Mains Paper: 2 | Governance
Prelims level: Kerala flood
Mains level: The Kerala model of disaster management shows how we can rethink our style of governance
• The Kerala flood has been huge in scale and almost unprecedented.
• One has to go back to 1924 to think of a flood of a similar scale.
• Yet this is one disaster that has avoided exaggeration.
Kerala style of governance an example
• Mr. Vijayan has no time for blame games or electoral politics.
• There are no blame games but he is clear about the chain of responsibility.
• He has signalled that his concern is with people first, regardless of ideology or religion.
• He has made sure that relief is not parochialised or seen through a party lens.
• He might be of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), but he has convincingly acted as the Chief Minister of Kerala.
• All the malignant rumours spread by the right wing asking people to deny aid to Kerala as it helps missionaries leave him cold.
• He is clear about focus and priority, clear that this is not the time for electoral bickering or factional politics.
• The power of the narrative is that timelines were established, and timelines also defined the nature of responsibility.
• The quality of the debate, in fact, borrowed from the tenor of the response of the people.
• Kerala responded with dignity and courage.
• Over a million people went to temporary camps, realising that their houses had been destroyed or damaged.
A social solidarity
• The responses, especially of older people, added to the dignity of the discourse. Kerala did not behave like a victim population.
• It insisted on the agency and created the ground for citizenship.
• Keralites outside the State responded immediately; and between the style of governance and the spirit of voluntarism.
• Kerala created a social solidarity which was almost unique. People owned up to each other and voluntarism added a powerful sense of competence and sympathy.
• It is this exemplary notion of citizenship that set the contours of the debate.
• The survivor and the victim insisted that they are citizens, and this elaboration of citizenship in disaster situations makes Kerala an exemplar of a democratic imagination.
• Suffering found a language beyond the political economy, but suffering also found a long-range locus in ecology and development.
• The flood became not an act of god or nature, but a social event to be analysed sociologically.
Lessons from this damage
• There was a recognition that the floods have erased Kerala of the last phase.
• A new society has to be invented to replace the old.
• The standard disaster narrative of rescue, relief, rehabilitation is yielding to rescue, relief, reconstruction.
• Mr Vijayan is clear that a new Kerala reflecting on ecology and development has to be invented.
• The old resilience has to be backed by a new infrastructural sustainability.
• As Mr Vijayan himself said, during the 1924 flood there was one dam, “while today there are a total of 82 dams, including 42 major ones”.
• New forms of control and sustainability have to be invented. Behind it there was a sense that governments must use disasters as moments of paradigmatic change.
• To build the infrastructure of the kind Kerala need will take at least two decades.
• A flood becomes an initiation to rethink democracy and governance, reconnecting it to issues of environment, culture and livelihood.
• It has to emphasise the biggest danger, one of the greatest faults of the old model of disasters.
• For all their scale and the scandals of new ideas they raise, disasters as policy memory are forgotten too easily.
• Old lessons are never learnt and new ones also are forgotten.
• A disaster as a narrative must possess the quality of storytelling.
• Talk of suffering has been translated into new models of justice.
• One hopes Kerala creates new panchayats of the mind to work on this problem.
Link – https://tt93a.app.goo.gl/UCyszefTMmqmCfVt5