Vulnerable India: A Geographical Study of Disasters


Anu Kapur

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    List of Tables

    • 1.1 Record of Earthquakes in Medieval India 7
    • 1.2 Population Killed and Affected in Disaster in India (1982–2001) 9
    • 1.3 India's Rank in the World's Top Ten Fatal Disasters 10
    • 1.4 India vs World: Number of People Killed and Affected by Disasters (1982–2001) 11
    • 1.5 Persons Killed in Major Disasters in India since Early 20th Century 12
    • 1.6 Financial Loss More than Rs 20 Billion Each from Disasters 13
    • 1.7 Ratio of Killed vs Affected Population in Disasters 14
    • 1.8 Ratio of Killed vs Affected Population in Major Disaster Events 14
    • 1.9 Damage to Different Sectors in the 1996 Andhra Cyclone and 2001 Bhuj Earthquake 15
    • 1.10 Damage to Houses in Major Disaster Events 15
    • 1.11 Damage to Crops in the 1977 Andhra Cyclone 16
    • 1.12 Government Fixes Compensation for a Human Life 21
    • 1.13 Distribution of Disasters in India (1977–2002) 25
    • 1.14 Number of Disastrous Occurrences, Days and Killings (1977–2002) 26
    • 1.15 Funds Allocated for Disasters by the Finance Commissions (1973–2000) (Rs million) 26
    • 2.1 Characteristics of Disasters Ascribed to Geophysicals (1977–2002) 30
    • 2.2 Disasters Attributed to the Geophysical Intensity (1977–2002) 31
    • 2.3 Changing Complexion of Disasters Ascribed to Geophysicals (1977–89 to 1990–2002) (per cent) 32
    • 2.4 Seasonal Variation in Disasters Ascribed to Geophysicals 34
    • 2.5 Number of Cyclones in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal (1903–2002) 63
    • 2.6 Drought-Prone Districts Identified by Various Committees 78
    • 2.7 Distribution of Disasters in the North–South (at 23°30’N) and East–West (at 76°30’E) Divisions of India 81
    • 2.8 Comparative Weight of Geophysicals Based on the Ratio of Killings per Occurrence 84
    • 3.1 Forecasting Disasters through Signs of Divination 105
    • 3.2 Predicting Earthquakes through Astrology 106
    • 5.1 Limited Reference to Disasters in India's Five-Year Plans (1951–2007) 137
    • 5.2 Lack of Plans on Disasters by the Town and Country Planning Organization (1956–2001) 138
    • 5.3 Assistance Requested by States and Actual Approval by Finance Commission (1984–89) (Rs crore) 139
    • 5.4 Types of Environmental Acts in India 140
    • 5.5 Incredibly Low Recording of Disasters in India: A Reference Annual (1954–2003) 144
    • 5.6 Discrepancy in Recordings of Killings in Some Major Disasters 145
    • 5.7 Discrepancy in Recorded Killings in Bhopal Tragedy as Published in the EPW 146
    • 5.8 Lack of Disaster Themes in the Competitive Examinations (2002–03) 147
    • 5.9 Negligible Number of Theses on Disasters in University and Professional Courses 148
    • 5.10 Limited Number of Doctoral Theses on Disasters in India, 1857–2000 148
    • 5.11 Projects and Funds Allocated for Research on Disasters in India (1985–2001) 149
    • 5.12 Limited Projects and Funds for Extramural Research on Disasters (1985–2000) 150
    • 5.13 Meagre Share of Research Projects on Disasters in Social Sciences (1969–2003) 150
    • 5.14 Low Level of Funds to Research Projects on Disasters 151
    • 5.15 Feeble Attention to Disasters in Media: The Cover Page of India Today (1978–2003) 151
    • 5.16 Theme of Cover Pages on Disasters in India Today (1978–2003) 152
    • 5.17 Cinema with Disaster as a Theme 153
    • 5.18 Declining Number of Films on Disasters in India (1920–95) 155
    • 5.19 Audiovisuals and Documentaries on Different Themes of Disasters 156
    • 5.20 Techno-Institutional Initiatives for Forecasting Disasters 158
    • 5.21 Flood Forecasting Stations by River Systems (2002) 159
    • 5.22 Number of Observatory Stations for Forecasting the ‘Naturals’ 160
    • 5.23 Scientific Institutions Undertaking Disaster Research 163
    • 5.24 Thrust of Research Projects on Disaster 165
    • 5.25 Classification of Research Projects by Disaster Themes 166
    • 5.26 Dominance of Physical Sciences in Doctorates on Disaster Themes (1857–2003) 166
    • 5.27 Establishing Role of Time of Occurrence of Earthquake with the Number of Killings 169
    • 5.28 Physical Manifestations of the Richter Scale 170
    • 5.29 Army Assistance to ‘Natural Disasters’ from 1994 to 2002 175
    • 5.30 Earthquakes above Magnitude 5, in a 400-Kilometre Radius about Killari (1950–2001) 177
    • 5.31 Errors in the Prediction of the Track of Cyclones 180
    • 5.32 Technological Solutions Offered for Disaster Management in the High Power Committee Report (2001) 182
    • 6.1 Handful of Plans for Disasters in India (1996–2001) 184
    • 6.2 Workshops Conducted by the National Institute of Disaster Management, 1995–2003 190
    • 6.3 Newsletters on Disasters in India 192
    • 7.1 Weight of Vulnerability Indicators Based on the Correlation Matrix 204
    • 7.2 Weight by Components of Vulnerability 204
    • 7.3 Vulnerability Index by Macro-Regions of India 215
    • 7.4 Size of the Vulnerable Population Based on Dominant Indicator in Individual Districts 224
    • 7.5 Vulnerable Population at the Macro-Regional Level in India 225
    • 8.1 Inequitable Distribution of Population Killed and Affected (1982–2001) 226
    • 8.2 Global Divide in the Case of Forty Worst Disasters in the World (1970–2002) 227
    • 8.3 Different Killings from Similar Magnitude Earthquakes 228
    • 8.4 Different Killings from Similar Intensity Cyclones 228
    • 8.5 Higher Number of Women Killed in the Latur Earthquake 230
    • 8.6 Higher Number of Women Killed in 289 Disaster Events During 1977–2002 231
    • 8.7 Age-wise Reported Killed Due to Starvation in Baran, Rajasthan, 2002 231
    • 8.8 Higher Number of Elderly Killed in the 1990 Andhra Pradesh Cyclone 232
    • 8.9 Higher Number of Backward Caste People Killed in 1990 Andhra Pradesh Cyclone: Case in Guntur District 232
    • 8.10 Higher Number of Landless Killed in 1993 Latur Earthquake 233
    • 8.11 Higher Number of Small Farmers Suffer Damage to House and Belongings in 1977 Andhra Cyclone 233
    • 8.12 Material Used in Wall and Incidence of Households with the Killed in the 1993 Latur Earthquake 235
    • 8.13 Material Used in Roof and Incidence of Households with Killed in the 1993 Latur Earthquake 235

