Many more people would have lost their lives had they not cleared the debris on time in the building collapse in Old Delhi’s Chandni Mahal area. The death toll of Delhi high court blast would have crossed 16 had they not taken the injured to RML hospital in autos. They are the unsung heroes who reach disaster spots much before TV OB vans.
They are the Civil Defence volunteers, who with yellow jackets are frequently seen manning traffic during heavy rain, but are yet to get their due recognition though they are always at the forefront during every emergency situation.
The only time they get into the public glare is when they launch safety drill awareness drives and demonstrate their rescuing skills in case of any emergency."Our volunteers are the first to respond. They are the ones who live in nearby areas and are the first to rescue people and they do it selflessly," said Vijay Dev, controller of Civil Defence.
The irony is that despite saving lives and conducting rescue operations in dangerous conditions, the government does not provide them any life insurance cover. “Their sheer motivation to help people drives them to work in dangerous conditions without even without any regular pay. They don’t even have a life insurance cover,” said a senior civil defence officer requesting anonymity.
On Thursday, the government of Delhi organised a mock rescue drill for civil defence volunteers. Civil defence volunteers are taught firefighting, first-aid, communication and basic rescuing skills with bare minimum facilities during their training programme.
Life for civil defence volunteers is not easy. Other than doing their regular job, they reach emergency spots as soon as they get to know about it. Rahul Kumar, 24, works with a BPO and is also a civil defence volunteer. When a building collapsed in his nearby locality, Uttam Nagar, he missed his official duty as he was a part of rescue operations.
In India, civil defence volunteers hardy get any facilities, not even a free DTC pass to travel, let aside a disaster management kit.
Whereas, in Dubai and other countries, they get insurance cover and a motorbike to quickly get to narrow roads.
Set up in the late 60s, the Civil Defence Organisation has 69,000 volunteers in Delhi. “There is enough attraction. A lot of people come on board every year, while some become inactive,” the officer added.