UNIT IV DISASTER MANAGENENT – THE CUDDALORE EXPERIENCE

“The Cuddalore Experience” is a brief summary of “Disaster Management in Cuddalore District” by Anu George, IAS (Tamil Nadu) from “Readings and Case Studies on Disaster Management.”

“Disaster Management in Cuddalore District” is a detailed report submitted to the Tamilanadu Government on the relief measures implemented by the Cuddalore District administration after it was devastated by a deadly Tsunami attack. Cuddalore, in Tamil Nadu, has always been prone to natural disasters of one kind or the other. Following the Tsunami disaster that struck the Cuddalore coast on the 26th of December 2004, 51 villages were badly affected, killing 615 people and affecting about 1 lakh people. After the initial shock and the painstaking process of immediate rescue and relief, the district administration began the process of rebuilding the lives of thousands of hapless victims of the lethal Tsunami waves.
The tragedy exposed the most vulnerable sections of the society to grave danger. The extent of loss, its suddenness and lack of preparedness of people and the authorities have resulted in an unbelievable amount of destruction. The disaster was much different from any other natural calamity for the intense havoc it wreaked: the spread was small but the damage huge.

Immediate Rescue and Relief Operations:
The first and foremost task was to provide rescue and relief operations. Hospitals had to be made ready to attend to the injured and the seriously affected people. It was a painful task to dispose the dead bodies – mass burial was the only way out and it took a lot of persuasion and effort on the part of the field officials to get the task done on a war footing. All the bodies were photographed individually before the burial for future identification purposes. The burial was an important task for two reasons:
1. for controlling the outbreak of diseases,
2. for ensuring faster and smoother relief operations.

Public announcement systems and information centres were established to restore order. The next important job was to provide food and water for nearly 24,000 people who had fled from their villages in the coastal areas to the interior. Many volunteers came forward to meet the emergency. Organizations had pooled up the resources and provided food and water.

Relief Centres:
The villagers in coastal regions moved to the interiors of the district in panic. The next task on hand was to provide food and water to the refugees till the time that these camps lasted. They devised a tracking system to meet this challenge whereby the official-in-charge at each centre would report to the control room about the arrangements that were in place for the next meal.

The cooked food brought in by the volunteers was monitored as a precautionary measure. This was necessary because in a few places, the food, which was brought in from far flung areas, had got spoilt during transportation due to the heat. With the help of a few agencies, plastic water tanks were put up in all the relief centres, thus ensuring a steady supply of water.

Sanitary workers were appointed to clean the places on a daily basis. Medical camps were also set up. The arrangement was such that every camp had at least one visit from a team of doctors every day.

Restoration of Civic Amenities:
With the support of NGOs, three desalination plants based on reverse osmosis were set up in this area to provide drinking water. Maintenance of the desalination plants was given to some NGOs.
Civic amenities such as power supply, water and bore wells were restored. Intensive police patrolling had been arranged to prevent thefts and any untoward happenings.

Communication:
Control rooms were established in the three worst affected areas and some top officials were also provided with cell phones to coordinate the efforts of the field staff and to monitor the relief operations. HAM radio operators too lent their helping hand in this process.

Mass Cleaning:
The entire area was filled with dead bodies and carcasses. Following the World Health Organisation’s warning rapid measures were implemented to control the spread of epidemics. Disinfection operations were carried out with the help of local NSS, NYK volunteers and army personnel.
Community Kitchens:
23 community kitchens were set up to feed the thousands of displaced people. It needed huge quantity of vegetables, fuel and other provisions at short notices.

Handling Relief Materials:
From the second day onwards, relief materials started pouring in from all directions. For effective use of relief materials, they devised a system of making an inventory control using the expertise of two IIT students. This helped streamlining the entire process of handling and distributing the relief materials.

Health:
The department of health rendered yeoman’s service in this crisis. Twenty-three teams comprising both government and private doctors were mobilized for medical camps.
They organized counseling for the mentally traumatized children. To ensure continuity in the process, some local people were trained to carry the program forward.

Agriculture:
Government enhanced compensation package for the farmers whose farms were rendered useless due to huge saline deposits. They were also provided with expert advice for the reclamation of the lands.

