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Calamitously yours: India has huge untapped potential when it comes to disasters

The newly created Ministry of Disaster Implementation has released a draft National Disaster Policy that, among several thoughtful recommendations, encourages all Indians to think creatively about the disasters they would like to experience over the next 10 years or before they die, whichever comes first. Titled ‘Dial ‘M’ for Misfortune: A Framework for National Disaster Policy 2021-2030’, the draft policy states that India has huge untapped potential when it comes to disasters.

While noting that India has done better than every other country on the disaster front, the draft policy, with refreshing candour, admits that there is scope for improvement. “In the past seven years, we have had only three big ticket disasters: demonetisation, the migrants tragedy of the First Wave, and the Second Wave,” the report stated. “Even though three major disasters in seven years is a good average, it must be noted that only demonetisation was a fully Atma Nirbhar disaster, brought on entirely by the government’s own efforts. The migrants disaster and the Second Wave needed external help from billions of viruses, many of whom had to be imported at short notice,” the draft policy stated.

Significantly, the policy document urges all Indians to contribute to the national pool of disastrous ideas. “Though we might fancy ourselves a dictatorship, India, unfortunately, is still a democracy on paper. It is therefore essential, from the perspective of global reputation management, that every Indian has some say in the kind of calamities he or she would like to suffer,” the draft policy noted.

Upload nominations

The report duly commended all those who had contributed to one of the most eminent disasters currently in production, the Central Vista project, observing, “Despite strong opposition from the Second Wave, and the fact that constructing a new Parliament complex when the old one is still functional is not an essential activity, the national capital is on course to keep its date with the biggest disaster in its history.”

In the section titled ‘Bringing Suffering to 1.3 Billion’, the policy paper said India needs to think strategically about the disasters it would like to suffer once the COVID-19 pandemic has run its course. “There is only so much the government can do to keep a pandemic going. India is unique among the emerging market economies in having carried out best-in-class bungling with regard to testing and isolation, vaccination, oxygen supplies, and prevention of super-spreader events. But even with our best efforts, the pandemic may not last more than four years at the most. Before it fades away, we need to be ready with a clear road map for the next seven or eight national disasters. Toward this end, we call upon every Indian to download the Disaster Setu app and upload their nominations for the disaster they would like to see their lives and livelihoods upended by,” the report said.

According to sources, the nominations received so far include a Ninth Wave of the pandemic powered by the chi-plus-plus variant, a zombie apocalypse, and the overnight collapse of the rupee. One stand-out entry envisioned the return of India to feudal anarchy, with the subcontinent parcelled between two dozen feudal warlords, corporate chieftains, and religious thugs with cultist followers.

Simple formula

While all these are, no doubt, exciting possibilities, they do not lend themselves to quick implementation. According to a recent study conducted by Naughty Aiaiyog, the disaster that’s currently a hot favourite among foreign investors and projected to befall most Indians in the medium term is Unexpected Jail time for Inexplicable Reasons (UJIR). “It would be great if only the government had the political will to implement UJIR systematically,” said Mr. I.P.C. Sharma, well-known lawyer and oppressor rights activist. “I mean, why not put everyone in jail on a pro rata basis? Given the proliferation of new laws that are tough to keep track of, it is inevitable that every Indian will break some law or the other at some point in his lifetime. So why not build that into the Constitution by making jail time a fundamental duty of every citizen?”

While experts are divided on whether making jail time a fundamental duty would alter the basic structure of the Constitution, they are unanimous that the draft policy is a brilliant document that heralds a new era of unmitigated disasters. “Anything that forces people to stand in a queue for hours on end, decimates small businesses, provokes protests, or encourages Indians to attack each other is bound to increase the popularity of the government and is therefore a welcome step,” said Mr. L.O.L. Gupta, an expert on everything.

When asked to elaborate, Mr. Gupta said, “The formula for electoral success in India is simple. Your chances of winning an election is directly proportional to the quantum of suffering you’ve caused or could cause. If you can’t even make disasters happen, why should people vote for you?”

A Ministry official summed it up nicely. “People have given us the mandate to unleash one disaster after another. We will not disappoint them.”

G. Sampath, author of this satire, is Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.

sampath.g@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 11:55:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/satire-calamitously-yours-india-has-huge-untapped-potential-when-it-comes-to-disasters/article35341999.ece

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