Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
09 May 2010
Incredible, may be? Vulnerable, for sure!
Sometimes I get a feeling that India's incredibility lies in it being 'vulnerable'. Hasn't it become increasingly turbulent, awash with diversity of social, economic, political and geographical disruptions? Not a day passes without disaster of a kind being recorded, be it natural or purely human construct. From a freak tornado that accounted for some hundred lives in Bihar to deliberate dumping of radioactive waste that claimed one victim in Delhi, disasters have registered their democratic omnipresence across the country.
Not long ago, a senior official of the prestigious National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) took pride in proclaiming that effective flood management had resulted in less than anticipated loss of lives during the Kosi floods of 2008. The claim revealed a disturbing fact - given the inevitability of floods the challenge lie in staking claims through unsubstantiated data on the so-called effectiveness of the response mechanism. Simply stated, the policy prescription is to 'manage' disasters after these have occurred.
In Vulnerable India, author Anu Kapur makes a bold attempt to chronicle the inadequacies in the system that has not only propelled natural disasters but has made several human-induced disasters to look 'natural'. No wonder, for a corrupt leadership, indifferent bureaucracy and a complacent civil society each disaster opens a fresh opportunity for appropriating generous relief supplies. It may not be an over-statement that 'disaster' has indeed become an industry with its well-entrenched stakeholders at all levels.
The book argues in favor of an approach that positions socio-economic vulnerability against the vagaries of natural disasters. Though slow paced in presenting a rather gloomy scenario, the book covers fresh ground for interdisciplinary studies to ascertain the hidden causes behind the recurrence of natural disasters in our country. The book shows that the rigor of academic work can pave the foundations for practical action by policy makers and decision-makers. Aesthetically designed and attractively printed, Vulnerable India is worth its price.
Vulnerable India: A Geographical Study of Disasters by Anu Kapur,
Sage Books, New Delhi, 279 pages, Rs 850.