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Readers's Mail

Life after


Sir, -- India has witnessed a profound human tragedy. We have just learnt what a "tsunami" is. That it needed a loss of over 10,000 lives to do so is inexplicable. But now it's time to learn our lessons from this unforgettable experience and become wiser. What measures should we take to avoid such disasters in future?


India has the option of joining the Pacific Tsunami Warning System and gaining from its expertise. However, a lot of groundwork must be done first. Our scientists must interact and interlink with countries that have been facing tsunamis. We should gain from the knowledge of world experts who can provide useful information. Danger spots in our zone must be identified. Only after all this should we set up the necessary infrastructure.

2. A TRULY INTEGRATED NATIONAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT SYSTEM: This is the need of the hour. Every time we have a calamity--the last being the 2001 earthquake in Bhuj--there is discussion on the need for a disaster management system. As soon as the tragedy recedes, everything is as bad as before. Given the country's geological history and the fact that more than half of India lies in the seismic zone, the Union Government must put into place an active, well-equipped National Disaster Management System.

3. DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Just joining an international tsunami warning system is not enough. Issuing a warning is not enough. This has to be followed by a well-coordinated action plan. The civilian authorities have to use the warning for evacuation. Plans must be made and rehearsed so that all agencies act as soon as an alert is issued.

4. FIXING RESPONSIBILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY OF OUR MANAGEMENT STRUCTURES: The state administrators, the police and the bureaucrats need to get their act together. Lack of organisation has plagued our system. It was heartening to see the sensitivity of Indians towards fellow-Indians, but the immense relief has not been put to use effectively. The armed forces are doing a commendable job. Let the civil administration learn organisation, leadership and commitment from them. There has to be a unified command to deal with such situations.

5. NEED FOR EXTENSIVE COMMUNICATION NETWORKS: We urgently need to improve upon our communication networks. Even 48 hours after the tsunami hit India, no information was available from many affected areas, and so speedy relief didn't reach. Also, there was a major earthquake off Antarctica about a week before the tsunami, which might have contributed to the build-up of seismic stress in the Sumatra region, but our meteorologists were not even aware of this threat. Hence we definitely need to interlink within the country, with the most severely affected Nicobar, and with the world as such. In this context, blogs--online journals--can be of great help. Blogs or weblogs are an upcoming concept of grassroots journalism. It is a website that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks provided by the writer. Hence citizens become reporters who report ground level news encompassing not just events but injustices happening in their area. Thus when a disaster like tsunami strikes, instead of switching on the TV, you log on to a blogging website where "how to help" links go up and frequent updates are posted. So you stop being at the receiving end of the news, and instead start contributing.

6. PRESERVE MANGROVES: Let us fight nature with nature. Mangroves acted as a first line of defence against the tsunami and saved the costal communities living behind them in the Chennai region. Hence we must preserve and regenerate them and use them as sea walls.

7. IMPLEMENT CODES OF QUAKE-RESISTANT BUILDINGS: The least we owe to those who have suffered is to create an infrastructure that protects life and property from the damage likely to be caused not only by nature but man-made disasters as well. Any further construction must fall in line with the codes of quake-resistant buildings, especially in the extra-sensitive seismic zone.

India must get its act together. We have to look ahead, and begin working extensively and intelligently on our weak areas so that we can tackle any future disasters like tsunami head-on. We have the potential. Let's exploit it, without looking over our shoulders.

Anusha Singh,

B.A.(Hons.) Political Science Final Year,

Lady Shri Ram College,

Lajpat Nagar,

New Delhi.

More, please

Sir, -- In "Tsunami washes away differences" ("Campus Jottings", January 6), Anjali Dhal Samanta reports that, against the backdrop of the unprecedented tsunami disaster, the Delhi University Teachers' Association (DUTA) has appealed to all teachers in the colleges and departments of Delhi University to donate Rs.500 per head for the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund.

