India Needs to Learn More from Int’l Experts on Disaster Management to Save More Lives: Retd. IPS M.H. Anarwala

MR MAKBUL AHMAD M.H. ANARWALA, Retd. IPS (Batch 2000) from Gujarat is President of Society for Bright Future. An M. Com, LLM, and Ph.D., Dr. Anarwala discharged duties at various cities in Gujarat, as Inspector General of Police (IG), Assistant Commissioner of Police, and also as Principal in Police Training College, Bilkha (Junagadh). He trained…

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MR MAKBUL AHMAD M.H. ANARWALA, Retd. IPS (Batch 2000) from Gujarat is President of Society for Bright Future. An M. Com, LLM, and Ph.D., Dr. Anarwala discharged duties at various cities in Gujarat, as Inspector General of Police (IG), Assistant Commissioner of Police, and also as Principal in Police Training College, Bilkha (Junagadh). He trained the Police force in disaster management and has extensive experience in training and capacity building during his service. He is also associated with various voluntary services and welfare activities. His interests also lie in art and literature. In an interview with MOHD NAUSHAD KHAN, he said that the government should support, encourage and facilitate the NGOs working on disaster management to save more lives because the recruitment done by the government in this regard would be always less as required and therefore NGOs working in this filed should be encouraged, supported and promoted.

What was the objective behind the establishment of NGO, Society for Bright Future?

India is a vast country and it is prone to all types of disasters like flood, earthquake, land avalanche, landslide, drought…and so on. We have very little equipment and preparation to fight it out and that is why private institutes and groups should help the government to cope up with the disaster position and to avoid the trauma among people and help them in disasters. SBF aimed at creating a safe environment and provide safety, train people and make them aware about many disasters and how to deal with such situations and how to avoid loss of life, goods and everything. It is mainly to inspire, encourage and facilitate and promote, prevent and alleviate human sufferings. People are under tremendous stress when a disaster takes place. Then there should be some forces out at the site from the area which can rush there, support them, rescue them and provide relief work and rehabilitation.

We, as an NGO, are doing work professionally with strong determination and total commitment to cope up with the situation and help the government to help the people who are needy and battling pains and sufferings of the disaster. We have very less equipment and scientific approach and limited people to cope up with the conditions; that is why there should be some institutions who can rush there to save the life of the people. They put their own life at great risk and sometimes even help at the cost of their own life. We have done a lot of relief and rehabilitation work in various parts of the country like Assam, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and many other places.

On many occasions the government also took note of our work and have also many times lauded and praised our efforts. We don’t have any personal interest but work only for love of humanity and to seek pleasure of the Almighty; people have recognised it. We try to do our work wholeheartedly despite the fact the money, resources and manpower are limited but with whatever we have we try to put our maximin effort to serve the needy. We cannot say it to be 100 per cent but definitely we have achieved great success and continue to do so irrespective of the religion, caste and class of the people.

As you are based in Gujarat, what is your reading from the rescue operation of Morbi bridge tragedy? 

It was a cable bridge and the faults were very visible and anybody could have seen it but unfortunately our officers don’t have the vision. When I was there in the department, I was having full training of disaster management and after the training I was fully prepared to cope up with anything like this. Or pre-sense of event can be smelt if the officers were active enough. But the officers were not involved there and it was a total lacuna and carelessness on the part of administration. It was dangerous to allow a large number of people on that bridge.

The bridge was not renovated instead it was only coloured to give a new look. Even there are claims and I don’t know what is the fact that the full amount of Rs. two crore was not fully spent on it. Only 6 lakhs were the expenditure and other money was not used in the renovation of the bridge. The bridge is not a useful bridge; it is generally used for entertainment. There are other sources to cross the river. It was not required to do so but unfortunately it was used. Our role was to reach there but people were already there. There were two communities Makwana and Miana, who are Muslim communities staying there. They reached there within 5-to-10 minutes. Some were even present on the spot and they immediately jumped into the water to save the people. It was their daily routine to jump and swim for hours there.

Then NDRF and SDRF also reached there; local people and local police were there. Area of disaster was very limited around 2 to 4 kilometres. Not many people were allowed to reach there to avoid chaos but even we reached there after VIPs left the spot and interacted with the people to understand the actual problem. We found that the bridge was not fit for the use and fitness certificate was also not there.

In future we should see always and everywhere when there is rush of such kind. Unprofessional maintenance of machinery also causes disaster like this. There should be proper monitoring system by various departments and the government should be informed if there is any fault in order to fix it accordingly. All kinds of precautions should be taken like speed limit, entry of heavy vehicle, etc. Even educated people, we can see, ignore rules which also causes many accidents. How to ensure safety and impose and enforce prohibitory orders should be taken up as a project.

