Monday, December 22, 2014

Ranchi's splendour - Nature at its best

Jharkhand is one of the few states, I haven’t spent much time in nor travelled around and thus, it was exciting when I got to spend nearly three weeks officially in Ranchi, the state capital. It’s been almost 14 years since its becoming a state and my initial impression was thus mixed. One can’t miss few things in first few days –
first is the traffic chaos, narrow roads, hawkers & sellers on pavements & on the roads all over and it can be as chaotic as any other B class city in terms of urban management;
second, good sports infrastructure – Birsa Munda stadium, national games complex, international cricket stadium to name the few;
thirdly, a beautiful Ashram of Yogoda Satsang Society of India. It was founded by Paramahansa Yoganand in 1917 and it is here that he started teachings of Kriya Yoga. I went almost every evening while I was there and the meditation session was very soothing. The ashram is literally an oasis of peace and tranquility in the midst of utter chaos and pollution.
Fourthly, the absence of a planned part of the capital (forget setting up new capital as has been done in Raipur and now being planned in Andhra Pradesh) and the fact that the state secretariat and state assembly is being run in the run down campus of HEC ! It’s baffling to say the least! Fifthly, new malls (Pantaloons, Reliance, Hinoo Cine-complex and crossword book-store) and authorized dealers of Audi & other such upmarket durables. Clearly, Ranchi has purchasing power in its extremities.
And lastly, the names of places/roads in and around Ranchi – “BOOTY MORE”,  ‘HAHE”, RAHE, SILLI, GOBARDIH  and so on…it used to be absolutely fascinating noticing these names while traveling.
If one decides to move out of Ranchi to cover nearby places in the vicinity of about 100 kms, there are some amazingly beautiful waterfalls and natural sceneries. Then there are number of important religious places too. One should ideally make a 4-5 days programme for sight-seeing in and around Ranchi. And it can be spread out as

Day 1 – Visit to Yogoda Satsang Ashram (Smruti mandir) and local traffic chaos (& sightseeing including Kanke dam) in Ranchi.

Day 2 Visit to Itkhori in Chatra District (140 kms) via Hazaribagh and back

Day 3- Visit to “Chinnamastika devi” temple in Rajrappa (about 60 kms from Ranchi) early morning followed by visit to Hundru Falls.
Day 4- Visit to Deori temple (60 kms from Ranchi) and Dassam Fall
Day 5 – Visit to Jonha falls in the morning. Lunch in Ranchi followed by visit to “Jharcraft” emporium

Now, let me describe these places one by one in the same sequence. I did cover these places and am amazed at the historical significance of some of these places.

1.      Itkhori

 Itkhori is located about 130 kms north of Ranchi and is connected by NH 33 via Hazaribagh. The main site in Itkhori has confluence of three religion – Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, dating back to thousands of years ago. Located 1.5 kms away from Itkhori Block in Bhaduli Village, it is situated at Chatra Chouparan path. This place is surrounded by three sides from Buxa River which looks like U-shaped. The premise of Maa Bhadrakali Temple is surrounded with lush green forest.  The statue of main deity, Maa Bhadrakali is black in colur and perhaps constructed in Shak, Gupta and Vardhan period – 1500 to 1800 years ago.  Besides Bhadrakali, seen as a propitious form of Kali, Shiva and Hanuman idols complete the Hindu influence.
There is then “SahastraBuddha” - a stupa with 1,008 figurines of Buddha. The top of this stupa always has water in it. However much one dries it out, water comes in within no time. It is said that Buddha came here and was deep in meditation. In the meantime his Mausi (mom’s sister) came looking for him. She requested him to come back to the kingdom but he didn’t relent. And that’s how the name “Itkhoi – Yahi kho diya” (he’s lost here) came into being ….isn’t this amazing. I was trying to read it in “Old paths, White Clouds” byThich Naht Hanh but didn’t find mention of  it so far (I am yet to complete the book).  
 So far as Jainism is concerned, it is here that the charan paduka (slippers) of Jain Tirthankar Sheetalnath were discovered. These too are made of black stone, with similar aesthetic styles, suggesting religious co-existence in close proximity in the Middle Ages. It is said that this might have been the birth place of Jain Tirthankar Sheetalnath.

