Is chemical explosion in Dombivli a disaster?

On 26th May 2016, the chemical blasts in Dombivli, a suburb of Mumbai, my hometown killed almost 11 people and injured 140. The NDRF – National Disaster Response Force is deployed for last two days to respond and rescue people covered in the debris. Not to forget that our preparedness and emergency capacities for chemical disasters are hardly evaluated and tested.
This brings to mind many policy and organisational concerns, often ignored in mainstream media.
1. The industrial regulations, fire hazards and safety procedures are one of the sub-standard in the country
2. The definition of disaster has to be enhanced in India more from a risk perspective – what we perceive as disaster risks and how we prepare for them in multiplicity.
3.The emergency coordination centre acts like a call centre, with little functional expertise.
4. Coordination between civic authorities, police force, national bodies – NDRF, health management, and media channels seems a dream checklist for the moment.
 
Hopefully this event will trigger changes within the response mechanisms and officials will take notice of the dearth of updated manuals, effective and modern communication tools and realistic response plans.

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Gearing up for World Humanitarian Summit 2016

In the final countdown to the World Humanitarian Summit, held in Istanbul, Turkey, from May 23-24, the time is ripe to reassess the humanitarian sector, summarise the latest developments and chart the areas for future policies and mechanisms to oversee the international aid architecture. International donors have pledged to not only tackle but bring an end to the largest humanitarian crises being witnessed over fragile states and protracted crises through committed funding and financing of the aid system.  The UN Secretary General, in his report for the World Humanitarian Summit One Humanity: Shared Responsibility, which sets the agenda for the Summit, highlighted the need for reforms in the international humanitarian system to better support locally led and owned humanitarian responses. He places considerable emphasis on ending need through an approach which reinforces local systems, anticipates crisis and transcends the humanitarian development divide.

There is increasing recognition that aid operations are being undertaken against a backdrop of intense geopolitical activity. The politicisation of aid and the perception of its politicisation is the main challenge to principled humanitarian action, particularly in conflict affected states.

Out of the overall funding by UK AID, only 10% is committed to disaster prevention and preparedness, while reconstruction relief is 2% while maximum commitment is towards humanitarian response at 86.5%. The projected funding for humanitarian response in 2016-2017, has reduced by half its commitment to disaster funding. The UN Secretary General, in One Humanity: Shared Responsibility, highlights that reforms in the international humanitarian system should reinforce local systems, anticipates crisis and transcends the humanitarian development divide.

This particularly poses challenge to countries suffering from protracted crises like Somalia, Yemen and Syria, and others like Nepal who face reconstruction challenge with little external support and internal capacities. It puts humanitarian NGOs in precarious position with the larger call for bridging humanitarian-development divide. In light of the commitments to climate change and sustainable development goals, what should we expect from this Humanitarian Summit?

It is without doubt, that delivering responses must therefore become a combination of short, medium and longer-term interventions. This requires efforts to bridge and integrate humanitarian with development efforts to ensure that programmes are holistic and impacts are sustainable.

However Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), has recently pulled out of the summit in disagreement with the summit agenda, that bridging this gap undermines the independence of humanitarians who uphold values of  independence and neutrality, and cannot be held responsible for longer-term development that has to be done in conjunction with local governments. A research report published by ODI argues that the humanitarian system needs to let go of its own exceptionalism and accept that different forms of relief – from development organisations, religious organisations and private sector companies – can co-exist and can be equally legitimate. These and many other critical observations are crucial to define a paradigm shift. A recent article in WashingtonPost brings into light the aid agencies from the Global South who want to be heard in the Summit and rightfully demand a larger role in the aid architecture.

Lets keep our fingers crossed, while we keep the conversations going about how we can reform our outdated ways of thinking and resistance to change.

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The other end of the PhD tunnel

After 4.5 long years the PhD ordeal has come to an end. I passed with minor revisions and ready and raring to take on other multiple things in life.

I can see the sun, smell the flowers and notice the stars in the sky. Its like I am reborn again, with so many things I could do in a day. Things that I could do without remorse or guilt of not giving my all to the thesis, the despair and anguish of an unfinished draft, unaddressed comments and half-formulated arguments. The viva itself was an intense discussion of the decisions, my understanding and clarification of what I had written in my thesis in itself. It helped that they wanted to know why I did this project in the first place. A very intelligent comment really prised open the gist of the entire process for me in this thesis. It goes: “Make more explicit (potentially in each chapter) where you are addressing gaps, approaches, and new knowledge in relation to either of concept development, institutional interventions and donor policy or your field methodology.”

