‘Current pattern of floods in Bihar has us on our toes for last 3 months’
A total of 20 teams, each comprising 50 personnel, including officers and constables, the 9th batallion National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) in Bihar is one of the biggest in the country. Yet their number seems smaller given Bihar’s susceptibility to recurrent natural calamities. This year the jawans of this specialised force, constituted for specialised response to disasters, got to work as early as July-August when devastating floods swept whole of north Bihar. They rescued thousands of people during the catastrophe that claimed 130 lives and rendered millions of people homeless. The floods eventually receded by first week of September. Last week, as the officers and jawans were dusting their shoes from floods, another catastrophe hit Bihar, leaving several cities, including its capital Patna, completely submerged in a deluge for at least four days. Quickly responding to the call of duty, the NDRF bravehearts worked round the clock to save precious lives. B Vijay Murty spoke to NDRF director generalSatya Narayan Pradhan on the challenges before his team in Bihar.
How challenging is the work for your personnel in Bihar?
Bihar has been an extremely challenging state for us. Extension of floods has most manifestation in the state. Floods in Bihar come in three phases. While rains and floods are two different things, in Bihar floods have often followed rains. It’s generally not like this in other states. The current pattern of floods in the state has kept us on our toes for the last three months.
Your men have been doing a commendable job so far rescuing people, animals and cattle from the floods with same missionary zeal. What is the latest report from the ground?
Our officers and jawans are still in the field. Teams are scattered all over as the catastrophe has hit several parts of the state. Since the rains have stopped, the rescue work has become easier. Currently the problem seems mores in Bhagalpur and Alwar zone.
How is your preparedness for the festive season given that the meteorological department has predicted rains during Durga Puja?
We are always in a combat ready state. However, the predictions so far shows there could be slight drizzle during the Durga Puja. Unless a depression kicks in, there is not much to worry about. However, we don’t leave anything to chance and remain prepared round the clock, 365 days a year.
When is the most challenging period for NDRF?
For us October is the worst period as cyclones hit the shores mostly around mid-October. The period from October 11 to 15 is the worst for us. While we are dusting our shoes from floods, our men could have to walk into cyclone. Apprehensions are that our men could have to walk into Odisha soon if a cyclone hits. Disaster runs deep during such situations. For Bihar, our biggest apprehension is that the current floods and waterlogging could dovetail into the cyclone. Ever since I took over the force a year back, the country has been hit by subsequent disasters and I believe our men have delivered their best at all places they were required.
Do you get predictions on natural calamities to plan your operations?
Yes we do. We collect updates on weather predictions much in advance from 20-plus private and government sources.