I was just watching these pictures in the newspaper, that how the hungry people in earthquake-devastated Haiti are fighting with one another for the food items being taken there as part of relief packages. They are also trying to snatch money and other valuables from one another, not always out of criminal psyche or greed, but to overcome the ruinous loss (of money, home, etc.) that they have suffered.
Actually such things happen in every place after it gets affected by a devastating calamity – flood, earthquake, tsunami, etc. I can still remember that few years back there was flood somewhere in India, and I was watching a TV news clipping that Indian Air Force planes were air-dropping food baskets there. I still remember that I was both shocked and moved by the scene of how people were fighting with each other for those food packets, despite the fact that all of them were seemingly from good families.
A thought has been there in my mind for quite some time, and I will love to share it today.
Why do we keep the victims of a calamity in the affected region itself, without evacuating them from the same? (I have noticed that the evacuation usually takes place only if there is any threat of further calamity). Isn’t it better to take them away to a place where they can have a more-or-less normal life, only to bring them back when the restoration process has brought back the affected region into normal condition?
It must be remembered that the survivors of a calamity experience a horrific time in the affected place, surrounded by a mount of dead bodies (and the foul smell emitted by them), shattered houses and buildings (such as in the case of an earthquake), acute lawlessness in the absence of police and other law enforcement agencies, etc. Restoration of normalcy takes time. And till then these survivors go through an ultra-harrowing time, sometimes even falling to death due to factors like hunger, thirst, contagious disease, brawl over relief, etc. And when somebody dies of such factors, it actually adds to the toll caused by the actual devastation.
So I have a humble suggestion for the Government of India. I feel it should identify 3 to 4 spots in India, scattered over various parts of the country and are uninhabited or sparsely inhabited. Now the government should develop those spots into temporary shelters for the survivors of calamities like flood, earthquake etc., the survivors whose city or village has been devastated by the calamity. The government can set up small houses or tents with all the basic arrangements that we need for our daily life, medical centers with doctors and nurses, a community kitchen with cooks, an adequate stock of food grains, etc.
Now, the moment a place in India gets devastated by a calamity, the government should evacuate the survivors from that place, and take them by air (or whatever) to any such “shelter spot” which is nearer to that calamity-affected region. The survivors will have a ready and easy access to a normal life, with food, a roof over head, medical infrastructure, etc. On one hand the government work on restoring normal condition in the affected region. And till that happens, the survivors will enjoy a normal life elsewhere, without suffering from a nightmarish experience that can haunt them for the rest of their lives. In fact, a quick escape from that affected place will help them overcome the trauma more easily, while a stay in that place amidst the destructions caused by the calamity will leave them with a permanent memory that they will fail to shed off in future. The government may be unable to save its citizens from the devastations of a calamity, as it is sometimes difficult to detect its arrival beforehand and evacuate the people from that place. But it can certainly save us from experiencing the post-devastation trauma that inevitably follows every calamity.
Bringing the survivors to a “shelter spot” will also ensure that a seriously injured or otherwise ill person gets a proper medical attention. It is very difficult to offer proper medical treatment to people in the makeshift hospitals in calamity-affected regions. Rather it is significantly easier to look after such people in a proper medical centre in a “shelter spot” that is in perfect condition.
The “shelter spots” should also ideally have psychologists and trauma counselors, who will help the survivors to overcome the terrible shock of losing everything overnight. There should also be some arrangements of entertainment, like music, which will also play some role in helping the hapless people forget or absorb their shock.
It is ridiculous that the people of a calamity-affected region will spend their nights under open sky, with hungry stomachs and among foul smell emitted by dead bodies lying around them. And their fellow citizens from other regions will watch their plight on TV, while having dinner in their cozy and comfortable drawing rooms.