Natural disasteron May 15, 2009 at 4:00 pm
The enormity of the tragedy that scarred Orissa in the aftermath of the super cyclone is yet to be assessed. But a question arises: Is nature biased against poorer people and developing countries? Even a cursory analysis of the scale of natural disasters, whether floods, earthquakes or hurricanes, would show that economically developed countries have a much greater resilience to withstand calamities and suffer far lower loss of life.
In Orissa the human tragedy was clearly the handiwork of man. Orissa is a state rich in natural resources. Its people, among the poorest, can not be accused of over-consumption and greed. Policies of the state at the Central and state levels have ensured that much of these resources are utilised or underutilised. In India, this lack of development has been the result of 50 years of state control over the economy. As a result, there are no resources left to deal with calamities like the recent cyclone.
Even 10 days after the cyclone, no clear information had emerged about the scale of destruction. The communication system, which has almost been a handmaiden of the state in India, as is now clear, was totally inadequate. Instead of a wide range of technology, from local broadcasting stations, wireless, telephone and satellites, continuously informing the people of the impending disaster and advising them of precautions to be taken, the information barely flowed.