Conflicting Paradigms and the Danger Discourse: Re-thinking Indian Disaster Management Framework in the Post-tsunami Era
Disasters and development have very close correlations with each other. In other words, disasters are very complex processes/events deeply rooted in the outcome of material practices and ideological discourses of man-nature interactions. Given the complexity, unpredictability, and non-linear nature of man–nature mutual interactions, uncertainty has emerged as a major challenge in disaster research where the task of defining a disaster is contested in many ways. Therefore, despite lack of consensus over any single definition of ‘disaster’, among disaster researchers across the globe, some features are well recognized. More specifically, rising concerns about ‘social disruption’ have paved the way for the emergence of the theory of vulnerability. Against this background of evolving disaster research and education, the Indian government adopted the ‘paradigm shift’ approach in disaster management practices in recent past. In this chapter, it is argued that disaster governance in India continues to follow a narrower path. The broader objectives of the ‘paradigm shift’ approach are yet to be realized in practices. In particular, the notion of ‘technology-driven strategy’, which often dwells around hazard-centric practices, continues to dominate the new approach. In an attempt to highlight the above, this essay discusses some of the aspects involved in damage assessment and recovery programmes that were sought to be implemented in the aftermath of the tsunami of 26 December 2004 in India. In fact, many interventions in the post-tsunami phase were lopsided in favour of deploying an ‘exotic methodology’ of damage assessment. Consequently, responses followed were framed as solution-defined problems, to be resolved by experts and aid-giving agencies, rather than as responses forged for local and specific social contexts. It is concluded that the discourse of production of disaster vulnerabilities as an outcome of various socio-political as well as socio-technical processes is yet to take centre stage in policy formulations, planning, and practices.
KeywordsDisasters Vulnerability Paradigm shift Tsunami Aid
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