Welcome Remarks by Dr Arvind Gupta, Director VIF during the Vimarsh Talk by Lt Gen Ata Hasnain on ‘India's preparedness for dealing with disasters’: 23 Jan 2024
Dear friends,

I wish you a happy new year and welcome you to this first Vimarsh talk this year.

Today we are going to talk about a very important subject namely India’s preparedness for dealing with disasters. Today’s speaker is Distinguished Fellow of the VIF. I would like to thank him for accepting our invitation for delivering todays talk.

Gen Hasnain is a highly decorated officer of the Indian Army. He was awarded six decorations by the President of India and two by the Army Chief. He superannuated from the Indian Army in Jul 2013 after 40 years of active service.

He is Former General Officer Commanding 15 Corps (Srinagar), 21 Corps, Military Secretary, and now Member, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

On 13 Jul 2018, The President of India appointed Lt Gen Hasnain as Chancellor of the Central University of Kashmir.

Gen Hasnain is a leading commentator on Kashmir, India-Pakistan relations, terrorism and extremist violence, and West Asia. He writes regularly for leading Indian newspapers and participates in debates on the mainstream Indian media.

He is an alumnus of Sherwood College Nainital, St Stephen’s college Delhi, the Royal College of Defence Studies, Kings College London and the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies, Hawaii.

You would recall that Gen Hasnain was at the forefront of briefing the public as NDMA’s spokesperson during the recent episode of the collapse of a tunnel under construction in Uttarakhand in which 41 people were tracked and successfully rescued after 17days.

Friends,

Disasters, both manmade and natural, visit India with a depressing frequency. According to a report published by the Council for Energy Environment and water, 27 out of 35 Indian states and Union Territories are highly vulnerable to cyclone, drought and flood. Another study by Centre for Science and Environment show that India experience extreme weather event on 235 of the 273 days from 01 Jan to 30 Sep 2023 these events claims 2923 human lives, affected 1.84 million hectare crops area, damaged 80 thousand houses and killed over 92 thousand animals. Last year we also saw 168 landslides and 72 flash floods in Himachal Pradesh, which cost the state over USD 1.2 billion. In Sikkim, the Teesta 3 dam collapse affecting 88 thousand people, damaging 33 bridges, 16 roads and highways. Cyclone Biparjoy and cyclone Michhaung seriously impacted Gujarat and Rajasthan and the state of Tamil Nadu. These are just a few example of how much damage the natural and manmade disasters cost to India every year.

The distinction between manmade and natural disasters is also blurring. We have to deal with the consequences of both. While disasters result in a colossal loss of life and property, they also impact society’s moral. Economic and social losses have to recoup which can take years. Resilience is very important. Better resilience can come only if we are better prepared.

How well is India prepared to deal with disasters? The National Disaster Management Authority set up in 2005 is the apex body for disasters management in India, headed by the Prime Minister. It has a wide remit to prepare India to deal with disasters. To talk about India’s preparedness, Gen Ata Hasnain who has been the member of the NDMA since Feb 2023 is most eminently suited.

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