His experience as Collector offered him invaluable insights while working on the thesis
CHENNAI: IAS officer R.Velu did two things after his retirement in 2002. He joined a Hindi course and registered himself for PhD with the Department of Politics and Public Administration in Madras University.
His new ‘avatar’ as a politician in 2004 left him with little time for Hindi lessons. But, the scope for working on his PhD widened after he was inducted into the Union Cabinet as a Minister of State for Railways.
On Friday, he was awarded a doctorate degree for his work ‘Disaster Management in the Indian Railways – A Study.’ “My original topic for the research was ‘Social Response to Disaster Management,’ but I subsequently widened the theme,” said Mr. Velu.
His experience as a District Collector in handling two disasters – one natural and the other man-made – in Tirunelveli district had offered him invaluable insights while working on the thesis.
When Tirunelveli witnessed an unprecedented cyclone and floods in 1992, Mr. Velu led a team that restored normal life. Civil society and official machinery worked together during the calamity. He was again posted as Collector of the district in 1995, after communal riots broke out. He involved the community in restoring peace.In fact, involving the local community in tackling railway disasters is one of the important suggestions made by Mr. Velu in his research work. “The victims of the railway accidents need immediate care before other agencies can begin rescue operations. The help during the ‘golden hour’ can be offered only by local people,” he told The Hindu.
Mr. Velu said though the Railways was prepared for any disaster caused by internal factors, it was unprepared for disasters such as earthquakes, cyclones or sabotage. “We have to evolve a comprehensive disaster mitigation policy involving various agencies,” said Mr. Velu, who has made 21 recommendations in his study.
He was guided by M. Kennedy Stephenson Vaseekaran of the Politics and Public Administration Department. “I owe a lot to former professor of the department M.C. Perumal, who is a constant source of encouragement,” he said.