Do you believe that the role of Muslim communities was lauded adequately during rescue operation in Morbi bridge tragedy?

Those who have saved life or rescued have not done that for the sake for appreciation. They saved the life for the sake of humanity. And anyone can try to do so. Initially there is no restriction but after some time some kind of restriction comes and needless to say as everybody is aware of that. Sometimes people are not allowed to take credit of anything. Of course, we are not interested in taking credit. They are lauded by the concerned authorities or not but people will always praise their efforts who have saved their lives. Unfortunately, I can say that many things are not being tolerated by the authorities.

We have come to know that some institutions have introduced disaster management course. Do you believe that it should be also introduced to colleges and schools in order to create more awareness?

In the year 2001, when an earthquake in the zone 5 was occurred in some parts of the country and Gujarat was the most affected part of the country, including Kutch and Ahmedabad city. There should be disaster management and awareness course introduced right from 1st Standard. Like with the help of small poems and pictures we can educate “what to do when the earth shakes”; go down the table and so on, ghar ke bahar jayen maidan mein and so on.

Another example, Aag lage to kya karen, jaldi se bhaag chalen. Such kind of short poems can be very useful to make small children aware of the safety measures. Next, when they grow up, traffic rules, fire safety and disaster management can be taught as a compulsory subject in colleges and universities as well. Those who get more than 80 per cent marks in disaster management course will be an advantage for other professional coursers like police, army and defence. It will be considered an additional qualification.

Anything more you would like to add apart from disaster management course in order to strengthen the concept and functioning of disaster management in India or any other measures you would like to suggest?

The first and the foremost is the allocation of good budget for it. The Government should pay due attention to disaster management and for that they should allocate more budget to do disaster management everywhere. Also, on disaster management institutions, universities, colleges and schools. Also, on disaster management infrastructure and where disaster management equipment is made or produced. Even till today we have to import disaster management equipment from the Netherland, like feeders, cutters supporters, cushions, floating platforms, good quality lifeguards, jackets and so on. Each and every school should be given such equipment and given practical training to perform it.

In newspapers also when any news or message is given about any disaster, kindly go through the lacuna, the problems as to why did it happen and could we save more lives. Like in South India it was Super Cyclone where more than 30 thousand people died. Same power cyclone was there in Japan also but only 7 people died. We should establish links and rapport with other disaster-prone countries and learn the techniques and expertise to save more lives and other related things whenever disaster takes place.

For Cyclone and Tsunami, we can adopt the system practised in Japan. For Cyclone and road accidents and mishaps we can learn from America. For fire and disaster management supporting system we can go to the Netherlands. With the help of international experts, we can learn more on how to save lives. For Nuclear disaster, if anything happens like Chernobyl disaster or we can be victims of any kind of Faultline from our neighbouring countries and I don’t know how far we are prepared for that. We don’t share any awareness as what to do in case of such eventualities. During Pandemic we have learned many things from other parts of the of the world. Volunteers of SBF played an instrumental role during the pandemic in various parts of the country with limited resources and manpower.

How we can limit the losses and damages in disaster. How to make people aware of different types of disasters in different areas of the country which may require different types of training depending on the nature, scale and size of the disaster. For that, different types of materials and machines should be provided accordingly. The Government should support, encourage and facilitate the NGOs working on disaster management to save more lives because the recruitment done by the Government in this regard would be always less than required and therefore NGOs working in this filed should be supported.

It has been noticed that on many occasions the volunteers of these private NGOs have performed better than the paid one. Paid one may be worried about his job and may not be that worried about the subject. We have seen it in the last Morbi disaster. Yusuf Pathan was asked by many institutions to reward him and facilitate him in some programme; he had replied: ‘my Morbi is crying why I should be rewarded’. This is the feelings of volunteers and the same feeling should be cultivated among the paid people. And it can be done when the government can ask for good volunteers from NGOs to employ them in NDRF and SDRF. Volunteers with appointment will give better results and the Government should think in that direction.

Finally, please tell us about the role of SBF and what are the projects going on?

SBF plays a key role in preventing and mitigating the risk of disasters, preparing to provide effective response during such events and rehabilitation of those impacted, to help them recover and return to their normal lives. The key initiatives of our comprehensive disaster management programme in the disaster management lifecycle are: Plantation Drive, Cleanliness Drive, General Health Camps, Project Rahat (Blanket Distribution), Disaster-Ready Model Village, Kapda Bank, Blood Donation Camps, Training Programmes, Orientation, Basic Training, Advanced Training, Emergency Response, Food Kits and Utensils Sets, Dignity and Hygiene Kits, Bed Rolls, Recovery and Rehabilitation, Construction of Houses, Renovation Livelihood, Drinking Water and Sanitation.