    List of Figures

    • 1.1 Increasing Variety of Disasters, 321 b.c. Onwards 9
    • 1.2 India's Rank in the World on Population Killed and Affected in Disasters (1982–2001) 11
    • 1.3 Population Killed and Affected in Disasters in India (1982–2001) 11
    • 1.4 Monthly Disastrous Occurrence in India (1977–2002) 23
    • 1.5 Seasonality of India's Disasterscape 23
    • 1.6 Disasterscape in a North–South Division of India 24
    • 1.7 Disasterscape in an East–West Division of India 24
    • 1.8 Number of Disastrous Occurrence and Killings (1977–2002) 25
    • 1.9 Financial Cost of Disasters (1950–90) 26
    • 2.1 Dominant Geophysicals Ascribed to Disasters 31
    • 2.2 Months of Highest Frequency of Occurrences, Days and Killings of Disasters Ascribed to Geophysicals 33
    • 2.3 Disasters Ascribed to Snowfall (1977–2002) 38
    • 2.4 Disasters Ascribed to Cold Wave (1977–2002) 40
    • 2.5 Disasters Ascribed to Hail Storm (1977–2002) 43
    • 2.6 Disasters Ascribed to Lightning (1977–2002) 46
    • 2.7 Disasters Ascribed to Thunderstorm (1977–2002) 48
    • 2.8 Disasters Ascribed to Squall (1977–2002) 51
    • 2.9 Disasters Ascribed to Dust Storm (1977–2002) 53
    • 2.10 Disasters Ascribed to Heat Wave (1977–2002) 55
    • 2.11 Disasters Ascribed to Cloudburst (1977–2002) 59
    • 2.12 Disasters Ascribed to Gale (1977–2002) 59
    • 2.13 Disasters Ascribed to Cyclone (1977–2002) 61
    • 2.14 Disasters Ascribed to Heavy Rain (1977–2002) 67
    • 2.15 Disasters Ascribed to Flood (1977–2002) 71
    • 2.16 Disasters Ascribed to Flash Flood (1977–2002) 72
    • 2.17 Disasters Ascribed to Drought (1977–2002) 75
    • 2.18 Disasters Ascribed to Earthquake (1977–2002) 80
    • 2.19 Spatial Spread of Disastrous Occurrence (1977–2002) 81
    • 3.1 Traditional Approach to Disasters 92
    • 3.2 Vedic Conceptualization of Natural Disasters 97
    • 4.1 Separating Natural from Human Disasters 123
    • 5.1 Collective Apathy Towards Disaster 157
    • 5.2 Dominant Paradigm: Blaming and Framing Nature 160
    • 5.3 Time of Occurrence of Earthquake (1903–2002) 170
    • 5.4 Intensity/Magnitude Scales for Measuring the Naturals 171
    • 5.5 Language Condemning the Natural 176
    • 6.1 Recognition to Disasters (1990–2006) 185
    • 7.1 Identifying the Vulnerable 200
    • 7.2 The Concept 202
    • 8.1 Web of Vulnerability 238

