The State Government seems ill-equipped to deal with any disaster of the magnitude of the one which had taken place recently in Uttarakhand.
In a government order issued a couple of months ago, the State Government itself had admitted that there was lack of manpower to set up a Disaster Management Authority and had constituted a committee to make some recommendations in this regard.
However, it has not taken any decision pertaining to the raising of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) on the lines of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
Though nothing much could be done in the case of level-3 disasters like that of Uttarakhand , being prepared to face such a situation with necessary contingency measures in place with effective inter-departmental coordination could help minimise the loss of lives, said an official of NDRF.
Delay in deployment of rescue forces like NDRF also increases the chances of more causalities, as was witnessed during the recent collapse of the City Light Hotel in Secunderabad. While the old and dilapidated hotel building collapsed in the wee hours on the fateful day, the government sought the help of the ever-ready NDRF personnel a bit late.
National Disaster Management Authority Vice-Chairman Marri Sasidhar Reddy, during his recent visit to the City, observed that the Government of Andhra Pradesh like many other states was indifferent to the disaster management and had failed to take steps needed in that direction.
He said though the State Government was asked to strengthen the State Disaster Management Agency (SDMA) so that it could effectively deal with all kinds of disasters, both natural and manmade, the government’s response was lukewarm.
He wondered why the State Government was still unwilling to allocate land for NDRF units in Hyderabad, though the request for the same was made more than a year ago.
He said that the government was yet to respond to a request to provide necessary personnel from different wings of police department for raising the State Disaster Response Force. He added that there was no dearth of funds for raising the SDRF in the state.
When contacted by Express, Prashant Dhar, Commandant of the 10th battalion of NDRF (the only NDRF battalion for the State), located in Mangalagiri in Guntur district, said that they had yet to receive any information pertaining to the land sought from the State Government, though it had in principle agreed to give suitable land for the NDRF in the state capital.
Apart from housing a couple of units of NDRF at the state capital, for quick action in case of any emergency, it was also meant for the training of the SDRF, if and when it was raised.
‘’We have offered to train three companies of SDRF in different aspects of disaster management, rescue and relief operations,’’ Prashant said. Each company would be having three teams of 50 personnel each. It takes about 4 to 6 months to train each unit and another four to six months for those units to be ready for action.
Since the NDRF had limited number of personnel and they could not be at two different places simultaneouly, the NDMA had asked the state to raise the SDRF. Trained by the NDRF, the SDRF personnel could pitch in during the times of disaster and assist the NDRF personnel or could take up the rescue efforts on their own in the hour of need.
However, the proposal and the State’s willingness to raise the SDRF have been relegated to just papers. The state did not seem to have learnt a lesson from the Uttarakhand episode.
It is hoped that the state which had dispatched NDRF units to the rain-affected districts will allocate a suitable place for the NDRF units in Hyderabad and provide necessary personnel for raising the State Disaster Response Force at the earliest.