I was surprised to see lot of excavated stones and statues (pertaining to middle ages) kept in a make shift museum within the temple complex. It must also be painfully true that a lot more would have been taken away by people who found them from time to time and depressing that such precious history is lost. The Archeological Survey of India is yet to take up the formal excavation of the place and it is expected that with such important treasures and scriptures hidden here pertaining to Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, this will put Itkhori on the global tourist map. As of now, it is a sleepy village.

But, looking at the potential, it is no exaggeration that  This place must have been the Patliputra of Jharkhand ” as told by Vinoba Bhave University history professor Iftikhar Alam.

2.      Rajrappa & Chinnamastika temple-
Rajrappa stands at the confluence of the Damodar and Bhairavi (locally called Bhera) rivers.  Rajrappa is located off NH 23 connecting Ramgarh and Chas. It is 28 kilometres (17 mi) from Ramgarh, 65 kilometers (40 mi) from Hazaribagh,  78 kilometers (48 mi) from Ranchi and 60 kilometers (37 mi) from Bokaro Steel City.  Its best to take NH 33 from Ranchi towards Hazajibagh and take a detour from the road leading to Hundru falls.

Almost everybody knows about or has been to Rajrappa in this part of the country. The main attraction is the  Chhinnamasta (also known as Chinnamastika) temple.   Chhinnamasta ( छिन्नमस्ता, Chinnamastā, "She whose head is severed"), often spelled Chinnamasta and more popularly called Chhinnamastika and Prachanda Chandika, is one of the Mahavidyas, ten Tantric goddesses and a ferocious aspect of Devi, the Hindu Divine Mother. Chhinnamasta can be easily identified by her fearsome iconography. The self-decapitated goddess holds her own severed head in one hand and a scimitar in another. Three jets of blood spurt out of her bleeding neck and are drunk by her severed head and two attendants. Chhinnamasta  stands on the body of Kamdeo and Rati in the lotus bed. Many smaller temples have been build around the main temple such as the temples of Ashtamatrika and Dakshina Kali.
The temple is very old and the place Rajrappa finds mention in the Vedas, Puranas and Hindu scriptures as a "Shakti Peeth" which is flocked by devotees from Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Assam and Nepal.    The art and architectural design resembles the design of temples of Tantrik importance.  The temple is considered as notable as the tantrik site of Kamakhya Temple of Assam which has a similar architecture.   The ancient temple of Goddess was destroyed and later a new temple was constructed and the original idol of Goddess was placed in it. Animal sacrifice is still practiced in the temple. The sacrificial animals are killed on Tuesdays, Saturdays and during Kali puja.

A large number of pilgrims arrive here throughout the year. Large congregation of people takes place here during the full Moon and New Moon nights. Owing to the religious importance of the place, it is also popular among the disciples for marriage and ritual of Mundan or shaving the head. Vehicle owners come here to get blessings for their new vehicles as they believe that the first worship of vehicles here multiplies the life of vehicles and brings luck to the owners. Tantriks look upon this place for Tantric accomplishment.
Rajrappa also is a pilgrim centre for the Santals and other tribals who come for immersion of the ashes of their loved ones in the Damodar. They come mostly during the month of December, in groups known as yatri. As per their mythology it is their final resting place. In their folk songs Rajrappa is referred to as "Thel Kopi Ghat" (Water Ghat) and they use oil after bathing. They come in significant numbers from the southern parts of Jharkhand state such as East and West Singhbhum and Saraikela districts. Maa Chinmastika devi is also known as Manokamna devi due to the belief that it fulfils the wishes of the devotees. Devotees tie a red thread around a rock in the temple for the fulfillment of their wishes.

In the month of January a special fair is held here on the festival of Makar Sankranti and attended by lakhs of people. A fair is also organized during the festival of Vijaydashmi, Vijayadashami and attended by large number of people. Visitors take holy bath in the river.
Geographical significance - Rajrappa Falls (more of a misnomer since the height (about 20 feet) isn’t very imposing) has tremendous geographical significance. The Damodar valley at Rajrappa is a typical example of polycyclic valley or topographic discordance which is characterized by two storey valley. The Damodar developed its broad and flat valley of senile stage before the onset of Tertiary upliftment. The river was rejuvenated due to upliftment of landmass during the Paleogene and Neogene Periods (66 million to 1.8 million years ago) by the side effects of the Himalayan orogeny and thus the Damodar excavated its new deep and narrow valley of youthful stage within its broad and flat valley of senile stage. The Bhera river coming from over the Ranchi plateau makes a waterfall while joining the Damodar and thus presents an example of a hanging valley. The Damodar gorge near Rajrappa is a typical example of incised meander.

