Disabled persons are more prone to disaster risks writes ABDUL KALAM AZAD
International Disaster Risk Reduction Day was celebrated on October 29, 2013 under the auspices of District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) Kamrup (Metro) and Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) Government of Assam in collaboration with Inter Agency Group-Assam (IAG-Assam). IAG-Assam is an umbrella organisation of development organisations working in Assam. One of the major objectives of the group is to collectively response any disaster and also to create awareness to mitigate the disaster risks.
The theme of for 2013 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is “Living with Disability and Disaster”. The disabled persons are more prone to disaster risks not only because of the challenges they face; but also due to the negligence of the family members and neighbours.
A number of programmes and events were organised in connection of the occasion. The celebration started with a walkathon from DC office compound of Kamrup Metro district and ended at circuit house via Meghdoot Bhawan, Cotton College, Dighali Pukhuri and Gauhati High Court. The “Walkathon” was flagged off by the Additional Deputy Commissioner, (Disaster Management) CEO, DDMA, Kamrup Metro, in the presence of Kaustav Talukdar, District Project Officer, DDMA, Kamrup (Metro). Nearly four hundred participants from various organisations, government offices, universities, colleges and differently able students from different institutions also participated in the walkathon. The participants displayed various banners and play cards to send a message to society to treat the disabled during disaster sensitively. Some of the play cards read to respect the dignity and wishes of the persons with disability and also appeal to render post disaster emergency services to the persons with disability without any discrimination.
Participating in the walkathon Puberun Deka Phukan, Programme Officer, Aide et Action International says “We hope that this programme will help to sensitise the people to reduce the risks of disaster and especially to ensure the inclusion of persons with disability in the whole process of disaster risk reduction” Phukan’s organisation Aide et Action International holds the responsible portfolio of treasurer at Inter Agency Group, Assam.
Central venue of the celebration was at Shishu Sarothi, Guwahati, a premier organisation working on disability and advocacy in north east India. The events at Shishu Sarothi started with music, drama and arts performed by differently able persons. National Disaster Response Team from Indian Red Cross Society performed a mock drill on post disaster response and management. Street plays were also organised in various places of the city by the students of Assam Don Bosco University and members of Gramya Vikas Mancha (GVM), Nalbari to sensitise the people about the plight of the disabled persons and their vulnerability during disaster.
A panel discussion was held at the venue centred on the theme of disaster and disability. Eminent experts from both government and civil society groups participated as panellists. Panel of Ravindra Nath, Ashoka Fellow, Engineer and Mentor, Rural Volunteer Centre (RVC), Sandhya Limaye, Centre for Disability Studies and Action, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, Rajesh Dutta, Engineer and Consultant, Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) and Kaustav Talukdar, District Project Officer, District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), Kamrup (Metro) discussed the various aspects of the theme and the discussion was moderated by A.K. Goldsmith, Director, Asian Rural Life Development Foundation (ARLDF). A Plan of Action (POA) was drafted based on the recommendations of the panel discussion and would be forwarded to Assam State Disaster Management Authority.