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Millennium Post

Our casual approach to ‘smaller catastrophes’

First and foremost, the preparedness was at a mental level, hence the success. The government machineries had grown wiser, especially because the deadening of memory of 1999 super cyclone in Odisha coast that wrecked worst ever havoc here would never wane, which is good because it left no room for any complacency at any level in handling any nature wrecked disastrous situations thenceforth.

The ubiquitous presence of the media and its monstrous reach—monstrous because of its ultra-speed ability to create a matching fear psychosis along with awareness in the minds of the common mass, who were more vulnerable than others because of the geographic-economic reasons, which was good; people who earlier had the tendency to ignore gubernatorial alarm on the basis of hope alone that things would not go that bad, cooperated and moved to safe shelter on time.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the multi- pronged  instinctive approach and the success of it  need to be documented in the form of textbook study materials to remind our younger and future generations of the collective power of the many pillars of the society, including some of the foundations which are considered to be weak, in vanquishing the deadly wrath of the nature in an exemplary way.

The great handing of the precarious situation by the governments in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, their right and full time utilisation of human resources along with good supply of logistics and expertise, the spread of knowledge about the velocity and villainy clout of the cyclone to an all encompassing awareness level that amazed and alerted all and sundry at the same time; even the people who live in interior parts of the state those were relatively less vulnerable or not vulnerable at all were heavily alerted; the martial role of media who braved the storm and reached the masses like foot soldiers, the astounding accuracy with regard to the timing and place of the landfall by the IMD, which was despite the fact that many channels were accusing it for downplaying the effects of the storm on the basis of the predictions of the US based weather experts, and last but not the least—the victory of the less privileged and more vulnerable ones in saving their own lives by paying good attention to the wise advice of all concerned which include the NGOs, the local political activists, the volunteers, the pressmen, the government servants from the village to capital level—three cheers to all.

In short, the real mantra of Phailin success is the fact that everyone knew everything right about Phailin and that they did as directed, which is to cooperate the administration in evacuating themselves from all the wrong places on time to safe shelters.

The question arises now that if the scientific knowledge about the approach of a deadly storm can unite all of us to wage a common battle to save lives, which we all as one community have shown the world that we can face calamities head on, what happens to us when the sun begins to smile after the storm is over. One wonders why our brains choose to go lull like that which follows the departure of the storm, in normal times?

The loss of lives in the temple stampede in Madhya Pradesh was to mar the joy of the successful by-pass surgery of the cyclone Phailin in South-East India.

If there had been a stampede previously at the same place same time that had taken many lives, why did not at least the local media arouse the bitter memory of that past tragedy as a sort of forewarning about a possible predicament of the situation that was waiting to happen, this time as well, which could have alerted the system that handled crowd management there like it did during Operation Phailin?

Why do we need only the apprehensive knowledge of a big scale tragedy waiting to strike in order to shake ourselves and others off from complacent slumber to create a death-safe net around us, and why must we keep letting those  many a  smaller and avoidable tragedy off the hook when no sea-monster is visiting us?

The result is it is smaller, unfortunate tragedies that kill more people than those of ponderous sizes due to lack of foresight and preparedness. Recollect and refresh your memory of similar stampedes in fairs, the recurring road accidents at regular intervals at the same  dangerous crossroads time after time.
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