The region around the temple gets very quiet and eerie after sunset.  This might be the reason,  Satyajit Ray chose Rajrappa as the setting for Feluda adventure Chhinnamastar Abhishap.
Rajrappa is a project under Central Coalfields Limited (CCL), a subsidiary of Coal India Limited and is part of Ramgarh Coalfield. It is one of the biggest coal-fields in its region. It is widely known as the Rajrappa Project, which consist of the main quarry (a huge open cast mine), offices, colonies, recreation facilities, shopping complexes, a police out-post and public utility buildings. It is a complete township in itself.

3.      Hundru Falls
The Hundru Falls is created on the course of the Subernarekha river, where it falls from a height of 98 metres (322 ft) creating one of the highest water falls in the state. The different formations of rock due to the erosion by the constantly falling of water have added to the beauty of the place.

The Hundru Falls at one of the edges of the Ranchi plateau is one of the several scrap falls in the region.  During rainy season, it takes a formidable form but in the dry season it turns into an exciting picnic spot. At the base of the Hundru Falls, there is a pool, which serves as a bathing place. There are a total of 745 steps one necessarily has to get down from the top to get a complete view of the Fall. The best time to visit would be after monsoon, say September- November when there’s enough water.
There are two ways to reach Hundru falls. One is via Angara block from Ranchi where the distance will be 45 kilometres (28 mi) from Ranchi, off the Ranchi-Purulia Road. One has to travel some about 21 kilometres (13 mi) from the main road. The other route (and the recommended one) is taking NH33 and then diverting on the road leading to Hundru falls. One can have Rajrappa darshan followed by visit to Hundru falls. There is also a Suvarna Rekha Hydal Project located down the falls which is also a good place for Tourists.

4.      Deori temple
Deori temple, an ancient shrine dedicated to Goddess Kali, is situated in Tamaar village in Bundu block of Ranchi. The idol of Goddess Kali has 16 arms and is locally known as 'Solahbhuji Devi'. Believed to be built by a tribal chief, the temple wall and pillars are made of sandstone. A new structure has been constructed over the old temple which includes a few domes that are sculpted with colorful images of Gods and Goddesses.
The deity of this temple is believed to be very powerful. Devotees are seen tying red and yellow sacred threads onto bamboo poles that are kept in the premises. This temple has recently attained popularity, thanks to the regular visits of the famous cricketer MS Dhoni and his family.
The temple is open on all days from 5.00 am to 8.30 pm. The best time to visit is during the Holi festival which is celebrated with great dedication.

Deori temple is about 70 km from Ranchi and lies on the National Highway 33.  It’s just by the side of the national highway.
One can also visit Dassam falls which is 20 km away from Deori temple on the journey back to Ranchi.

5.      Dassam Falls
The Dassam Falls ( दशम जलप्रपात) (also known as Dassam Ghagh) is a waterfall located near Taimara village in Bundu police station of Ranchi district. Dassam is a changed form of word Da:song which in mundari (local) language means the act of pouring water. Da: means water and song means pouring or measuring. The water fall resembles like somebody is pouring water so the name was Da:song earlier but afterwards the name was changed to Dassam. 

The Dassam Falls is a natural cascade across the Kanchi River, a tributary of the Subarnarekha River. The water falls from a height of 44 meters (144 ft).  The sound of water echoes all around the place. Dassam Falls at one of the edges of the Ranchi plateau is one of the many scarp falls in the region.

The water of the Dassam Falls is very clean and clear. It is natural for a tourist to be enticed to enter the water for a bath or swim but tourists are warned not to do so because of the current that is generated. There have been many cases of drowning in Dassam Falls. Nine people died of drowning between 2001 and 2006.

The Dassam Falls is 40 kilometres (25 mi) from Ranchi on NH 33 or Ranchi-Jamshedpur highway and can be seen on the journey back from Deori temple towards Ranchi.

