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Shaking things up

Are we mocking Delhi's attempt to conduct authentic earthquake drills? Maybe, yes.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2012 22:27 IST
Hindustan Times

Last week, the capital city of India came to a virtual halt after 'news' spread that an earthquake of 7.9 on the Richter scale had hit Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh. As a precautionary measure, the Delhi Metro operations were stalled for 20 minutes and men and women wearing jackets with fluorescent straps were seen running around carrying the 'dead' on stretchers and leaving the 'injured' with other passengers. Yes, it was supposed to be the other way round, but when mock drills like these happen, some 'last-minute' plan changes are bound to happen — despite the good intentions of the National Disaster Management Authority and the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, which conducted the drill.

While Delhi tried its hand at being Tokyo in disaster management, it turned out that we don't exactly have the basics right. Yes, we can run around a bit, sit quickly with hands on our heads, and even shut shops to give such drills an authentic feel to them. But in the end, real news manages to scare us as always: Delhi Fire Services has one — yes, just one — hydraulic fire tender that can access higher floors in case of a fire. The number of buildings, as one knows, is in the tens of thousands. Moreover, many buildings have structural flaws and have never conducted safety audits.

So for now, we have dropped the plan to become Tokyo. The authorities are now back to the drawing board, setting up committees, creating consultancies with technical expertise to understand the 'nature' of the problem. Then there will be, we suspect, endless meetings over chai and pakoras, seminars in five-star hotels and, ultimately, a decision to buy a few more hydraulic ladders. If we were not prepared at all with such elementary requirements, then what was the drill about? Your guess is as good as ours.

First Published: Feb 19, 2012 22:24 IST