By Dr. N. Samungou Singh
Disaster is commonly used to denote any odd event, be natural or man-made, which brings about immense misery to a region. In other words, disasters are extreme events which cause great loss of life and/ or property and create severe disruptions to human activities. They can be created by human actions, e.g., blast, transport accidents, gas calamity or natural processes like earthquakes, floods, tsunami, cyclones, volcanic eruption, etc. The Bhopal gas tragedy in India and September 11 attacks on USA can be considered as two major man-made disasters.
Any disaster, man-made or natural process can interrupt essential services, such as the provision of health care, electricity, water, sewage/garbage removal, transportation and communications. The interruption can seriously affect the health, social and economic networks of local communities and countries. The severity of these impacts of each disaster is reckoned in terms of death, damage, or costs which are dependent on the existing socio-economic conditions of the affected community. In fact, the misery of the affected people is usually increased by the aggravating factors: poverty, population growth, rapid urbanisation, transitions in cultural practices, environmental degradation, lack of awareness and information.
Disaster management also called as Emergency Management is all about dealing with all kinds of disasters. It can be defined as the organization and management of resources and responsibilities for dealing with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies, in particular preparedness, response and recovery in order to lessen the shocking effects of a disaster on the affected community and to help them return to normal life within a short period. Disaster management is a multi disciplinary area covering a wide range of issues like monitoring, evaluation, search and rescue, relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation operations.
There is no country that is immune from disaster, though vulnerability to disaster varies. According to Government of India’s Report on Disaster Management, India has been traditionally vulnerable to natural disasters on account of its unique geo-climatic conditions. Floods, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes and landslides have been a recurrent phenomena. About 60% of the landmass is prone to earthquakes of various intensities; over 40 million hectares is prone to floods; about 8% of the total area is prone to cyclones and 68% of the area is susceptible to drought.
With increasing population and rising levels of global warming, natural and man-made disasters have become a part of life. In this scenario, the need for an effective disaster management programme is a must the world over, In India, the state and central government take responsibilities of disaster management and the government has included disaster management as a programme of study. Many universities/institutes offer short term certificate, undergraduate, postgraduate degree and diploma level courses in Disaster Management that would help one to get into the field of emergency supervision.
Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), the People’s University, which was established with a mission to advance frontiers of knowledge and promote its dissemination through sustainable Open and Distance Learning (ODL) systems, is one of the universities in India which are offering courses on Disaster Management. The university enables access to higher education to a wide cross section of students who are unable to access and also who wish to pursue their higher studies but doesn’t have enough time for the regular classes. The university has undergone rapid expansion and it is now widely accepted as a system leader in the field of Open and Distance Learning throughout the world.
Today, IGNOU serves the educational aspirations of over 2.7 million students in India and 43 other countries through 21 Schools of Studies and a network of 67 regional centres, around 3,000 learner support centres and 82 overseas Partner Institution abroad. The University offers about 490 certificate, diploma, degree and doctoral programmes, with a strength of nearly 420 faculty members and academic staff at the headquarters and regional centres and about 48,000 academic counsellors from conventional institutions of higher learning, professional organisations, and industry among others.
IGNOU offers a Post Graduate Diploma (PGDDM) and Certificate Course (CDM) in Disaster Management under the School of Social Science. Some of the major objectives of the PGDDM Programme are to: (1) provide comprehensive knowledge to the learners on disaster preparedness, mitigation and rehabilitation; (2) enable the learners to carry out risk assessment and vulnerability analysis; (3) generate community awareness, and strengthen institutional mechanism for community mobilisation and participation in disaster management; (4) develop communication skills for disaster preparedness; (5) create greater awareness about effective disaster response in various emergency situations; (6) equip learners with tools for meeting emergency medical requirements; (7) inculcate new skills and sharpen existing skills of government officials, voluntary activists, development professional and elected representative for effective disaster management, etc.
The Certificate Course in Disaster Management intends to familiarise the learners with the meaning, factors, significance, causes and effects of disasters. This Course deals specifically with essentials of disaster preparedness and focuses on techniques for effective community participation, besides highlighting ways to collect relevant information pertaining to disasters and also its effective dissemination. At the same time, the course emphasizes various methods and techniques to be made use of for appropriate and timely preparation and mitigation of disasters. This course also focuses on relevant measures for proper health and casualty management and techniques for reconstruction and rehabilitation.
The eligibility criterion of PG Diploma is graduation in any discipline and the course can be completed within one year or within a maximum of four year. The fee for this PGDDMS is Rs 4,100. For CDM, the programme can be completed in 6 months or within a maximum of 2 years and the eligibility criteria is 10+2 or its equivalent or BPP from IGNOU and fee for this course is Rs 1,700. The medium of instruction for both the course is English and Hindi.
Both the programmes (PGDDM and CDM) is of use to NGO functionaries and volunteers; military, para-military, police, home guards, civil defence personnel; professionals such as – Geologists, Scientists, Meteorologists, Engineers, Foresters, Fire-service personnel, Administrators, Government and Public Sector Undertaking officials, Rural Development Functionaries; Urban Government Officials; Primary Health Centres Functionaries; etc
Careers in disaster management are usually exist in government jobs, jobs with emergency services, law enforcement, local authorities, relief agencies, non-governmental organizations and international agencies such as the United Nations, World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Red Cross, UNESCO, etc. Private sector careers are also available while fulfilling their corporate social responsibilities. Many government and non-government organizations need emergency management professionals to work for the betterment of society. It is a fairly paid industry and in spite of all the risk, Disaster Management is one of the careers that give mental satisfaction to those who wants to serve the society.
(Auther is a Assistant Regional Director, IGNOU Shillong Regional Centre)