    List of Images

    • 1.1 Disasterscape as a Commodity 6
    • 1.2 Aftermath of Heavy Rainfall 17
    • 1.3 India: Ranking High on Disasters 18
    • 1.4 Trekking for Water during Drought 20
    • 2.1 Snowfall 37
    • 2.2 Cold Wave 40
    • 2.3 Hailstorm 44
    • 2.4 Lightning 48
    • 2.5 Thunderstorm 49
    • 2.6 Squall 51
    • 2.7 Dust Storm 53
    • 2.8 Heat Wave 56
    • 2.9 Cloudburst 58
    • 2.10 Gale 61
    • 2.11 Cyclone 63
    • 2.12 Heavy Rain 66
    • 2.13 Flood 69
    • 2.14 Flash Flood 72
    • 2.15 Drought 74
    • 2.16 Earthquake 78
    • 3.1 Controlling Floods in the Descent of the Ganga 99
    • 3.2 Curbing the Earthquake Caused by Ravana at Mount Kailasa 100
    • 3.3 Krishna Swallows the Wildfire at Vrindavan 102
    • 3.4 Earthquake Caused by Vasuki Nag that Supports the Earth 103
    • 3.5 Varahamir Causes Earthquakes as He Lifts Earth from the Sea 104
    • 3.6 Krishna Uses Mount Govardhana as an Umbrella to Heavy Rain 111
    • 3.7 Kali, the Protector and Destroyer of Disasters 113
    • 3.8 Pleasing the Rain Gods 118
    • 5.1 Tri-forces Restoring Order 174

    List of Maps

    • 2.1 Disasterscape Ascribed to Snowfall (1977–2002) 39
    • 2.2 Disasterscape Ascribed to Cold Wave (1977–2002) 41
    • 2.3 Disasterscape Ascribed to Hail Storm (1977–2002) 45
    • 2.4 Disasterscape Ascribed to Lightning (1977–2002) 47
    • 2.5 Disasterscape Ascribed to Thunderstorm (1977–2002) 50
    • 2.6 Disasterscape Ascribed to Squall (1977–2002) 52
    • 2.7 Disasterscape Ascribed to Dust Storm (1977–2002) 54
    • 2.8 Disasterscape Ascribed to Heat Wave (1977–2002) 57
    • 2.9 Disasterscape Ascribed to Cloudburst (1977–2002) 60
    • 2.10 Disasterscape Ascribed to Gale (1977–2002) 62
    • 2.11 Disasterscape Ascribed to Cyclone (1977–2002) 64
    • 2.12 Disasterscape Ascribed to Heavy Rain (1977–2002) 68
    • 2.13 Disasterscape Ascribed to Flood (1977–2002) 70
    • 2.14 Disasterscape Ascribed to Flash Flood (1977–2002) 73
    • 2.15 Disasterscape Ascribed to Drought (1977–2002) 76
    • 2.16 Drought Prone Areas: Identified by Seven Committees 77
    • 2.17 Disasterscape Ascribed to Earthquake (1977–2002) 79
    • 2.18 Disasters Ascribed to a Variety of Geophysicals (1977–2002) 82
    • 2.19 Disasters Ascribed to 16 Geophysicals 85
    • 2.20 The Killed (1977–2002) 87
    • 5.1 Forecasting the ‘Natural’ 162
    • 5.2 Institutions for Research on ‘Natural’ Disasters 164
    • 5.3 Building a False Impression: Isoseismals around Epicentre of Earthquake 173
    • 5.4 Tragedy of Unawareness (1903–2002) 178
    • 5.5 Redrawing Seismic Zones 179
    • 7.1 Disadvantaged People (2001) 207
    • 7.2 Fragile Living (2001) 211
    • 7.3 Lacking Services (2001) 214
    • 7.4 Vulnerable India (2001) 216
    • 7.5 Dominant Component of Vulnerability (2001) 218
    • 7.6 Vulnerability Clusters (2001) 219
    • 7.7 Vulnerable Population (2001) 222
    • 7.8 Dominant Indicators of Vulnerable Population (2001) 223