Children:
Authorities, voluntaries, organizations took special care to bring the traumatized children back to normal state. It was felt that play therapy would be the best healer. This made a great impact on the children. This exercise also endeared the administration to the people. Schools and colleges suitable for these children were identified; and books and bags were provided as well.

Shelter:
A large number of temporary shelters were put up with the help of the voluntary bodies and the Rural Development Department. Flooring, controlling the heat and proper sanitation were given priority during this process.

Conclusion:
The district administration received appreciation from all quarters for the way it responded to this disaster without waiting for the state or central government help. The vision and dedication shown by the district officials led by the district collector Anu George were indeed commendable. They deserve praise for their initiative and promptness in planning and executing the entire relief work.

1. Write short answers to these questions.

a. Immediately after the tsunami struck Cuddalore, what were some of the first tasks the administration had to do?
The first and the foremost task of the administration were of rescue and relief. They had made the hospitals ready for thousands of injured or afflicted people. Secondly, they had to set a public announcement system so that it could help the people who were searching for their lost relatives. The third difficult task was of disposing the dead bodies. The fourth task was to mobilize food and water for nearly 24000 people who were homeless and helpless.

b. What steps did the administration take to ensure that potable water was available?
The help of few agencies, administration was able to put up sintex water tanks in all the relief centers. It provided a steady supply of water to the people. On the other hand some other voluntary agencies conducted a test of the water to make sure that it was safe to drink. 107 wells were dug in other places to give regular supply of water.

c. What were the means used to establish contact between the control rooms and the field staff?
This massive exercise in coordination was effectively completed with improvised means of communication. Control rooms and field staff were connected with the HAM radio operations. Some of the top officials were provided with mobile phones which were taken on rent. These steps made the supervision of the relief operations easier for the officials.

d. How was the distribution of clothes and medicines that poured in for the tsunami victims handled?
From the second onwards, relief materials of various kinds started pouring in and it became a big problem handling them. With the help two IIT students acomputerised inventory system was created to ensure the easy maintenance and fair distribution of the materials. This list was also circulated to the donors to make sure that the supply of unnecessary materials was stopped.

e. What was some of the work done by the medical teams formed as part of the disaster management efforts in Cuddalore?
23 medical teams comprising government and private doctors did a crucial job in improving the situation at Cuddalore. Doctors and medicines were routed through the control rooms ensuring that all the areas were covered. The following are some important statistics.
1. 80,117 people were given medical attention.
2. 437 people were treated as in-patients.
3. 9,373 doses of measles and polio vaccines were administered.

f. After reading the account, do you think Cuddalore’s district administration did a commendable job? Give reasons for your answer.
The district administration received appreciation from all quarters for the way it responded to this disaster without waiting for the state or central government help. The vision and dedication shown by the district officials led by the district collector Anu George were indeed commendable. They deserve praise for their initiative and promptness in planning and executing the entire relief work. The work of administration can be appreciated in terms of their promptness in carrying out immediate rescue and relief operations. To mobilise food and water for nearly 24000 people was a huge job. Some other commendable works are mass cleaning, medical treatment, vaccination of people as well as animals, taking care of children etc. The last one in particular endeared the administration to all the people.
Amartya Kumar Sen
Indian-born professor Amartya Sen received the 1998 Nobel Prize for Economics for his contributions to welfare economics. Sen, a Cambridge University economist-philosopher, helped shift the balance from macro to micro approaches to rural economic development.

He believed that traditional welfare economics, and subsequently development strategies, required a careful consideration of local political conditions. His work provided an important legitimacy to the work of many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in international development.

An important tendency began to take hold in the 1970s, involving a shift in the balance between micro and macro approaches to development. The motive force behind this—at least initially—derived from rural development studies and is closely associated with names such as Michael Lipton, Amartya Sen, and Robert Chambers. Approaches to rural development in the 1950s and 1960s had been based on structural transformation through programmes of land redistribution and on the application of the new technologies of agricultural science that came to be termed the “green revolution”. Both approaches were essentially macro in nature, that is to say, they were “top down” and afforded little space for the experiences and actions of individuals or for farming households. Poor, smallholder agriculturists, who then made up the considerable majority of the developing country population, were viewed as agents that would respond to price signals or to government actions. It was rare to regard them as individual and rational economic actors, as authors of their own preferences, and possessed of a reservoir of “indigenous knowledge” essential to their circumstances and their own development.

