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Phailin's success is marred by stampede

 One was natural while the other was manmade. Why was tackling Phailin a success and the temple tragedy killing more than a hundred a disaster? How did Orissa get it right while MP did not? In fact, both the Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan have been heading stable governments for about a decade and are perceived as able men leading their states.

 One cannot feel elated by just one example although we are learning to cope with the nature’s fury. India has had several natural disasters including 1977 cyclone in Andhra Pradesh, the Tsunami in Tamil Nadu, 1999 supercyclone in Orissa or the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat. At the beginning of this monsoon session, the Kedarnath tragedy also left several homeless, as the Uttarakhand administration was unprepared. Now coordination was faster and smoother; perhaps because of the flak government agencies had received after the Uttarakhand disaster. In fact, since 2009, all major cyclones to hit the East coast – Aila, Thane, and Nilam – have been predicted well in advance minimising the loss to human life. The Met department and other scientific agencies had been equipped with advance warning equipments.

 Orissa proved this time that what is required to face natural calamities is perfect coordination between the centre, state and several government agencies and trained personnel apart from political will. Also Orissa and Andhra Pradesh were prepared as Phailin was predicted three days in advance during which time the government – both the centre and the states swung into action. About five lakh people were evacuated from the wrath of the cyclone to safer places. 

 This brings us to the larger question. The stampede in the Madhya Pradesh temple, tells us that we should not celebrate success too soon. One success cannot be read as turnaround in Indian governance and there is need to build on the success of Phailin story and further improve the system. The kudos received after Phailin shows that while this should be a treated as a benchmark, there is also need to set high standards for what the government can and should do. 

The science has advanced so much that much more investment should be made in disaster management perhaps taking a leaf from countries like Japan. According to a recent review, while all states are supposed to have a disaster management plans ready to meet any eventuality, some states including MP were still not ready with one. IPA

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