    A foreword to a book is both an invitation as well as an initiation. An invitation to imbibe the thoughts expressed. An initiation into the theme expounded upon by the author. Forewords are meant to be the handiwork of eminent scholars and celebrities. They are expected to hold and share their distilled wisdom about the core message of the work. So it is with a mix of awe and wonder that I question my being rendered the honour of being asked to pen the foreword of this book. Why me? The mind wanders to a time-space location, where it all began. The date: 27 January 2002; the venue: India Habitat Centre, New Delhi; the occasion: a celebration of Anu's book, Voice of Concern. The treatise, a profound and proactive exploration of Indian geography, a product of rigorous research, moved me enough to confess that should I ever pursue a second doctorate, it would be under the supervision of Dr Anu Kapur. The impact of her calibre and courage was so powerful that I subsequently felt tempted to suggest that she should write a book on sustainable India. This was a personal dream I was unable to actualize. Her response, though not in negative, was nevertheless categorical: ‘That would be a travesty of reality. The emerging scenario is indicative of a vulnerable India. Things will not change till a collective, humane and committed psyche takes birth in the country.’

    Such clarity regarding the state of affairs in India is also reflected and rooted in her previous publications like Paradise in Peril, Disasters in India, On Disasters in India and ‘Insensitive India’. When awarded the prestigious Fellowship at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, she found an opportunity to actualize her conviction. The outcome is the present book Vulnerable India: A Geographical Study of Disasters.

    In the world of literature, Vulnerable India has come at a time when there are many books glorifying India. Among others are titles such as ‘Eternal India’, ‘Emerging India’, ‘Incredible India’, ‘Innovative India’, ‘Superhit India’, ‘Timeless India’, etc. These celebrate India in the context of its history and culture, the eminence it has acquired in management of multiculturism, the sustenance of its democracy, the niche it has carved in the field of information technology and the natural diversity its different regions carry. Likewise, India Unbound is a eulogy to its transition from a state-controlled economy to a market-driven system. More often than not such crisp and pithy titles are intended to brand India in a bright light.

    This book strikes a different chord. It belongs to a different genre. Rooted in deep sensitivity, it expresses a profound concern for the disasters that visit India as their regular destination. Embedded in vulnerability, which characterizes various parts of the country, these disasters have remained unattended. Vulnerability, that is susceptibility to a hazardous situation and feeble capacity to resile, has been viewed here as manifest in the marginalization of a large section of society, their fragile living and lack of access to basic services. An individual or collective conglomeration of such parameters produces vulnerable spaces.

    The reference points of vulnerability differ between the developed and developing countries. While the former group links vulnerability to factors defining the standard of living, state of infrastructure and access to services, for the latter group it is the very issue of survival, linked to the question of security of livelihood, food, housing and health, which comes into prominence. Within each group of countries, there are cultural contours that refine the meaning of vulnerability. This could be gender suppression in one case and ethnic discrimination in the other. Vulnerability is a new pathology that combines deprivation and poverty in varying proportions. This makes a search for location-specific expression of vulnerability as imperative.

