Good Bye Phailin: The Cyclone Blew Over
Phailin, the massive cyclone that had built up in the Bay of Bengal on 12th October has now blown over and everyone in the nation is heaving a sigh of relief over the fact that this time around the cyclone died down without claiming much toll on human life. It happened not because the nature had pulled its punches by showing less savagery but because of a combination of reasons that happened to be primarily man-made.
The Bay of Bengal is feared for its violent cyclonic activities during the months of September–October; during this time around it has brought forth few deadliest storms to smash the eastern coast of India that have ended up into massive destruction to life and property. The loss to life and property had become so much a routine affair during these calamities that the nation had begun to take it for granted. The nation waited for death and destruction with onset of each such calamity.
Heavy toll on human life is common to all natural calamities in India. But this time when Phailin made the landfall on Indian coastlines, the script had been quite different; as the tempestuous wind roared across the coastal landscapes with mayhem written in its eyes, it was greeted with deserted villages and lifeless settlements. People had been relocated to safer places long before the cyclone hit the land. Thus, while Phailin wreaked havoc on infrastructure, agriculture and private and public properties, the human life remained largely spared. Though, the assessment on actual figures for destruction to life and property will take quite some time to crystallize, it is widely perceived that the figures of toll on human life would remain fairly moderate. It’s not a mean achievement considering that a cyclone of almost the same ferocity and around the same area had claimed more than 10,000 lives a decade back.
Well, there are four reasons why this time the things were different.
First, India has come a long way in scientific forecasting of weather. This time there was exact information about the date, time, location and ferocity of the cyclone that helped the two states of Odissa and AP plan their strategies and co-ordinate their activities well in time.
Secondly, it was the sheer will power of the governments and the various agencies involved in the rescue and relief works that helped them achieve their target of minimizing human deaths. The state of Odissa had formulated a policy of zero loss of human life and it went the whole hog in implementing this. First time in the history of India, a massive evacuation and relocation drive was taken up that ushered in a record 1 million people to safer places ensuring safety to their lives. The men on the mission stuck to their job in teeth of great adversity and put up a remarkable show of professionalism and commitment.
Thirdly, India has hugely improved in terms of infrastructures to deal with such natural disasters. Taking lessons from the death and destruction of the cyclone of 1999, the administration in coastal areas, in consultation with experts, had implemented several measures to deal with such unfortunate events. Many strong shelters were created and road and communication infrastructures were improved along the coastal areas to enable the people face the fury of nature with better preparedness.
And fourthly, the growth and penetration of technology went a long way in saving the lives of the people by equipping them well with the latest means of communication. Today, nearly a billion Indians use mobile phones whereas only 4 millions used this technology at the threshold of millennium. This strong network of person-to-person communication helped the people in understanding the true nature of the impending crisis and also enabled them in making their individual safety strategies. Moreover, we’ve a battery of TV news channels networks in India that, in their competitive overzealousness to come up with breaking news, sent 24-hour coverage on the great calamity to the households in villages and remote hamlets in and around the ground zero.
Such positive events would go a long way in boosting the confidence of the nation in dealing with the events of natural calamities and in mitigating the prospects of destruction to life and property.
Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2013