6.      Jonha Falls
Situated at an edge of the Ranchi Plateau, the Jonha Falls is an example of a hanging valley falls. The Gunga River hangs over its master stream, Raru River and forms the falls.   Water in the falls drops from a height of 43 metres (141 ft).

All these three Falls are an example of a nick point caused by rejuvenation. Knick point, also called a nick point or simply nick, represents breaks in slopes in the longitudinal profile of a river caused by rejuvenation. The break in channel gradient allows water to fall vertically giving rise to a waterfall.
The Jonha Falls is 40 kilometers (25 mi) from Ranchi. It is approachable by both road and train. Jonha Station is just 1.5 km from the fall. For travel by road, one has to take the Ranchi-Purulia Road and after travelling for about 20 miles (32 km) one has to travel about 3 miles (4.8 km) off the main road.

A lot many people would apprehend that Ranchi/Jharkhand might not be safe because of maoist activities but it is also a fact that not a single incident has happened in any of these religious / tourist sites. I would recommend these places strongly primarily because they are beautiful and also because they are still not commercialized and continue to be pristine.  I enjoyed and I hope you will enjoy as much.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Scaling down MGNREGA - a case of economic rationality or a political gimmick

The debate on Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Assistance (MGNREGA) (details about the scheme, eligibility, monitoring mechanism, progress made can be seen at its official website), which is perhaps as old as the scheme itself has becomes extremely livid in the recent past.

Two articles, one by Prof Abhijit Banerjee titled “Mr Modi, we need to talk” in HT and
"Rural Guarantee Scheme chokes as funds dry up” in ToI are the latest in this series. I must forewarn that I will play the role of a devil’s advocate and will criticize all that’s going wrong presently in the scheme.

While the TOI article talks about drop in fund allocation from Rs 39000 crores (Rs 390 billions) in 2013-14 to Rs 24000 crores (Rs 240 Billions) in the current financial year and as a result, only 8.3 crores households could be provided jobs out of 10.5 crore households who had applied as on Nov 25, 2014 thus leaving a gap of 2.3 crore households without work. The corresponding numbers last year for the same period were 9.8 crore households out of 10.9 crore households who has applied for job. The article also mentions about pending liabilities of the panchayats and pending wages.
Abhijit in his article mentions that while “he has never been a huge fan of MGNREGA”, the scheme has done something good for the poor and by that he means that 2.2 billion person days of work were generated under the program in 2013-14 covering 50 million households and over 200 million people. This makes it one of the largest welfare programs in the world. He has quoted an Oxford University study which by comparing NSS data with MGNREGA database for 2011 points to a gap of 20% ie 20% of the reported days of work did not happen and how this is an improvement over 50% gap which was reported in 2007-08. Abhijit further points out that work is not entirely unproductive and that in their study in Bihar and Rajasthan, almost all the works carried out under MGNREGA could be traced down. He further says that there has been “less temporary out-migration” from MGNREGA villages that clearly establishes that “program is doing something”.
Abhijit then points out issues in MGNREGA in its present form such as panchayat specificity, inter-state differences which depend on state’s access & ability to utilize and not exactly proportionate to state’s backwardness, frauds (which he points out have come down in recent past), panchayat’s requirements versus State’s inability to match funds such as in Bihar, delay in realizing payments which may vary from few weeks to months and gaps in proper micro level targeting.
He has, as an alternative, proposed a universal cash transfer in the form of a minimum guaranteed income, based on a hypothetical program proposed by Rinku Murgai, Martin Ravallion and Dominique Van de Walle from the World Bank. This according to him would be better option than scaling down MGNREGA since it removes selection & location bias, will be universal and will be easy to implement.