    Perspectives on vulnerability have evolved over time. For long, it referred to biophysical conditions. A great concern was felt for the adverse impact that physical phenomena like earthquake, cyclone, flood or drought left on human habitations and livelihoods. Global warming and climate change are today seen as threats that render the earth vulnerable. An offshoot of this perspective was a demographic view that focused on the vulnerability of people living in locations prone to hazards, such as seismic zones, floodplains or coastal belts. This brought in the role of technology in management of vulnerable localities or regions. Irrigation against drought or dams across the river for flood control was seen as a possible solution. Soon it came to be realized that such techno-interventions were counterproductive. Irrigated lands become vulnerable to waterlogging while the damming of rivers initiated a process of desiccation. A new perspective emerged with growing popularity of the political economy as an analytical tool. This framework highlighted the way economic deprivation or social marginalization or political exclusion or administrative neglect contributes to the vulnerability of a large section of society. Finally, an ethnic perspective identified certain social groups or communities as most vulnerable, thus deserving of an affirmative action.

    The book Vulnerable India encapsulates all these perspectives on the theme and establishes an impressive liaison with contemporary thinking. The central message of the book is clear—it is not natural phenomena but infirmities of institutional functioning, psychological fixations and political apathy that facilitate disasters penetrating through vulnerability. Ironically, the development process, which is expected to take care of vulnerability and preempt disasters, is itself a generator of both, if pursued in conflict with nature.

    The book flows under three successive banners, ‘Fact’, ‘Response’ and ‘Reality’. The ‘fact’ is expounded through a graphic description of India's disasterscape, a term coined for the first time in scientific literature. This embodies a convincing narrative based on interweaving of complex information. The ‘response’ is identified through a systematic perusal and distillation of literature dealing with the understanding of and response to disasters in traditional, colonial and post-independence India, with a special focus on the post-globalization phase. The author's command over both fact and source is remarkable. The reality is projected through an analysis of data representing vulnerable India, differentiated within not only by regions but also in terms of caste, gender, age and deprivation. Over one-half of India's population was discovered as critically vulnerable while the people below the poverty line are said to be one-fourth of the total. This testifies that many among those who are officially not poor fall within the orbit of vulnerability. Backed by imaginative graphics the text is peppered with many such thought provoking observations and insights.

    Content apart, the book scores in terms of methodology and writing style as well. Consistency is the hallmark of the book's methodology. Also apparent is a tenacity—a tenacity to get to the root of the matter; a tenacity to ferret out all possible information, and a tenacity to put the message across in the most novel manner possible. Nowhere else does one find data generated for sixteen geophysicals and their defining parameters of occurrence, frequency and killings covering all the 593 districts of India for as many as twenty-six years. The fact and the intended message flow together; words are brisk and infused with vigour. The book is as engrossing as any work of fiction.

    The book will re-shape prevalent views on the genesis of disasters. Accomplished with commitment and compassion, this treatise has been, in the author's own words, created in the spirit of ‘carrying a cross’. I view it in addition as a labour of love most diligently discharged. It reflects the caring attitude of an activist academician who is motivated to pick and do full justice to themes that are most relevant to the common good. Indeed, it is through such efforts at acknowledging and responding to our vulnerabilities that the nation will emerge equal, safe and secure.

    GopalKrishanProfessor Emeritus, University of Punjab


    Carrying a Cross …

    Each person carries his own cross. But along the way arrive people, energy and institutions to help ease the responsibility. Nowhere is this more apt than in the arena of research. The need to hone a nagging set of ideas, the desire to delve deeper into the causes of phenomena, the longing to contribute in some small way to the betterment of this world is a cross each academician carries. Foremost has been the Fellowship at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla—the very being of the Institute throbs with an invitation to do research. The historicity of the place, its architectural grandeur and aesthetic ambience are no doubt significant contributors. The true pillars are however the academicia and renowned thinkers who visit the place and lend their thoughts and ideas with humble ease to learn and follow on. They remind and cajole one to think about our nation, India. For India is at a crossroad. It is vulnerable.

