CHANDIGARH—At last the Himachal Pradesh government has woken up to the danger of disasters in the state and the issue is on the priority agenda of the government. If all goes well the state will have its own State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and a separate disaster management directorate. Wake up to the call of landslides recently the principal secretary, Revenue, Onkar Sharma and Director General of Police Sanjay Kundu held a meeting to work out the modalities for setting up a dedicated response force for the state.
The state government once again started the process to set up a State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) which could not see the light of the day due to bureaucratic red tapism. Sources in the government stated that it was decided to set up three companies of the SDRF in the state. It is also stated that the police department has already purchased necessary equipments for carrying out rescue operations in case of disaster. On part of the government, 356 posts of police personnel including technical staff have been approved for the purpose.
The official also revealed that on the directions of the National Disaster Management Authority to have SDRF in all states, the government of Himachal Pradesh prepared a proposal to have SDRF in 2011. It was also pleaded that most parts of the State fall in the high sensitive zone of earth quakes and prone to landslides. The proposal has been handing fire for the past 10 years. .
In 2013, following the floods in Kinnaur, the then Congress government had asked all departments concerned to speed up the process to set up an SDRF. The state police had then come up with a plan to raise three companies of SDRF – one each in Pandoh of Mandi, Dharamshala and Shimla—but it never saw the light of the day. It was also felt that the state did not have its own dedicated SDRF for proper and immediate handling and tackling any disaster and the state depended on SDRF stationed in other states.
Himachal Pradesh falls in seismic zone five, making it prone to high-intensity earthquakes. Besides, calamities such as cloudburst, flashfloods, landslides, forest fires and avalanches are common in the hill state and increase the worries of the people and the government. Recently, the state has also seen heavy rain, floods, cloudbursts, landslides and related incidents that have claimed over 309 lives in the state. Besides, the state has also witnessed loss of property to the tune of Rs 876.54 crore, owing to these disasters. But every time a disaster strikes, the state is forced to seek help from the National Disaster Response Force, paramilitary and army for relief and rescue operations. Across the country, as many as 23 states have already set up SDMA.
Keeping the huge loss of life and property due to various disasters, SDRF has become a necessity for the state. The state government should also upgrade the technology with latest equipments such as incorporate Geographical Information System (GIS) and acquisition of drone to facilitate exact location of disaster and help in evaluating the impact of damage.
As many as 43 people have died in Shimla, 31 each in Kangra and Chamba and 29 each Sirmaur. Heavy rains have damaged more than 800 houses and 550 cowsheds across, and 16 shops across the state. More than 580 cattle head have been lost.