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While he be­lieves in “Unity of the ef­forts”, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of Na­tional Dis­as­ter Re­sponse Force (NDRF), O.P. Singh showed the na­tion that noth­ing could de­ter him when it comes to the res­cue and re­lief oper­a­tions at time when coun­try hit by wor­ry­ing nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. In an in­ter­view with Mil­len­nium Post, Singh spoke to Su­jit Nath about the chal­lenges and sat­is­fac­tion, while head­ing one of the most cru­cial and im­por­tant cen­tral unit in the coun­try.

Share your views and chal­lenges while head­ing one of the most chal­leng­ing units in the coun­try.

It is in­deed a ma­jor chal­lenge to head such unit. The fact is we can­not pre­vent dis­as­ters. Whether it is man­made or nat­u­ral calami­ties, we can­not pre­vent it. Yes, we can take pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures but I per­son­ally feel that we have to stick to “Re­sponse Cen­tric” and that is what we are do­ing in NDRF.

What ini­tia­tive you are tak­ing to over­come the staff crunch is­sue of NDRF?

Presently we have 12 bat­tal­ions and each bat­tal­ion is hav­ing 1140 per­son­nel. Ev­ery bat­tal­ion is hav­ing 18 teams and out of 18, 12 are op­er­a­tional and rest is for lo­gis­tics. This is in­deed a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion for us to deal with crises where the pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing ev­ery day. I feel that such strength is not ad­e­quate and I have re­quested for more bat­tal­ions, which should be around 22 in near fu­ture. But even we have short of staffs, we have done an out­stand­ing op­er­a­tion in Nepal and showed our ef­fi­ciency in front of other coun­tries who were also en­gaged in sim­i­lar oper­a­tions dur­ing the earth­quake.

Since the flood at Jammu & Kash­mir was ur­ban cen­tric and it was a dif­fer­ent kind of ex­pe­ri­ence for the NDRF, what prob­lems you faced, while en­gag­ing in res­cue and re­lief op­er­a­tion? Also share you ex­pe­ri­ence on Ut­tarak­hand flash flood in June 2013.

It was a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence to han­dle ur­ban flood­ing, where the dev­as­ta­tion was high. Thou­sands of peo­ple stranded on rooftops, no com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work, bridges and roads swept away making life mis­er­able for the peo­ple. But jawans did a com­mend­able job in deal­ing with the dis­as­ter. It is only be­cause of hard work we man­aged to res­cue more than 50,000 peo­ple and dis­trib­uted nearly 80 tonnes of re­lief ma­te­rial. The flash flood in Ut­tarak­hand cre­ated many dif­fi­cul­ties for us. The real chal­lenge was to reach the odd ter­rain cou­pled with ad­verse weather con­di­tions and that too with tons of re­lief ma­te­ri­als.

Tells us your ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing Hud­hud Cy­clone? And your ca­pa­bil­ity of deal­ing with ra­dioac­tive leak­age in the coun­try fol­low­ing the re­cov­ery of Cobalt-60 ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial in Maya­puri few years ago.

As we all know that Hud­hud Cy­clone ripped through the Vishakha­p­at­nam Air­port and to re­sume to nor­mal oper­a­tions - keep­ing the se­cu­rity as­pect in mind - was a ma­jor chal­lenge. In NDRF, I don’t be­lieve in bar­ri­ers and hi­er­ar­chy. I in­ter­act di­rectly with all the of­fi­cers and jawans to know their con­cern and prob­lems and that is why de­spite hav­ing less in num­bers, we man­age to work ef­fi­ciently dur­ing crises. Over the years, we are now highly ef­fi­cient in deal­ing with such crises. We have of­fi­cers who are spe­cial­ized in this area and ex­pert in evac­u­a­tion and de­con­tam­i­na­tion process.

NDRF has cre­ated a name in dis­as­ter man­age­ment in In­dia and in other coun­tries. Whom you would like to give credit and share your ex­pe­ri­ence while as­sist­ing for­eign coun­tries dur­ing nat­u­ral calami­ties?

We be­lieve in the “Unity of Ef­forts. In Nepal we suc­ceeded due to planed and well co­or­di­nated op­er­a­tion but the most dif­fi­cult job was Ja­pan’s nu­clear dis­as­ter in 2011. Dur­ing the res­cue op­er­a­tion, our jawans re­moved bod­ies from the nu­clear plants with due re­spect and this be­came a mat­ter of ap­plaud for us from the Ja­pan gov­ern­ment. Usu­ally in­ter­na­tional agen­cies don’t con­cen­trate much on re­mov­ing bod­ies and they fo­cus more on res­cu­ing peo­ple who are alive. But we usu­ally do both the things. We res­cued peo­ple and also re­move bod­ies keep­ing the sen­ti­ments of the fam­ily mem­bers.

What are the new ini­tia­tives you are plan­ning to in­tro­duce in NDRF?

Tech­ni­cal know how is very im­por­tant and I am plan­ning to train my of­fi­cers ef­fec­tively in this area. Soon, we are go­ing to pro­cure a ma­chine, which can eas­ily go in­side de­bris in case of earth­quake or cy­clone and cap­ture im­ages as well as will have a highly ad­vanced sen­sor to de­tect heart beats to lo­cate sur­vivors. We are also go­ing to in­duct more women in the or­ga­ni­za­tion. On al­lowances, we have writ­ten to the gov­ern­ment to in­crease it from 10 per­cent to 25 per cent and soon we will have other in­fras­truc­tural based fa­cil­i­ties in­clud­ing re­ward­ing our men through “Dis­as­ter Re­sponse Medal”. I would like to thank our union home min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh for ex­tend­ing all his as­sis­tance.

What sug­ges­tions you would like to share as a DG, NDRF to the peo­ple and gov­ern­ment agen­cies?

GIS map­ping of highly vul­ner­a­ble ar­eas should be taken on pri­or­ity and ef­fec­tive pres­ence of NDRF in high vul­ner­a­bil­ity re­gion should be taken in to con­sid­er­a­tion for quick re­sponse. Though, we never faced any prob­lem when it comes to air sup­port, but a ded­i­cated air back up should be there in NDRF in fu­ture.

O.P. Singh, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral, NDRF dur­ing the

res­cue op­er­a­tion in Jammu & Kash­mir

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