    Among a host of events and processes, a spectre of disasters is what India is vulnerable to. Here is a snapshot—of India's 3.29 million kilometre square area, half is prone to moderate to severe seismic activity. Of the earthquakes that have disturbed her structural foundation in the last 100 years, seventeen have been above 6.0 on the Richter scale. Three out of six tropical cyclones, which form in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, hit the 7800-kilometre long coastline, affecting the lives and livelihood of the people. One-third of India's area is prone to severe floods and droughts. Landslides, heat waves, thunderstorms, floods and a string of other disasters also make their presence felt. These natural disasters are exacerbated by purely human characteristics such as a weak infrastructure, corrupt leadership and a complacent civil society. The super cyclone, which hit the eastern coast of India in October 1999, killed 10,000 people, affected fifteen million and rendered six million without any livelihood for survival. The earthquake, which struck Gujarat in January 2001, took a toll of 20,000 and injured over 10,000 people while affecting countless millions. While the omnibus disaster situation in India worsens, relief agencies, media and even the state bureaucracy continue to treat each disaster as an isolated event—an act of nature. As a battery of emergency responses, mainly of humanitarian assistance, unfurls aid, disasters are attributed to the cyclone, earthquake, flood, drought, landslide or whichever be the hazard of nature. Nature is blamed and branded as the enemy, while true responsibility is abducted.

    Humanitarian aid, though extremely valuable, treats the symptom rather than the root cause for the disaster. Little is it realized that this planet is restless—air, land and water are always on the move, at times gently and at others with violence. This is the temperament of nature; it can barely be predicted and rarely be controlled. However, in India it is easy for most people including policy makers to envisage a state of affairs in physical terms—to do so is similar to painting over the place where water comes in without attending to reasons for its ingress. After all, living and constructing on the flood-prone sites, steep slopes or building incompatible structures and practising faulty land use is not the fault of nature.

    This research confirms that there are many a ways in which natural disasters are viewed. For the traditionalists and religious (viewpoints), it is the immoral acts of humans that invite the spate of disasters. The evolution of the idea of a ‘natural’ disaster contextualized within the physical laws of the earth has its genesis in the Western scientific temper. They couriered the view, and India, through the years, used it as a shield to do anything meaningful for the worsening situation of disasters. For those at the helm of affairs of India, be it the administrators, media personnel, academicians or the judiciary, disasters are given only lip service. Carrying seventy-eight tables, thirty-three maps and forty figures, based on data never before archived and analyzed this 250-page book describes India's disasterscape and reveals that it is a vulnerable India that gives the natural permission to create disasters.

    It has been an overwhelming experience to pen this book. As I combed my way through the veritable storehouse of books and journals which the IIAS offers on history, philosophy, art, literature, sociology and my own discipline, geography, I learnt that there is no one way to look at or understand the dimension of vulnerability in India. There are many mirrors and one has to find oneself as best as possible.

    The fellows and staff at the Institute have been the backbone of my two and a half years at Shimla. Among them, Dr Karuna Goswami, Professor Pavitra Ray, Dr Bettina Baurmer and Navjyoti Singh were intellectual and social anchors. They became family and will remain dear friends. I wrote this book in the building of the IIAS called the ‘Public Entry’. The patio of my study held a breathtaking view of the Himalayas. It was an ideal niche to read, think and write. I miss those days as each day goes by.

    The staff at the Ratan Tata Library, University of Delhi, was exceptionally cooperative. They dug out the reports and searched for the books and journals I wanted with efficiency and kindness. The quiet and aesthetic ambience of the Resource Library, India Habitat Centre, Delhi, was ideal to rework on the drafts. The staff was very helpful. A duty performed with a smile becomes a service. I remain in debt to one and all.

    Unbelievable support was provided by my research students Neeti and Meeta. As they learnt to apply their mind, their assistance to me turned virtually into dependence. This book owes a lot to the care and support of their families. Back home in Delhi were also my doctorate students Atul and Anuradha who left no stone unturned to provide me the requisite data and help. Most kind was my student Shabana who rescued my work and left to pursue her doctorate at New Zealand only after it was out of the woods. Adding all the finalities and finesse is Punam. Though she joined me in the latter leg, yet her many inputs were like life savers to the book. All my students not only assisted and cheered me but taught me in ways that only students can.

    I have special feeling of gratitude towards the then Director, Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, Professor Bhuvan Chandel. By letting me ‘be’ she gave me the space to contemplate and write. That indeed is a rare opportunity. Professor Peter Ronald deSouza, present Director of the Institute has been amazing. It is hard to express in words the forms of support he provided in seeing the publication of this book out with SAGE. A Vulnerable India deserves no less.

    The team at SAGE, especially Rekha and Jayashree, kept me afloat even when they drowned me with queries and checks. Both Sushmita Banerjee and Shweta Tewari provided important editorial inputs, for which I am thankful.