I would like to analyze each of his arguments one by one
Abhijit admits he is not a huge fan of MGNREGA. He does however point out the significant impact on the employment that has been generated under the program making it the largest welfare program in the world. But, the question is – what’s been the outcome of this employment generation? Has it led to creation of productive capital assets (having a life of at least 5 years if not more)? Merely doling out money in the name of wages for works which are either seasonal (and thus need to be undertaken again next season such as de-silting) or which can’t be verified, is a criminal waste of money. It neither adds to the capital nor builds a productive work force. If at all, it deprives the same labor which could have been used elsewhere and thus, in some sense, leads to inflationary tendency in the economy. Moreover, works like de-siltation of drains are something which Panchayats are supposed to carry out from their mandated budgets and taking them up under MGNREGA often implies double accounting.  While de-siltation of drains/tanks are required to be carried out, carrying out such works under MGNREGA is fraught with dangers since a good proportion of these works are often bogus as actual measurement is difficult and any discrepancy can often be attributed to further siltation during the intervening period. My point is, there are more pressing works in villages which can be measured and should take precedence over something which is subjective and highly prone to bogus reporting.

While Abhijit does point to matching on ground the number of works undertaken under the scheme in Bihar & Rajasthan in his study, the issue is regarding the longevity of these works and whether the same can be confirmed for all works undertaken under the Scheme? Or for what proportion of all works, can this be confirmed? This is more of a self-fulfilling prophecy wherein kutcha drains, desilting works and other such one-season works are taken as works existing on ground. They will of course be silted up in the next rain or in the coming season and the same works will be taken up again! Does this amount to creation of works? Is it not a wasteful expenditure? Let such works be taken up by Panchayats/Municipalities from their regular budgets if needed.

Abhijit points out to a 20% gap in MGNREGA reporting and how it’s an improvement over 50% in 2007-08. By its own admission, one-fifth of the total enrolments continue to be bogus and this is in the 8th or 9th year of the scheme! Converted into funding, this means an outgo of at least Rs 5000 Cr – Rs 15000 crores as leakages! Do we need a scheme in its present form which implies such a colossal waste on its own account? This leakage would be at least double if one is to consider the payment made to those who get it without doing any work (bogus works with proper enrolment), mismanagement and administrative leakages. Who are we working for?

There are other serious issues. More developed states like Andhra Pradesh (erstwhile) could draw many more times under the scheme than the states with greater concentration of poor such as Bihar, UP and Jharkhand. The concept of allocation/utilization under the scheme in proportion to the poor population has been conveniently replaced by the allocation based on the state’s capacity to utilize the funds. So, while at the national level, we get a sense of positivity in terms of overall numbers (coverage and expenditure), its actually doing a disservice to poorer and needy states as their share is actually knocked off by relatively more developed states. The question remains- why should the poor and needy suffer because of inability of the state to contribute its share or because of bureaucratic apathy & lackadaisical attitude? Should we not have a more transparent system based on the requirement?

Then there are administrative glitches. I wonder why have we not been able to overcome them by now? While there have been constant improvements in the scheme such as aligning it with Aadhaar and direct payment in the beneficiary account, I recall reading horrifying details of how MGNREGA enrolments were done in the name of villagers who actually exist, their bank accounts were opened and the entire money in their names were drawn for over 4 years fraudulently by the Panchayat official in collusion with Bank official! This would have been a part of 80% of the actual enrolment! While its true that some of these aberrations are bound to happen in a scheme as large as MGNREGA, what if such fudging is more than 15-20% or even more?

The scheme is already going to complete a decade soon since it started. The underlying intentions and objectives of the schemes are highly laudable and there is no doubt that it has helped millions of families in their fight against poverty in a significant manner. But then, there are too many operational and economic issues in its operations. The basic issue remains – should one go on continuing a welfare scheme where while income is being provided to the needy families, the productive outcome of the scheme is seriously doubtful. The average annual outgo has been Rs 35000 crores plus and overall, thus, it might be more than Rs 250,000 crores cumulatively. Such schemes obviously come at a cost of capital development and I feel, time has come when we need to strike a balance between income needs, employment potential and productive capital investment. The idea of a universal guaranteed income scheme proposed as an alternative is ludicrous. The country doesn’t have that kind of resources to simply fritter around and if we take pride in advocating our demographic dividends, it’s time we start showing the results of this so called dividend rather that continuing with the “white man’s burden”!

So, what can be done? One thing which certainly must not be done is to try and limit it to certain number of Blocks in the country. Poor exist in all parts of the country and limiting the scheme to certain blocks will be hugely unfair to the poor in the blocks left out.
The list of works permissible under the scheme is quite inclusive and has all good intentions. But that’s where the problem lies. My suggestion is more to do with what all should be taken out from the list of permissible works and that we should take up only capital works, at the panchayat level, which are of simple nature under the scheme. I thus propose as under

1.       All works which are purely earthen work based and without any capital should henceforth be discontinued. This means that works such as desilting of drains, construction of kutcha drains etc should be discontinued.

