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