|What do you think would be the outcome of a general poll carried out to judge mass perception on our being law abiding?Do you think the outcome would shock any of us?
Ours is really not a law abiding society; most of us are smart enough to devise ways and means of bypassing rules and regulations, even before these are fully implemented.
You might choose to call it an irony, but then we certainly are obsessed with rules, regulations and laws, which is amply reflected in the alibi often put forth by us, for both omitting what we ought to do, and demanding new laws, harsher punishments, and so on after every incidence that hits the media headlines; be it Nirbhaya or some other, as if the ones in place were being abided and implemented in letter and spirit.
So, large majority is under the impression that the cure of most, if not all, of our problems lies in introducing new legislations. So we keep demanding new laws, and most of the times we are obliged.
Our love for laws has provided us with the largest, and the most comprehensive compendium of written laws in whole world. We thus have written dictum for everything that one can think of, and our demand for new laws is far from settled; Dil Mange More syndrome.
Thinking of legislation as being the remedy of all our vows, we were quick to enact Disaster Management Act after suffering from Gujarat Earthquake (2001), and Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004) in quick succession.
This brought into existence Disaster Management Authorities (NDMA, SDMA, DDMA) at nation, state and district level for effective disaster governance.
It is however an irony that the very law creating these authorities has deprived NDMA and SDMA with executive powers. So executive functions being carried out by the SDMA could well be assessed as being usurpation of the powers of State Executive Committee (SEC) and declared as being void ab initio.
This is sure to land us all in thick soup, and as a corrective measure we could think of amending the Act but that is not going to be easy, particularly during times of frequent walkouts and stalemates in the Parliament.
So, easy way out could be to restrict the authorities (except DDMA) to advisory role, and revert to National and State Executive Committees for all executive functions, as is intended by the Act of 2015.
Voluntary Compliance of DRR Measures
Be whatever, one in this business understands that we have to popularize disaster risk reduction (DRR) measures amongst the masses so as to reduce exponentially increasing economic toll of disasters. One really does not care as to which agency (NDMA/ NEC/ SDMA/ SEC) facilitates this.
Moreover it is universally accepted that DRR is all about voluntary compliance, for which people have to be motivated, persuaded, compelled, engaged, incentivized, and inspired; a good balance of carrot and stick has to be there in place.
The DRR professionals have a really tough job out here.
They have the mandate of selling fear to a community that cares least about risks that it faces day in and day out; it does not care to wear helmets and car seat-belts, does not have regular health checkups, does not maintain personal hygiene standards, and is negligent to a number of potential threats even in their homes.
In such a scenario it is really something too much to expect these people to have emergency survival kit, essential supplies, and first aid box in their homes, and invest on disaster safety or risk transfer.
There seems something missing in our social upbringing that makes us psychologically disinterested in safety; even safety of self and our next of kin does not fall high on our priority.
Moreover, often considering ourselves to be the smartest of all creatures, we tend to be in the habit of taking it for granted that we are not going to be affected at all by all these, disasters or accidents that surround us for sure – Positivity Bias.
We take pride in calling ourselves aware and well informed, but then how many of us are really know that our region was devastated by a major earthquake in 1803 in which the areas as far Delhi, Mathura and Aligarh sustained losses?
Many of us would surely be unaware of 1880 landslide that devastated Nainital or Akaknanda flood of 1894 that devastated Srinagar and downstream areas.
So it is a reality that we do not remember disaster induced losses that we have experienced in the past, and rightly so, we do not have any lessons to learn from these major tragedies.
Moreover being a God fearing society to the core, as an icing in the cake we very often tend to leave it all to the fate and good wish of the almighty.
What really is the effort worth, if God wants us doomed?
So, driving DRR home is all about overcoming the psychological barrier, which has never been an easy task. No one really wants to discontinue what he/she has being doing for generations, and despite that there exists no guarantee; you really do not become disaster proof, only relatively safe.
So, one often tends to wonder if this is worth all the pain, and is hesitant to step out of his/her comfort zone, because out there he/she could well be in the line of fire.
Believe me howsoever brave or courageous, one is always afraid of the sniper out there in the dark.
It might sound pessimistic, while the task at hand might look daunting.
Time taking and hard it really is, but it is not impossible and in our lifetime alone, we have been testimony to the society overcoming many major psychological barriers.
In the beginning, when it all started in 1970s, billboards all around were studded with red triangles. There was mass outcry, and all this was seen as being intrusion into our socio-cultural belief system; may be the means employed in the beginning to achieve the targets were little oppressive.
Yes, I am referring to family planning.
Fifty years down the line, you and me are sure to have friends, relatives and acquintances with just one or two kids. It matters least if these are girls.
So, we have somewhat, and to an extent been successful in getting rid of that “must have son” mentality.
Red triangles have thus become a legacy of bygone days, but then we still have advertisements of contraceptives. These are however aimed at product promotion and divorced from the flavour of family planning. Moreover, advertisements are not always required for psychological change or change of habit.
Change can very well happen almost silently.
If you think it over, in the same timespan that I was talking about red triangles having made an impact, most of us have started to eat with spoon (some even with knife and fork), and eat sitting across the table without bothering as to who cooked the food.
Don’t you acknowledge this as being a major transformation?
The Way Forward
So, to nail down the message of DRR in the muscle memory of the masses (i) we have to be patient, (ii) set long term and achievable goals, and (iii) most importantly revisit and revise our present communication strategy.
We all agree that awareness is the key to ensuring proliferation of DRR measures to the grassroots level, and so we all have been churning out IEC material of sorts; most of the times without even having scant regard to the requirements, and aspirations of the intended beneficiary.
For that matter our IEC material is never intended for a particular target group; we in fact prescribe what we have, universally for everyone; without any discrimination.
That perhaps reflects out secular character.
It is however high time, and we should not hesitate in accepting that what we have been putting forth in the form of IEC material has been, of course with rare exceptions, unimpressive, substandard, monotonous, boring and rightly so has failed to catch the attention of the masses.
One has also to understand that the ground realities, wherein rules of the game have changed drastically over the previous decade. No one bothers to look at the billboards, or go through the advertisements unless he/she feels connected, and the content seems worth going through.
In this regard roping in some celebrity with mass appeal as being DRR brand ambassador for endorsing disaster safe technologies and furthering the cause of DRR could be a good idea.
Recently held 6th World Congress on Disaster Management in Uttarakhand was endorsed by Amitabh Bachchan. But then the endorsement should have been for the cause of DRR rather than being restricted just to the Congress.
Moreover, amid media overexposure of present times only innovative, interesting, entertaining, attractive, catchy, impressive, crisp, to the point, pertinent and well-packaged messages get noticed.
So, we have to really revisit what we all have been doing for years and years.
As illustrated before red triangles have gone but the message therein has been imbibed in the subconscious self of the masses; DRR could well be imbibed in the muscle memory of the masses, say by the year 2050 if all the stakeholders, rather than trying to highlight their logo, brand and banner, sit back, pool resources, coordinate, cooperate and pledge to rally around a common and mutually agreed Red Triangle of DRR with and honesty, sincerity, devotion, belief and conviction.
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