A quick calculation would show that if the average University or college teacher has, conservatively speaking, a take-home salary of Rs.20,000 per month, a day's salary would amount to about Rs.700. DUTA's appeal, therefore, should have been for every teacher to donate at least one day's salary. Indeed, in St. Stephen's College, even though the winter break is still on when these lines are being written, the appeal to teachers has been couched in these terms. While it may not be possible for the 6,000-odd teachers in Delhi University's departments and colleges to play an active role in the tsunami relief and rehabilitation effort, donation of at least a day's salary to the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund is the least that we can do in all good conscience at this time of tragic suffering.

Vinod Chowdhury,

Head of the Department of Economics,

St. Stephen's College,

Delhi University,

Delhi-110 007.

New vistas

Sir, -- Meliorism -- the notion that the world can be improved by human effort -- has always kept the feeling of struggle alive in the psyche of human beings. But when it comes to Indian culture, its lovers seem to be losing ground. In this era of globalisation and consumerism, talking about the protection of Indian culture and containing the deviation of the present generation is becoming more and more like trying to resist steel tanks with water guns.

Paromita Roy ("Rethink on Adolescence", Open Page, January 4) is right in stating that the bulk of the present generation is becoming more and more presumptuous. They always show alacrity in adopting occidentalism and modernity, forgetting the real theme of their culture. Advent of the Internet, cellphones and English channels has made ''sex'' a thing of levity. So we can see how besides making life simpler, faster, stylish and gaudy those things have also brought in ill-effects. Smoking and disrespect to their language and opposite sex are only a few of these.

However, I don't think that making rules to stem this kind of dissemination will help in any way. For instance, in India there is a ban on showing blue films. What then? Even today these films are going rampant.

Prima facie it seems the onus lies upon the parents only. By strictly controlling their offspring they can cordon off the adverse impacts. However, even they are under compulsion to tread the road of liberalisation when it comes to their children. In this time of fast life they would never want to see their children devoid of cellphones and bikes when other children around already possess these. They fear that absence of modern stuff will create an inferiority complex in their child's mind and his or her personality development will be hampered. So they are bound to let their children flow in the flux of ultra-modernity, whatever be the aftermath. And that's why even parents can't be blamed.

Actually, to check the deterioration of the present generation a psychological revolution in the Indian social order is needed. And this can't be brought through school education or rules and regulations only. The most effective solution lies with the media. In fact, it is the media which has always affected the modus vivendi of the people infalliably (the danger to the existence of Indian culture is more or less due to the media only!). So if it can deteriorate the way the people think, it can also help in opening up new horizons of thinking.

Meghraj Mayank,

c/o C.K.Prasad,

Shivashankar Path,

Mithanpura Mohalla,

Ramana - 842 002,

Muzaffarpur, Bihar.

Two cheers

Sir, -- According to the report, "High liquor sales swell Government coffers", the Delhi Government is patting itself on the back for this "big achievement".

Thanks to its much trumpeted target of door-to-door availability of liquor in the Capital, schoolboys have gone a step further to bring the stuff indoors -- right into the classroom. If this policy and practice continue, the day is not far when Mahatma Gandhi's samadhi at Raj Ghat in Delhi will go without his good old slogans: "Alcohol destroys not only the body but also the soul", and "I would rather have India rendered to a state of pauperism than have thousands of drunkards in our midst."

Manmohan Sethi,

A-777, Avantika,

Sector-2, Rohini,

Delhi - 110 085.

It's legal

Sir, -- Sneha Banerjee (Readers' Mail, January 10) asks, "Have we ever wondered why abortion is illegal in the US?"

I haven't ever wondered, because abortion is legal in the US and has been so for many years as a result of the famous Roe vs Wade decision.

Jonathan Murphy,

C-170 Defence Colony,

New Delhi - 110 024

* * *

(Letters for this column may be sent by e-mail to They must carry the full postal address of the writer and should be marked "Readers' Mail".)

B.A.(Hons.) Political Science Final Year,

Lady Shri Ram College,

Lajpat Nagar,

New Delhi.

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