“Be Peaceful and Useful” | Daily News


Our responsibility for disaster preparedness:

“Be Peaceful and Useful”

“Be Peaceful and Useful” were the four words used by Ajhan Buddhadasa to define Buddha Dhamma. If we can follow this philosophy then we can all be prepared to face any disaster, natural or man-made, from prevention, to recovery.

Nothing is permanent, either natural or man-made. Once we accept this fact, it is easier to face any danger, disaster, calamity. There is always an effect, from every cause, and sometimes we are not aware of the cause or we ignore it, and thus we are not prepared to face the effect. However, we have the intelligence, strength and the backing of the latest technologies to face any disaster.

What we need is to be together, as one people, in our village, suburb, town, city and our country. We are all human beings, children of our Motherland and so we can face any situation as one group. That is where we need to be Peaceful towards all life.

Early warnings

There is so much we can learn from the way we faced the tsunami which devastated a part of our country. Early warnings are readily available now. We have such advanced communications, not only by radio and television, but by our mobile phones, which reach every nook and corner of the country. What is important is to ensure that the warnings are as accurate as possible, and the ability of the authorities to monitor such warnings to ensure their accuracy and how they are presented to the people, without creating unnecessary panic. It is the responsibility of all of us to take any such warnings seriously and to ensure that the message is shared with others who may not have received it, or are not taking any action.

The next step should be to heed the advice of the authorities regarding the safety precautions we should take. A tsunami or a cyclone warning should give us sufficient time to escape to a safer location. It may not be possible to give such advance warnings about floods or landslides, but the general warnings should make us alert. At such times we should be able to decide what we value most, our lives or our valuables, material things and property. We should be able to escape with our lives first. All that we leave at home should be there when we return, or at least some of it. We can always recover and rebuild our lives. We can also help each other, share what we have, as one family, after any disaster.

This is where we need to be honest, and we could expect all our neighbours to be honest. If we are together, and vigilant, there would be no opportunities for inhuman criminals to loot and vandalise our lives and property. Our vigilance also would ensure that all assistance and aid offered after a disaster are distributed fairly and are not abused, misappropriated or wasted. We need to be alert, because there could always be a few anti-social elements among us.

During any danger or disaster, we need to be Helpful. We need to be totally unselfish in trying to help all the others around us, the weak, sick and the feeble, children and the elders. We should see them all as members of our extended family, our grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts, siblings and cousins, and children. It is our responsibility, duty and obligation to care for all of them.

Disaster preparedness

A good example of disaster preparedness was seen in Odisha in 2013. The state machinery, armed forces and social organisations managed a massive evacuation of over one million people, from the expected landfall areas. Only about 23 people died in the disaster, because they learned from the 1999 disaster where over 10,000 people died. It just shows the urgency of informing the people in advance, convincing them of the need to move away, and the acceptance by the people of the message and instructions. This requires a high level of confidence among the people and the authorities, which cannot be forced upon them.

While we prepare to face disasters, we should also have to take long term measures to prevent some of them. Though a tsunami and a cyclone cannot be prevented, floods, landslides, forest fires and epidemics could be prevented or controlled to some extent. We as a society, as people responsible for causing such disasters, or contributing towards them, we should take more serious steps to listen to our conscience, and to the professional advice of those who are studying such disasters.

Unauthorised filling up of low lying lands, clogging up drains, canals and even rivers with non-degradable garbage are some of the major reasons for flooding. Deforestation, clearing up mountain ranges, illegal mining are major causes for landslides. We cannot blame nature for these disasters, and we cannot blame the authorities for causing them. We have to blame ourselves.

Nature is more powerful than all our intelligence, technology and determination. Once we accept this fact, we are able to respect the natural forces, and instead of fighting against these forces, try to accept the inevitable, the powers of nature and natural laws. We have to live in harmony with nature, not fight against it or consider nature as our rival. We are only a minor element in the ecosystem. By trying to interfere with the system or trying to defy it, we only bring more disaster and destruction on ourselves.

The ultimate aim of disaster management is to save lives, preserve the environment, protect property and the economy of our country. We cannot dissociate ourselves from the functions of prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery, expecting the state machinery and authorities to handle everything. We have a responsibility, to our families, our neighbours, our country and our future generations to make our maximum contribution for disaster prevention and management. We should not limit ourselves to discuss these issues once a year, we need to be vigilant and take whatever action we could, throughout the year. Be Responsible, be Peaceful and be Useful.

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