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Expecting the unexpected

 Sujit Nath |  2015-09-06 21:33:21.0  |  New Delhi

Expecting the unexpected

In less than a decade since its formation in 2006, NDRF has come a long <g data-gr-id="92">way,</g> and earned many accolades. Please share your views and challenges while heading one of the most challenging units in the country.
It is indeed a major challenge to head such a unit. The fact is that we cannot prevent disasters. Whether it is <g data-gr-id="90">man made</g> or natural calamities, we cannot prevent it. Yes, we can take precautionary measures but I personally feel that we have to stick to “Response Centric” and that is what we are doing in NDRF. You can mitigate the effect of such <g data-gr-id="106">disasters</g> but that will take a long time and in such 
situations, all we can focus on is <g data-gr-id="105">quick</g> response to such mishaps.

Recent floods in several parts of the country including Jammu & Kashmir, West Bengal, etc. created havoc and operations proved to be a daunting task considering NDRF’s force strength. What initiative are you taking to overcome the staff crunch issue?
Presently we have 12 battalions and each battalion has 1,140 persons. Every battalion has 18 teams and out of 18, 12 are operational and <g data-gr-id="103">rest</g> is for logistics. This is indeed a difficult situation for us to deal with crises where the population is growing every day. I personally feel that such strength is not adequate and I have requested for more battalions, which should be around 22 in near future. But even we are short of staff, we have done an outstanding operation in Nepal and showed our efficiency to other countries who were also engaged in similar operations 
during the earthquake.

Since the flood in Jammu & Kashmir was urban-centric and was a different kind of experience for the NDRF, what problems did you face while engaged in rescue and relief operation? <g data-gr-id="91">Also</g> share you experience on the Uttarakhand flash flood in June 2013.
It was a different experience to handle <g data-gr-id="113">urban</g> flood, where the devastation was very high. Thousands of people stranded on rooftops, no communication, bridges and roads swept away making life miserable for the people. But my jawans did a commendable job in dealing with the disaster. I personally supervised the operations along with officers to ensure effective rescue operations. It is only because of hard work we managed to rescue more than 50,000 people and distributed nearly 80 tonnes of relief material. The flash flood in Uttarakhand created many difficulties for us. The real challenge was to reach the odd terrain coupled with adverse weather conditions and that too with tons of relief materials.

Tells us about your experience during Hudhud cyclone?
As we all know that Hudhud cyclone <g data-gr-id="97">riped</g> through Vishakhapatnam Airport and to resume normal operations – keeping security in mind – was a major challenge. That time I was ADG, Airport, CISF looking after 59 airports and also the DG of NDRF. Then we did the security checks manually and worked day and night to make the airport operational. That was a memorable task for me and I thank all the people associated with the work. In NDRF, I don’t believe in barriers and hierarchy. I interact directly with all the officers and jawans to know their concern and problems and that is why despite having less in numbers, we managed to work efficiently during crises.

Are  we capable of dealing with radioactive leakage in the country following the recovery of Cobalt-60 in Mayapuri few years ago?
Yes, over the years, we are now highly efficient in dealing with such crises. We have officers who are specialised in this area and expert in evacuation and decontamination process. We have all the advanced gears and we should not be worried in such situation.

NDRF has created a name in disaster management in India and in other countries. Whom would you like to give credit for that? Also share your experience while assisting foreign countries during natural calamities?
I told you that we believe in the “Unity of Efforts”. It’s <g data-gr-id="129">team work</g>, which makes our job easy. I would also like to thank several other units like the Air Force and government agencies for their prompt response to our need – which encourages our men to work on a war footing. In <g data-gr-id="126">Nepal</g> we succeeded due to <g data-gr-id="131">planed</g> and <g data-gr-id="125">well coordinated</g> operation but the most difficult job was Japan’s nuclear disaster in 2011. It was a learning experience but ended well. During the rescue operation, our jawans were removing bodies from the nuclear plants with due respect (as this is there in our Indian culture) and this became a matter of applaud for us from the Japan government. <g data-gr-id="123">Usually</g> international agencies don’t concentrate much on removing bodies (bare handed) and they focus more on rescuing people who are alive. But we usually do both the things. We rescue people and also remove bodies keeping in mind  the sentiments of the family members. This is where we differentiate <g data-gr-id="132">ourself</g> from others and I am proud of my men who work day and night to stand beside the affected people in case of any disaster.

What are the new initiatives you are planning to introduce in NDRF?
Technical know-how is very important and I am planning to train my officers effectively in this area. Soon, we are going to procure a machine, which can easily go inside debris in case of earthquake or cyclone and capture images as well as have a highly advanced sensor to detect heart beats to locate survivors. Therefore, <g data-gr-id="117">technical</g> experience is very important because every day latest technologies are hitting the market. We are also going to induct more women in the organisation. Presently it is 10 per cent but we are planning to increase it because it was felt that in many areas women officers can do better when it comes to dealing with crises where women are the sufferers. On allowances, we have written to the government to increase it from 10 per cent to 25 per cent and soon we will have other infrastructural based facilities including rewarding our men through “Disaster Response Medal”. I would like to thank our Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh ji for extending all his assistance.

What suggestions would you like to share as a DG, NDRF to the people and government agencies?
GIS mapping of highly vulnerable areas should be taken as a priority, and effective presence of NDRF in high vulnerability region should be taken into consideration for <g data-gr-id="96">quick</g> response. Though, we never faced any problem when it comes to air support, but a dedicated air <g data-gr-id="98">back up</g> should be there in NDRF in future.

Sujit Nath

Sujit Nath

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