2.       Only those works which have longevity of more than certain time period say 4-5 years should be taken up under the scheme.

3.       Some of the works such as construction of class rooms in village school, based on the strength of school children, coloring of government buildings in a uniform manner etc can be taken up.

4.       Water conservation works such as mini check dams, lined drains, water harvesting structures can be taken up in a big way.

5.       Construction of individual toilets can be an integral part of the scheme (it’s been included recently)

While I may be criticized for not knowing about the scheme in detail, I am of the humble opinion that too much money (as percentage of overall allocation under the scheme) has been wasted and the scheme cannot continue in its present form as not only it’s not sustainable, its also creating an unproductive dependency syndrome among the working age group who would have worked otherwise and contributed productively.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Tackling natural disasters - a checklist for District Administration preparedness

Based on my experience in being a part of the relief & restoration effort as a result of Hudhud Cyclone in Visakhapatnam (details can be seen in my blog), I have drawn a tentative checklist for District Officials on their preparedness to meet the challenges arising from such a natural disaster. The list is only indicative and is by no means exhaustive. This is meant to be a guide for the District Collector and all others concerned so that the administration is ready to meet the challenge.

Checklist of preparations before/during the Cyclone

1.      District Collector in consultation with police and revenue staff identify the vulnerable areas and prepare an action plan for the forces required from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). A requisition, based on District level requirements can be placed by the state government with the NDRF and forces can be positioned /kept in the state of readiness at the district level.

2.      The civil supplies stock under the targeted public distribution system is in place at the FPS point for the entire month.

3.      All the MLS points are full of stocks at least for an additional month. This will ensure that stocks are moved to FPS points at a short notice in case ex-gratia is announced.

4.      Civil Supply Department may consider providing the civil supplies stocks in pre-packed bags such as rice in 10 and 5 Kg bags, sugar in one kg bag and so on. This will ensure that stocks are distributed quickly, without wastage and without any complaints of under weighment. (to be taken up at the state level).

5.      Joint Collector should review with all retail shops and other such retails points such as Kendriya Bhandar outlets, Big-bazaar etc to ensure that sufficient stocks of other essentials such as dal, salt, edible oil, soaps, candles and milk (of longer duration variety such a week or 2-4 months) are available with them. A district level inventory can accordingly be prepared and kept ready. This can also be advertised so as to contain the speculative price rise.

6.      Pruning of trees to be taken up on a scientific basis. This should be an annual exercise and can be taken up immediately after the monsoon. The exercise should be carried out for all trees whether public or those located in private properties in the likely vulnerable areas and in thickly populated /congested areas. (ii) Pruning should necessarily be taken up of all trees located adjacent to electrical poles/sub-stations. (iii) a special exercise should be taken up for pruning of trees located on highways – district, State and national and branches which are hung close to the highway or are dangerous are pruned. The entire pruning exercise should be taken up scientifically to ensure that pruning is done only to the extent required and in a manner that the exercise is useful for renewal of plant growth. (DFO/State horticulture Dept/Forest Dept)

7.      A detailed review of all existing hoardings should be taken up immediately in the entire coastal belt and all such hoardings which are considered dangerous/risky should be taken off permanently. There should be no hoarding zone in all vulnerable areas such as beach roads, important cross-sections, congested roads and thickly populated areas.

8.      The town planning wing of municipal administration department should come out with the standards for putting up such hoardings. These will include the base structure, its design, thickness of material and each of such hoardings should necessarily be approved so that accountability can be fixed up.

9.      As a general precautionary measure, all hoardings along with their base structure should be taken down when the first warning signals are announced. This will prevent any such damage likely to arise due to falling of these hoardings.

10.  The town planning wing should take up inspection of all display boards and other such materials used in front of shops and should take down anything which is of flimsy material or is based on a weak structure. It was noticed that large number of such display boards fell down causing widespread damages and posed risk due to the material used such as glass & tin etc.

