Lok Sabha

December 2, 2014

Dr Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar Speaks on Disasters affecting the Country | Transcript

Today we are discussing under Rule 193 about the disasters affecting our country. Over the past few years due to uncontrolled carbon emission and damage to the ozone layer this destabilization of the climatic characteristics is taking place all over the world but mostly it is going to affect our country whose carbon footprint is much lesser than the other countries with much bigger carbon footprints.

This is a very important issue because disasters might strike any time and its extent might be much larger than epidemic diseases because the air that we breathe is going to be toxic, the water that we might use or which is flowing down the river will be toxic. As the Hon’ble member was just mentioning, there might be a shortage of water up to 50 per cent. So this is a very important issue that is being discussed today. Over the past few decades we have seen tsunami, Aila, Hudhud. The neighboring country has also been affected by Mahasen and before that we had the cloud burst in Uttarakhand and Leh.

We had the Parliamentary Forum on Disaster Management as Hon’ble member Mr Tharoor ji said. After him I was the Convener and we used to regularly meet to discuss these issues. After the Tsunami, the Disaster Management Act was passed in 2005 by this August House and in it provision was kept to take care of natural calamities. But disaster is not only natural calamities, not only incessant rain, flood or cloud and drought.

Disaster might be medical in nature as certain parts of the world are seeing in the form of the Ebola virus. Disaster might be nuclear, disaster might be biological. Although we are not discussing that, we must keep in mind the different types of disasters that might hit the country and affect the citizens adversely.

I have this pertinent question coming up in my mind. Should this disaster management be looked after by the Home Ministry or do we need a separate ministry to look at these issues so that we can address it properly. The provisions of the Act passed in 2005 look orphaned; many Hon’ble members are mentioning that we are the headless now as far as this Act is concerned.

Our Hon’ble Prime Minister who is primarily non-resident these days has important foreign issues to address, has no time for this small matter affecting the people of our country. We have lost thousands of lives, lakhs of hectares of agricultural land and we have lost millions of cattle heads.

What I would like to point out here is even the Act had provision for rescue and relief but there is no provision for rehabilitation. It is true that the efforts of the scientists who had performed the early warning systems is laudable and the INSAT-3D performed very well, the whole path of the Hudhud cyclone had been said in advance in forecast. The speed of the cyclone, the air speed had been forecast so the people could be shifted from their homes.

A report of the United Nations says that in the year 2013 – that is the last year – in only one year, more than two million Indians had to be shifted. They had to leave their homes and go elsewhere due to natural calamities. This is a very big number considering worldwide it was 22 million over 10 years. So, India is being affected adversely. Nearly 40 million hectares of land is flood-prone in India and among the landmass which falls under the seismic zone 11% is very very high damage risk zone, 18% is high damage risk zone, 13% is moderate risk zone and 41% is low damage risk zone.

Even a serious earthquake will cause such difficulty to the people in which they will lose their lives or properties; even if they are shifted from one place to the other, they are not rehabilitated.  The clause of rehabilitation is not included in the Disaster Management Act which is lying headless and the moment.

Sir, I would like to ask the Government whether they are going to think of having a separate Ministry or whether the Government is going to think in terms of addressing this issue and have the posts filled up which are lying vacant. Only then the people of the country will know the Government is serious regarding disasters. When the Disaster Management Act was formed, the points included were medical preparedness for mass casualty, psychological support, incident response system and the National Disaster Management Information Management Plan.  Every point of aforementioned is lacking.

As I had mentioned I was a Convener in the Parliamentary Forum of the Disaster Management. After the cloud burst in Uttarakhand, the people were suffering due to lack of orthopedicians. This is a very practical issue. When the cloud burst occurred, when they were swept away, bones broken, orthopedicians were less and they had to be flown from Delhi to perform the operations. As it is the whole country knows the country lacks in the required number of medical practitioners and medical help comes late. To top it all, if there is a situation like this, then the doctors are in great demand who are not available in the State level.

So, if we have a separate Ministry, if we have separate group of doctors and specialists, who can take care as children were being born in the rain in the open during such situation of calamity. So, the Government should pay more heed to such an important issue.

We should really pickup this serious issue which Kashmir faced; the severe flood in which 282 people were killed. The Hudhud cyclone which hit Andhra Pradesh and Odisha at a speed of 195 kmph, killed 67 people in Andhra Pradesh and 50 people in Odisha. Though the amount of loss ran into millions of rupees, the Hon’ble Prime Minister declared only Rs 1000 crore, out of which only part payment has been made. The demand of the State Governments amount to Rs 21640 crore. Odisha Government has requested Rs 777 crore; these demands have not been met.

Whether the Government is serious about rehabilitation of the lives of disturbed people remains a big question if we look at these figures. The figure of cattle loss is also huge; we know Indian economy, particularly in the rural areas, is cattle and livestock dependent. After such a severe loss, people do not find means of livelihood. So, if you are serious about assisting the people of the country, we have to even take care of rehabilitation along with the rescue and relief and this has to remain with the Government and not be dependent on the Army, so that immediate action can be taken.  Thank you Sir.


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