State Disaster Response Force

Through these columns, many a time we have made it clear that disasters do not visit only after warning us well in advance and that our response should be  professional, specialized, immediate and effective. Does our State have the requisite infrastructure for meeting the challenges of the natural fury? Have we developed a culture of prevention and preparedness to evolve a prompt and effective response when the minute of reckoning comes? Preparedness is the hallmark of the entire gamut of disaster response.
As per a survey, as many as thirteen districts of the State of Jammu and Kashmir are prone to multitudinous hazards but the available response at the disposal of the State is not congruent to the demanding situations as anticipated or immediately during or post occurrence of a natural disaster.  The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has declared Jammu, Srinagar, Kupwara, Baramulla, Budgam, Pulwama, Anantnag, Leh, Kargil, Doda, Udhampur, Poonch and Rajouri as areas prone to multi hazards .The manpower of the State Disaster Response Force is neither sufficient nor competent to deal with the situation whenever one is feared to occur. We have to address two types of disasters, manmade disasters as well as natural calamities which need reasonably sufficient trained and committed personnel.
Agreed para- military forces, the BSF, the CRPF, CISF, ITBP, individually and as a combined National Disaster Response Force do come to the help of affected States but reaching the affected places and the people takes time which can be prevented by raising adequate indigenous force at the State level. A proposal to raise two additional battalions of the State Disaster Response Force  (SDRF) was mooted nearly more than three and a half years back but so far, nothing has happened in this most important matter.
It is beyond one’s comprehension as to even after the clear cut instructions from by the Governor N .N. Vohra and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and duly approved by the State Disaster Management Authority things in this direction are not moving. Whose concern is it that the existing strength of just two SDRF battalions is too inadequate to be effective in dishing out quick and effective response in a contingency. The State of Jammu and Kashmir should, on the contrary,  aim at ensuring availability of such personnel beyond the capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar.
Besides, is there any itinerary, well chalked out and formulated, in respect of imparting professional training to the personnel of the existing force both at the State level as well as outside the State across the country? Even the structure and the entire chapter of trainings keep on changing and the fact that a Disaster Managing personal has been given the elementary and advanced training once should not make the authorities complacent. Instead, the personal should be kept abreast of what was going around in the field to build him or her into an effective unit in preventing and mitigating the effect of the twin typed disasters.
It is high time the State adopts the pattern of the National Disaster Response Force and ensures creation of additional two SDRF battalions looking to the fact that the existing two battalions have been sliced of their sheen and strength due to no proposal readied in respect of replacements of retirees or those ones having crossed the age of 50 years and being not suitable and fit for the Force which calls for high degree of physical fitness. Devastating floods of 2014 should be a lesson enough to the State authorities to have full, effective, prompt and committed response in readiness and creation of two additional battalions is a necessity rather than a matter of conjectures and dilly dallying policies.