruthyunjaya, Director, National Centre for Agricultural Economics Research and Policy, New Delhi, for sponsoring and funding this project. Shri Madhavan Nambiar, IAS, Director and Dr. Santosh Kumar, Professor, National Institute of Disaster Management C/o Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi. Shri Ashoka Kumar Rastogi, IAS, Secretary (Border Management), Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi. Dr. P.K. Mishra, IAS, Additional Secretary (CS), Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi. Shri Saroj Kumar Jha, IAS, Deputy Secretary (Disaster Management), Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi. Shri V.Thiruppugazh, IAS, Joint CEO and Shri Sudhir Kumar, Sr. Executive (H & EC). Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, Gandhinagar. Shri Mihir Bhatt, Director, Disaster Mitigation Institute, Ahmedabad. Ms. Alice Morris, Programme Coordinator, UNNATI, Ahmedabad. Ms. Padmini, Secretary to Prof. V. Ballabh for her secretarial help, and formatting, and printing of this paper . Mr. Jose S., INREM Foundation, Anand for his help with word -processing portions of this paper.. Last but not the least, Prof. K. Prathap...
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