R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Sept 13 - Children below the age of 14 years are the most vulnerable section of society in case of any disaster – natural or man-made – and this has been proven once again as Assam faced the fury of devastating floods. To deal with the issue and with a goal to minimise casualties in case of natural disasters, the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) is planning to organise a gaon panchayat level training and awareness programme involving all sections of society on September 15.According to records available, as many as 159 persons lost their lives in floods in the State this year and 67 of them were children below the age of 14 years, which is a major cause of concern.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, the State Project Coordinator of ASDMA RP Baruah said the officials concerned analysed the reasons for the death of so many children in floods this year and found that in most cases, the tragic incidents could have been avoided had the parents or relatives been a little more careful. “We can say that negligence on the part of the elders is the main reason for the tragic loss of lives of children in most cases. There were instances where children were left alone on the embankments and they fell into the water. In a few cases, children went for swimming and lost their lives, while in a few instances, children went fishing alone and fell into the water. Such things happened because their parents were not aware of the dangers of allowing children to go near the rivers when they are in full spate and the current is very strong. Parents must realise that swimming in a pond or in a river when the current is very strong are two entirely different matters.”
Baruah said that there were even instances this year where even grown-ups lost their lives while trying to rescue others just because they are not trained in the methods needed to be used for rescue operations. The ASDMA is of the view that the death toll in case of flood or any other disaster can be reduced by creating awareness among the people and there is an urgent need for creating awareness among the people living in the grassroots level as holding such awareness programmes only in the towns is not serving the purpose. “The ultimate aim is to ensure zero casualty in case of any disaster and proper awareness can help in achieving the goal,” he added.
The ASDMA Project Coordinator revealed that building community resilience is one of the major goals of the government as the community is the first responder to any disaster and with this aim in mind, the ASDMA is going for a mega awareness drive all over the State in the gaon panchayat level on September 15. Altogether 2202 gaon panchayats will be covered under the programme and the total cost is estimated at Rs 1.10 crore.
Officers of ASDMA will be the resource persons in the programmes, while efforts are on to involve all sections of society. Personnel of the National Disaster Response Force and State Disaster Response Force, who are deployed in different parts of the State, will impart training on rescue operations in the state-wide programme, while the deputy commissioners and the additional deputy commissioners in charge of disaster management will monitor the implementation of the whole programme.
Officers of the Assam State Power Distribution Company will also be involved in the programme so that they can create awareness among the people to reduce deaths due to electrocution, which has become a major cause of concern this year.