Disasters and Disaster Management in India is not new. The country has `Himalaya’ in the north, having very high seismicity. The north-east region of the country, Uttarakhand, H.P. part of J&K and Gujarat are in seismic zone 5. We have the very long coastal region which is prone to cyclones. Floods and Droughts are occurring in almost every State and causing enormous economic loss. International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), UN initiative sensitized all developed as well as developing countries for shifting their strategy from relief towards mitigation and preparedness. India is at high risk from natural disasters. 60% of the total landmass is prone to earthquake. 40 million hectares of land is prone to floods. 68% of the area is susceptible to droughts. Cyclones threaten 8,000 km. of our coastline.

The United Nations’ General Assembly Resolution 236 of 1989 tried to alert us by remarking that the focus of attention should be shifted from rescue and relief to prevention, mitigation and preparedness. A little investment in disaster preparedness can save many valuable lives and vital economic assets thereby reducing the cost of overall revenue relief. Our educational institutions can contribute a lot to achieve the paradigm shift from a culture of response to a culture of preparedness. Prevention, mitigation and preparedness are possible only through large-scale awareness and knowledge generation, for which the education sector needs to play a critical role.

India took lead and Ministry of Agriculture (Govt. of India) set up `National Centre for Disaster Management’ (NCDM) at the Indian Institute of Public Administration in 1995. The mandate of NCDM was `Capacity Building of concerned officers in disaster management’. This was the beginning of paradigm shift in India from relief towards preparedness. In 1999, High Powered Committee (HPC) was set up by the Prime Minister of India under the Chairmanship of Shri J.C. Pant. The HPC report is another landmark in disaster management. The emphasis was given on capacity building and preparedness. The Disaster Management Act, 2005 provided the legal framework to the Disaster Management in this country. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was set up for policy guidelines and to provide overall guidance for Disaster Mitigation, under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister. Today, National Institute of Disaster Management is working for the capacity building of all role players in Disaster Management and providing support to all the state level Disaster Management cells.

Besides the natural disasters, naturally induced manmade disasters and anthropogenic ally caused natural disaster will be demanding more preparedness in future to reduce the possible damages. Persons engaged in disaster management require certain physical, mental and intelligence attributes that can be inculcated through properly designed curriculum and training. Manmade disasters can be results of unethical engineering. The focus of most of disaster management programs is to send resources both physical and human from outside the disaster zone. This inherently implies delay in disaster mitigation efforts und subsequent loss of human lives and economic resources. This also delays the much needed economic and social recovery of the disaster zone. One possible solution is to be able to map out the resources both social and physical available on ground which could be utilized for disaster management and recovery.

Child Right to Disaster Safe Education – School Safety Programme

Among various rights, children have the right to safe, healthy and conducive environment for education. Under this right, it is an obligation on the society to provide sufficient and necessary safety at schools not only against natural and human-made disasters but also from other conditions, which may cause harm to them. It has been observed from the past disasters resulting due to events like earthquakes and fires that school going children constitute one of the most vulnerable population group during such situations. It had been observed that during disasters, school buildings are destroyed, taking away the precious lives of children and teachers, and stalling access to education in the aftermath of a disaster. It is very costly and time-consuming to rebuild the educational infrastructure in such situations. It has been documented from the past disasters that school buildings had been destroyed due to earthquakes and other natural disasters throughout the world, causing deaths to large number of students, teachers and other functionaries of the schools.

Few of the prominent earthquakes like Sichuan (2008), Kashmir (2005), Bam (2003), Bhuj (2001) and Armenia (1988) had caused huge devastation to the school buildings taking away thousands of precious lives of school going children and teachers. Schools provide tremendous opportunity in developing the culture of preparedness and culture of prevention against hazards like fire and earthquakes. Similarly, resources available with schools like buildings can be utilized for emergency shelters and relief centers. Vulnerability of schools in Delhi is quite high, where schools are being run in all sorts of buildings and premises with limited know-how about disaster (earthquake and fire) safe construction. Placement of nonstructural components increases the level of vulnerability of majority of school buildings and putting them on higher risk due to earthquakes and fires.