This one really got me thinking on how my research actually addressed a gap, and how I position my arguments in relation to a concept, theory, practice, methodology or policy. Having understood these criteria exist, I reckon its useful to delineate our findings and arguments in these compartments for clear thinking and critical analysis.

Really speaking, there is no big change in the level of competitiveness in job applications, despair in rejections and lethargy in submission to publication speediness. I hope to sharpen the skills I acquired in my PhD process and enhance my interests in areas that require further research, expanding my knowledge and interests.

Of course this entire journey itself would have been impossible without the unwavering support of my supervisors. I think they shared my anxiety and understood my challenges at each step, and yet stood by me to ensure I reach my destination. I hope I have made them both proud – Dr John Twigg and Cassidy Johnson. I welled up in tears inside, when he sent that proud message to all members in the department that I passed. I don’t know how you ever repay your teachers, guides and mentors. My biggest aspiration is to be like them, clear in thinking, contributing to society in any way through their work and seeking to explore newer areas of social research in disaster and conflict settings, and working with vulnerable and marginalised sections of our communities. I have a heart filled with respect and gratitude for both of them and will remember the approaches and apply learnings in my field.

Onwards towards an enriching journey.

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The end-point seems far far away!

When you slog so hard, and work each day,

You fail to see the sun shine and the moon brighten your dark way.

The nights go on, and brightness withers, but in your heart you know –

the caged bird sighs!

The path for this thesis is set by your determination

You look at systems, you look at linkages, you persevere for those whom you research!

Their houses get washed, their surroundings fall apart, they give you the courage to move on.

When nothing seems clear, and the end point seems far away,

Your weary ways, your puzzled mind will be awash with sleep, and a new day will rise

  • and the caged bird will sing!

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Assam can recover from devastating floods—if the government gets its act together

Source: Assam can recover from devastating floods—if the government gets its act together

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Long road to recovery in Assam: Recurrent floods again in 2015!

DSC_0499_2Floods are ravaging Assam again as official records state 18 lakh affected and more than five people dead across 20 districts due to the current wave of floods. The recent announcements by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the dwindling Centre-State relations have badly affected state funding for disaster response. There is no doubt that Assam is strategic due to 2,800 miles of international borders shared with China, Myanmar, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. However, the repeated floods, which have increased in the recent years with recurring floods in 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 – 2015 have failed to highlight Assam floods as national problem.

The displaced populations are residing in schools run as relief camps, and will return to their villages once the water recedes. The access to water supplies, sanitation facilities in these camps is inadequate to meet the needs of the lakhs in number displaced. The floods in Assam affect drinking water sources and the quality of drinking water creating an acute drinking water problem. As a result, the affected people are depending on floodwaters and open defecation becomes challenging especially for women and adolescent girls. The recurring floods have impacted the water, sanitation, health and education systems in Assam.

In order to continue with schooling of children, these camps are shut down within a fortnight, forcing the people to leave the camps and fend for themselves. Their road to recovery is clearly distraught as no long-term support is guaranteed by government, civil societies and NGOs. In my research of community recovery after the 2012 floods in the state show that destroyed families had not received the promised financial damage compensations even two years after. The populations living in the fringes were displaced once again when the embankments are constructed, paid nominal land value, and no further support for resettlement. In many areas in Morigaon, the newly constructed embankments breached in the following monsoons causing further distress to riverine communities in Maihang and Bhuragaon blocks.

This year again the floods have magnified the challenges of recovery for these marginal groups, the women especially who bear the responsibilities of running households, child-care and rebuilding homes after floods every year. This strangely takes a toll on their physical and mental health, overall well-being and economic conditions. The Indian Disaster Management Act, 2005, does not recognize the chronic challenges of erosion suffered in Morigaon, Lakhimpur and Nalbari among other districts as a natural disaster. Probably the recent flood events and resultant erosion will serve a reminder to the top brasses in the centre to take stock of the situation and deliver the promises.

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Literature Reviews and Reverse Outlines (from the archives)

This post is the best thing i read tday! Just when I wanted to finalise and send my lit-review draft 🙂

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