11.  Electricity Dept. should ensure that inventory of material such as poles, wires and other technical materials are available at various points within the district. The basic idea is to minimize the travel time from stock point to the point needed so that electricity can be restored in the minimum possible time. (Secy Power, CMD APPDCL, Dist level incharge)

12.  A joint exercise should be carried out by RTA and Insurance cos to ensure that all three wheelers, two wheelers, Government vehicles and other such vehicles are insured. This will, in the long run prevent losses to individuals owning these vehicles and will also help government save on the likely ex-gratia in case of damages of these vehicles. A similar exercise should also be carried out for all fisheries vehicles such as mechanized boats, trawlers etc. It should be made clear that no ex-gratia will be paid for vehicles and it is in owner’s interest to get his/her vehicle insured.

13.  The concerned municipality/panchayat should take up a massive exercise to ensure that all drains in the city/municipality/towns/panchayats are de-silted before/immediately after the monsoon. This will ensure that no water is clogged anywhere during such a disaster.

14.  At the time of initial alert of any impending disaster, the concerned municipality/panchayat should ensure sufficient water supply and wide publicity advising people to store water which can last at least for a week/fortnight. It should also be advised that drinking water shouldn’t be used for washing purpose etc. All overhead tanks in the apartments also should be filled up during this period. Special tankers, if needed, should be pressed into operation in congested areas/vulnerable/slums so that people can store water in sufficient quantity.

15.  Municipality/Gram Panchayat (GP) should ensure that all garbage collection points are cleaned off all the garbage/debris when the initial alert is sounded. This will prevent their spilling over on the roads/nearby areas after the disaster when cleaning exercise can’t be taken up immediately.

16.  Material required for sanitizing the areas and for maintaining hygiene such as bleaching powder is available and is stocked at ward level points.

17.  People should be advised to buy and store candles, torches & batteries and preferably solar powered lights so that they have some arrangements when the power supply can’t be restored for some time after the disaster. While it’s not for the government to advertise, the private manufacturers can take up selling of inverters/generators in such areas. Installation of generators was especially useful in apartments.

18.  Municipality/GP should ensure that all houses in its jurisdiction are numbered and that a proper inventory of all residential and other properties is updated and maintained. This comes in very handy when an enumeration exercise is taken up after the disaster for inventorying the damages and also, acts against fraudulent claims. 

19.  People should also buy diesel needed for running of such generators at least for the week’s requirement and store them safely.

20.  Road & Building Department (R&B) as well as NHAI should take up an exercise for a detailed inspection of their roads in the vulnerable areas and take up repairs wherever needed before the disaster. It is observed that cutting of roads during the disaster becomes a major bottleneck in restoring normalcy. (Secy R&B and SE R&B)

21.  An inventory of JCBs, water tankers, dozers and lorries should be prepared by RTO of the District and this list should also be shared with the neighboring districts. This will help their requisition at short notice.

22.  All PHCs, sub-centers, dispensaries and hospitals are stocked of all necessary medicines and other materials which may be required for taking up relief work in case of injuries. The DMHO should certify to that extent.

23.  The existing cyclone relief centers should be inspected by a joint team of tehsildar and CI/SHO and additional places which are safe, located at higher safe location and are permanent structures such as schools should be identified and a detailed action plan, mandal-wise for carrying out necessary evacuation is made and kept ready. This should be reviewed by the District Collector in May/June and necessary repairs, if any, based on the inspection report should be carried out. The action plan will also include arrangements envisaged for the electricity/generators and availability of drinking water and sanitation facilities in such relief centers.

24.  District administration should also be ready with a plan for food, water and milk arrangements in such relief camps. A detailed exercise should be taken up to assess the food requirement (cooked) in such relief camps and the arrangements are in place beforehand.

25.  District administration (and likewise with the State heads at the state level) should hold an interactive session with NGOs/philanthropical agencies/corporates and other religious bodies to try and engage them in relief work in a manner they can contribute maximum. This might include their assistance in looking after relief camps in their respective areas, providing food packets, providing man-power to manage relief camps or any other such assistance. A proper plan in place beforehand engaging all such agencies is extremely useful.

26.  One of the immediate negative fallout of such a disaster is the breakdown of telecommunication facilities mainly due to the damages to their relay towers. Surprisingly, BSNL couldn’t operate for a while due to shortage of diesel. This is something totally avoidable. A meeting should be convened at the district level (also at the state level with all state heads of various tele-communication companies) to assess their state of readiness and whether they have sufficient inventory of material required for restoration of services immediately.