In this regard, the studies conducted by Lipton and others showed clear evidence that the macro and technocratic approaches of the early modernization period had disguised a pernicious urban (or anti-rural) bias and that government policies were, in fact, eroding the incentives to poor rural farmers to produce food. A combination of national monopolies through marketing boards and the overvaluation of domestic currencies had produced, in many poorer countries, a punitive level of taxation on ordinary farmers and a transfer from them to urban-industrial interests. The natural result was the rational response of farmers in the form of a decline in per capita food production.

Cambridge University economist-philosopher Amartya Sen was a key figure in the shift in balance from macro to micro approaches. Traditional welfare economics, argued Sen, fell short of an adequate assessment of the social good because its approaches lack essential information about people’s preferences. Thus, he insisted that development strategies cannot succeed in the absence of careful consideration of local political conditions and possibilities. The work of Robert Chambers gave operational impetus to such thinking through new mechanisms that approach international development via “participatory methods” and link micro understandings to effective programmes of poverty reduction.

The theoretical and empirical work of people like Lipton, Sen, and Chambers provided an important legitimacy to the work of many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in international development. It placed them much more centrally as agents of development effectiveness and opened increasing avenues to cooperative and even joint effort between governments and supra-national entities such as the World Bank and the NGOs.

Comprehension questions
1. When did Amartya form and develop his educational attitude and orientation?
Amarthya’s formal education began in St. George’s high school, Dhaka in the erstwhile East Bengal. His educational attitudes were formed in Tagore’s school, ‘Shantiniketan’. Right from his childhood, he had wanted to become a teacher and researcher of some sort. During his younger years he had shown great interest in Sanskrit, Mathematics and Physics.
2. How does Amartya Sen describe Economics?
“The eccentric charms of Economics”, a phrase that Amartya Sen used to describe his favorite subject, always fascinated him and he selected this as his major though he took a keen interest in various other subjects in his childhood.

3. What did Amartya learn from the death of Kader Mia in Dacca?
One afternoon in Dhaka, a man named Kader Miya, working for a meager payment, was knifed in a largely Hindu dominated area. When Amarthya’s father was rushing him to hospital he kept saying that though his wife warned him he came there to feed his family. The penalty of that Economic uncertainty turned out to be his death. Amartya learnt that economic uncertainty in the form of extreme poverty could make a person a helpless prey to the violation of other kinds of freedom and that poverty forces people to make various difficult decisions.

4. How did Calcutta’s Presidency College Influence collegian Amartya?
The educational excellence of Presidency College radically broadened his intellectual horizon. There he studied under some great teachers and the politically active student community also played its part in shaping the intellectual orientation of Amartya.

5. What aspect of the Bengal famine struck Amartya?
He was struck by the class-dependent character of the natural calamities. It was the people who were at the bottom of the economic ladder that were severely affected by the famine.

6. Why did Amartya go to Cambridge in 1953?
To study his BA course at Trinity College.

7. How did Amartya utilize his Ph. D thesis before the time of its submission?
He utilized PhD to get prize fellowship at Trinity College.

8. How useful was his stint in Delhi during the period 1963 to 1971?
It is the most intellectually challenging in his academic life. He succeeded in making a preeminent centre of education in economics and social sciences. He moved into the social choice theory due to the dynamic intellectual atmosphere of the Delhi University.

9. How did he relate the pure theory of social choice to more practical problems?
He related the pure theory of social choice with expanded information is very crucial to assess poverty, inequality, distribution-adjusted national income measures, and the penalty of unemployment, gender disparities and women’s relative disadvantage.

10. In America in 1985, what was Amartya involved in?
He involved in analyzing the overall implication of perspective on welfare economics and political philosophy.

11. What kind of attachment Amartya Sen had for his motherland India?
The attachment for his motherland was so strong that he never stayed away for more than six months at a stretch while he was in abroad.

12. When did Amartya Sen receive the Nobel Prize for Economics and what is he known as in India?
He received his Noble Prize in October, 1998 for Economics and known in India as the Mother Teresa of Economics.

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16 Comments (+add yours?)

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