I was in the Uttarakhand region a few weeks back. Specifically, I was in the Kumaon region. I love the hills. They are my spiritual home, and so I was blessed with a rare view of the snow-capped peaks in May. Normally, the haze keeps them out of sight.
I have always respected the hills, and the environment. Well, not always, but that is another story for another time. As soon as we returned, we heard about the floods due to the heavy rains that took place in the state. While I definitely believe that this is partly due to the rampant exploitation of the hills in a manner that is completely disrespectful, and greedy. It is also due to the utter ignorance of how we manage our resources and our environment. Yet, this piece is not about sustainability and the environment.
What happened after the disaster will be a tale of great heroism and solidarity, by the masses; will be a tale of how people like to exploit the misery of other; and, will be a tale of the most appalling leadership.
The Indian Army and The Indian Air Force were called in, and they did a marvelous job of rescuing people. The Rag Pickers of India contributed from their savings to help the people. They earn so very little, and yet they put together a good sum of money from their savings. The lock makers of Aligarh decided not to push for monies that are due. The NGO, Goonj, (www.goonj.org) is doing a superb job of helping people.
It shows, to my mind, the great acts that people can perform when the need arises. These acts have been performed despite the rather pathetic leadership at the country’s top political level. People can, and often do, act as leaders, and they do this more often than “leaders” realize.
However, this morning I read that the government did, sort of, admit that their disaster management programs leave much to be desired. So, finally, after much humming and hawing, I have arrived at the nub of this little piece.
My father was in the Army, and he often spoke to me of how the Army is always training it’s people. It is always in a state of readiness for war. This was not the case in 1962, when we got our derriere’s wiped by the Chinese Army. Yet, the Army learned, and is, today, in a constant state of readiness.
It is the responsibility of leaders to ensure that their organizations are places of learning, and that the people and that they keep learning.
Secondly, planning for disasters happens before a disaster, and not during a disaster. That is the worst time to prepare for a disaster. This is the prerogative of the leadership. Disaster can come in many forms – from obsolescence, to loss of market share, to bad PR. Yet, I have often seen people floating about during the good times congratulating themselves; and, when disaster strikes they resort to strange activities like downsizing, or denial of the disaster. After this, they often run around like headless chickens, desperately clutching at straws.
Preparing and ensuring that the organization is in a constant state of readiness is the responsibility of leadership at all levels; and this has to be carefully planned and implemented.
There can be no excuse for failing in this area.