27.  A short film can be made by I&PR dept. meant for general public which will highlight the precautions people should take whenever such a disaster strikes. This will enable dissemination of information in time. This should be played in all cinema theaters during May-Oct period and also be shown in local channels. Similar advisory should also be made for radio and used widely during the May-Oct period. (I&PR Dept, DPRO)

28.  All vacancies esp. at the top and second and third level are filled up in all line departments in vulnerable districts by April so that all such staff/officers are positioned and are well aware of their area/duties by the time cyclone strikes. Absence of top district level officers due to vacancies proved to be a major hindrance in carrying out relief and restoration.  (Dist Collector to take up with the concerned HoD immediately)

29.  The district administration should prepare a detailed action plan to carry out (i) enumeration work to assess agriculture and property damages (ii) to receive and distribute civil supplies material, over and above, what’s already stocked in case of emergency (iii) restore electrical lines (iv) telecom lines (v) restore water supply and carrying out clearance work of roads of the debris to make them road worthy. The action plan will include man-power requirement and material required to carry out such relief and restoration work. This should be communicated to the state government and a meeting, with all concerned state heads should be carried out at the state level to ensure the required availability. While the actual requirement can be known only once the disaster has struck, it is suggested that at least 50% of the additional man-power and 75-80% of the material requirement as per the action plan should be procured and stationed at various points within the district.

30.  The district collector should also convene a meeting with various PSU units, installations, industries and agencies such as APIIC, Dist manager industries and take stock of their preparedness to meet any eventuality arising out of such a disaster. Focus will be on their rescue plan, shutting down of units prior to disaster and ensuring that all important units within each of such installations are safe.

31.  It should be seen that officers/staff when deputed from other districts to help the district administration are not kept idle. There should be a central control point (may be headed by AO collectorate or a deputy collector/any other senior Tahsildar) for such officials being deputed from elsewhere and they should be assigned specific duty and place of work as well as reporting and working hierarchy depending upon their subject expertise and skill sets.

32.  A control room should be set up in collectorate which should be properly manned on a 24/7 basis and should be well equipped with telecommunication facilities. A reserve control room also should be set up elsewhere in some other office which can be used in case of breakdown of any of the facilities in the original control room. A strong, fully equipped control room is a necessary pre-requisite for any disaster control.

33.  The officer in charge of IMD center should constantly update the control room every three hours on the movement of cyclone. A register should be maintained to track the movement and the information should be available to media.

34.  A media room should be set up within collectorate which should be equipped with live channels and facilities for media to send their reports. It is important as crucial inputs for general public can be given to media from time to time and any rumors which normally run high at such times could be quashed with proper dissemination of information.

35.  District collector should, at a specific time, hold interaction with press and media every day to highlight the efforts and also to point out important information as might be needed for general public.

36.  District administration, as a precautionary measure close down all educational institutions, both public and private at least a day prior to the expected cyclone. Similarly, other such places where public gathering is there such as cinema halls should be closed down. All industrial and manufacturing units should also be closed down at least a day in advance. This will minimize movement of people on the day of cyclone.

37.  Hostels should however continue to run as it is and it should be seen that children don’t go out during this period. This is the safest way to keep them in a place as their movement at this point of time otherwise might expose them to the cyclone. The hostel warden should ensure that all stocks and essentials are in place. The DSWO, DBWO and DTWO should ensure that all hostels are functional and equipped with all required supplies.

38.  A meeting should be taken up with the person in charge of Institutions such as Zoo to ascertain the action plan for safe custody of animals during the cyclone. Their safety should be ensured which will also imply safety of others.

39.  Matter may be taken up with the state government to install at least 5 hotlines directly connecting the District Collector/SP with the state government. These lines should be all weather and will not depend upon the telecommunication lines.

The above list is not exhaustive and is indicative in nature. The District Collector should in consultation with other officers and subject experts take all necessary action as deemed appropriate to ensure that the casualties are minimized and damages are contained and also to initiate all such steps with the required manpower and equipment in proportion to the intensity of the disaster to see that the restoration work is done at the earliest.