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When Nature Strikes

Gulbin Sultana

By Martin Mulligan  and Yaso Nadarajah
Routledge, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 231, Rs.695.00


An unprecedented Indian Ocean tsunami created havoc in December 2004 in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Southern India where thousands of people died and lakhs of people became homeless. Around 170000 people died in Acheh, 36000 people died in Sri Lanka and about 12400 in Southern India. Further, around 380000 people were rendered homeless in India and 400000 in Sri Lanka. Governments in these three countries had the massive responsibility of providing relief, rehabilitation and rebuilding of the lives of the tsunami victims. The Government of India had a disaster plan in place and adequate resources to cater for the needs of tsunami victims. In contrast, the Sri Lankan Government had been completely unprepared for such an unexpected disaster. The world community responded with unprecedented generosity to aid appeals particularly made by Sri Lanka (India refused to take any international help). More than 500 international aid and humanitarian agencies were involved in post-tsunami work in Sri Lanka. Martin Mulligan and Yaso Nadarajah have critically studied the relief, rehabilitation and rebuilding measures in both India and Sri Lanka and outlined the success and failures of post-tsunami relief and reconstruction efforts, hoping that the world would learn from these experiences. The book demonstrates that there were significant differences in the ways in which both the countries responded to the disaster. The aid effort in India was to a greater extent under the purview of the Central and the State Governments of Tamil Nadu and Kerala than the equivalent levels of Government in Sri Lanka, partly because of the sheer number of aid agencies that were involved in relief and recovery in Sri Lanka. India had prior experience of natural disasters, whereas Sri Lanka did not. India had a national Disaster Management plan in place, whereas Sri Lanka did not have one. Yet the book explores similar mistakes in Chennai and Sri Lanka. Both the countries have failed to put the disaster affected community in the driving seat of the relief and recovery efforts. The rhetoric of community participation was often misplaced with regard to disaster relief work. The book argues that the biggest mistake that was made at the national level in Sri Lanka was the failure to ensure a reasonably equitable distribution of tsunami recovery aid between the Southern and the Eastern province of the country. This kind of inequity not only created resentment in the neglected communities, but it also undermined a sense of national unity in a ...

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