Notwithstanding the state's vulnerability to natural disasters, Himachal Pradesh government is still not learning any lessons from the past calamities that have cost it dear on life and properties as the plan to set up a State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) is still hanging fire.
It was post the rain-triggered floods in Kinnaur district in 2013 that brought about realization to the state to have its own dedicated force to respond to such disasters that hit the state off and on.
The state government had deliberated threadbare with National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to set up its own force in the state that is highly prone to natural disasters. NDMA had conceded to provide the equipment, while it was for the state government to bear the cost for setting up an SDRF. However, NDMA at that time had rejected the state's preposition to impart training to the police personnel in responding to the disasters.
NDMA concluded that training police force in the disaster management was not a viable option as they had to perform other duties to maintain law and order. State's police department had time and again corresponded with the state's home department about the idea of setting up a dedicated force to meet the exigency at the time of the natural disasters.
"I had made numerous communiqués with the government about having a dedicated SDRF for the state. The government should realize that natural disasters pose a grave threat to the people of the state, "says former director general of police B Kamal Kumar. The state police had put a proposal before the government to set up three companies for the proposed SDRF. According to the proposal, three companies were to be stationed in Shimla, Dharamshala and Mandi towns.
"We have already submitted a proposal to the government last year," says director general of police Sanjay Kumar. There was plan that police personnel's in the SDRF companies will serve a minimum of five years before being replaced by the younger cops. The police are already educating the training personnel for disaster management training at its third Indian Reserve battalion at Pandoh.
Himachal Pradesh falls in seismic zone five that is prone to earthquake. Calamites such as cloudburst, flashfloods, landslides, forest fires are avalanches are common in the hill state. Though natural disasters continue to strike the state, the government's response to calamities has so far remained casual. The government's steps towards this direction have remained confined to setting up a state disaster management authority, while other states such as Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Gujarat have already raised their own SDRF.
Control room for disaster on the cards
Director Sanjay Kumar said that a control room would be set up at the police headquarters that will coordinate and provide the help needed at the time of natural disasters. "The control room will be used by the police for disseminating important information during natural calamities," he said.