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   Vulnerable India
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
09 May 2010

Incredible, may be? Vulnerable, for sure!

Sometimes I get a feeling that India's incredibility lies in it being 'vulnerable'. Hasn't it become increasingly turbulent, awash with diversity of social, economic, political and geographical disruptions? Not a day passes without disaster of a kind being recorded, be it natural or purely human construct. From a freak tornado that accounted for some hundred lives in Bihar to deliberate dumping of radioactive waste that claimed one victim in Delhi, disasters have registered their democratic omnipresence across the country.

Not long ago, a senior official of the prestigious National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) took pride in proclaiming that effective flood management had resulted in less than anticipated loss of lives during the Kosi floods of 2008. The claim revealed a disturbing fact - given the inevitability of floods the challenge lie in staking claims through unsubstantiated data on the so-called effectiveness of the response mechanism. Simply stated, the policy prescription is to 'manage' disasters after these have occurred.

In Vulnerable India, author Anu Kapur makes a bold attempt to chronicle the inadequacies in the system that has not only propelled natural disasters but has made several human-induced disasters to look 'natural'. No wonder, for a corrupt leadership, indifferent bureaucracy and a complacent civil society each disaster opens a fresh opportunity for appropriating generous relief supplies. It may not be an over-statement that 'disaster' has indeed become an industry with its well-entrenched stakeholders at all levels.

The book argues in favor of an approach that positions socio-economic vulnerability against the vagaries of natural disasters. Though slow paced in presenting a rather gloomy scenario, the book covers fresh ground for interdisciplinary studies to ascertain the hidden causes behind the recurrence of natural disasters in our country. The book shows that the rigor of academic work can pave the foundations for practical action by policy makers and decision-makers. Aesthetically designed and attractively printed, Vulnerable India is worth its price.

Vulnerable India: A Geographical Study of Disasters by Anu Kapur,
Sage Books, New Delhi, 279 pages, Rs 850.

 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
Sudhirendar Sharma
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