Floods: Have We Learnt Our Lessons?

September 2014 was very punitive for the ‘Heaven on Earth’, Kashmir as it witnessed a disastrous deluge never seen in its entire history. Majority of the districts across the state were gravely hit by the hammering rainfall. The Jhelum River on September 5, in full wrath burst through embankments submerging everything that came in its way— roads, streets, buildings…. The Tawi River in Jammu region showed no mercy either.  The floods spared no one and resulted in massive casualties in the state besides a colossal loss to property. Similarly, Tamil Nadu— a mixture of both modern and traditional values— received torrential rains recently leaving about 300 dead. Chennai, in particular, reeled under heavy floods following record-breaking rainfall and overflowing lakes. Thousands were left homeless and stranded in their homes without food or essentials. Both the Jammu and Kashmir and Tamil Nadu states have been worst hit from the disasters.

During and after the scene of the devastating floods, locals more particularly youth have exhibited exceptional grit to help the sufferers. The army, naval and other forces launched rescue operations on a war-footing with more priority placed to save precious human lives.The nation must salute the efforts put by the youth, locals and the military men to save millions of precious lives of both the states. Media played a crucial role in reaching out to people in the far off places and highlighted the plight of those areas. Various organizations—businesses, educational institutions, NGOs etc. have set exemplary records in serving the humanity and without any particular focus towards religions, caste, culture etc.

No doubt efforts have been plentiful-in actual, India still lacks in extending a coordinated response to natural calamities. It reflects either the government’s deaf ear or the incompetency of the concerned agencies. More than a year has passed since the Uttarakhand floods that claimed close to 6,000 lives but no lessons seem to have been learnt. What emerges, in both the states of the J&K and Tamil Nadu case, is a familiar story of agencies failing to communicate, a lack of planning and awareness and the incompetence to tackle such disasters.Despite the fact that J&K is an unstable region highly prone to earthquakes, it appears that no one understood the state could be affected by floods.The disaster exposed the weaknesses of the faulty embankments as well as the nonexistent drainage system in the state. Similarly, Chennai Corporation has ignored the September warnings of above-average monsoonal rains issued by the Indian Meteorological Department. The extensive and costly projects are also believed to be ineffectively conducted. The drains in Chennai are stated to have been poorly built and improperly designed.

September 2014 floods in Jammu and Kashmir have left behind trail of destruction and tale of discrimination as victims continue to struggle for existence. The government’s relief distribution system has been severely criticized for corrupt and irresponsible practices. The flood-victims claim that playing more loyal than the King, the administration has either undervalued their loss or altogether ignored it.  Some localities which remained submerged in flood waters for 22 days and the houses suffered massive damages were given interim relief cheques of mere Rs. 3800, which is appalling.

Both Kashmir and Chennai disasters gives us a lesson, and agencies must learn from this lesson and improve policies, which is very essential. The damages could have been verily minimized if preparations and policies to counter such natural disasters would have been in place. It is high time for the government, both state and central, to work on proper counter mechanisms for such disasters. The relief distribution system of the government needs to be revisited and honest officials be given the charges so that deserving victims are served. The citizens need to be alert and well prepared to counter the disasters at their individual level. Being responsible and contributive to the society, citizens must serve the victims with kind heart.The country is gifted with an asset of heroic youth who need to be trained and well equipped to challenge the averse situations. The schools, colleges, universities have a bigger role in this rising and can develop values in youth so that they become fine citizens of this country. Adding one subject to curriculum on disaster management with more practice will be a good initiative in this regard. There is a lot to contribute and be ready for a prosperous future. Efforts should also continue to build the beautiful disaster hit states again.

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