    I thank my alma mater University of Delhi for granting me leave to pursue this research. My colleagues at the Department of Geography, Delhi School of Economics, were most considerate and ever so willing to shoulder any responsibility I had to leave behind.

    Most patient have been Rishi, Pooja and Sumitha. Their eyes carefully sifted and put the spellings, tense and grammar in place which ran astray as ideas were being worked on and written.

    I remain grateful to Professor Gopal Krishan. He has taken time out of his busy schedule to pen a foreword. His role in much of the research I do, ranges from being overly critical to deeply appreciative. As I am often left in the docks to figure this out, I have learnt to swim across both the calm and turbulent sea of a geographical research. I owe him special thanks. My parents have been the inspiration. By living in awareness of the precarious lives of people in India, they instilled in me the need to be compassionate and concerned for the vulnerable. It is through them that I gained the resilience to weather any and many a vulnerable patch that could have turned the writing of this book into a disaster.

    As I switch my laptop off and mail the final proof to the publisher, I look back at India in the last five years. And the one and only fact that comes to memory is the many-many who were killed in disasters. In the tsunami of 26th December 2004, 12,405 were killed. The Mumbai floods of August 2005 and the Kosi floods in Bihar the same year took a toll of about a 1000 each. The terrorist attacks in the local trains of Mumbai on 11th July 2005 killed 209 people. In 2008, terrorists attacked Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi, collectively killing another 150. Leafed in between were riots, fires, landslides, bridges caving in, train accidents, building collapses and much more. There were the killed, injured, affected. There were those who wailed and screamed, and others who mutely mourned. Sadness has no boundaries. It took in the old and young, the men and women, the rich and poor all alike. There was just no stopping. Terrorists visited Mumbai again on 26th November of the same year, taking a toll of 212. It is a vulnerable India.

    The research penned in this book is far from complete or anywhere near perfection. In a sense, it is a draft of my ideas. The dimension and scale of vulnerability in India raises more doubts, asks more questions and tells me that much more needs to be done. Like life, it is a lifetime's cross, and like other facets it might take a lifetime to cross.

  • Appendices

    Appendix 1

    Appendix 2

    Micro-Regional Division

    Appendix 3

    Table A.3: Missed Opportunity to Teach and Learn about Disasters: Schools to Colleges and Universities

    Appendix 4

    Table A.4: Theme of ‘Disasters’ Missing from the Syllabi of the Central Board of Secondary School Education, India

    Appendix 5

    Table A.5: Courses on Disaster Management in Institutes of India


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    Image Credits

    • 1.1 Disasterscape as a Commodity. Courtesy Bhagat Khanna
    • 1.2 Aftermath of Heavy Rains. Courtesy Rimi Goswami
    • 1.3 India: Ranking High on Disasters. Courtesy Bhagat Khanna
    • 1.4 Trekking for Water During Drought. Courtesy Rahul Sharma/Indiapictures
    • 2.1 Snowfall. Courtesy Tripti Surana
    • 2.2 Cold Wave. Courtesy Mehraj Mir
    • 2.3 Hailstorm. Courtesy Jame Love/NOAA
    • 2.4 Lightning. Courtesy Joseph Orban
    • 2.5 Thunderstorm. Courtesy Matt Ballard
    • 2.6 Squall. Courtesy Joseph Orban
    • 2.7 Dust Storm. Courtesy Tris
    • 2.8 Heat Wave. Courtesy Punam Tripathi
    • 2.9 Cloudburst. Courtesy Alex M. Sielicki
    • 2.10 Gale. Courtesy Ken Douglas
    • 2.11 Cyclone. Courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
    • 2.12 Heavy Rain. Courtesy South Indiapictures
    • 2.13 Flood. Courtesy Rajeev Thakur/Indiapictures
    • 2.14 Flash Flood. Courtesy Rimi Goswami
    • 2.15 Drought. Courtesy Dirk H. R. Spennemann
    • 2.16 Earthquake. Courtesy Roshni Devi
    • 3.1 The Descent of the Ganga. Courtesy Pavitra Roy
    • 3.2 Ravana at Mount Kailasa. Courtesy Pavitra Roy
    • 3.3 Wildfire at Vrindavan. Courtesy Pavitra Roy
    • 3.4 Vasuki Nag Supported by Visnu. Courtesy Pavitra Roy
    • 3.5 Visnu Lifts Earth from the Sea. Courtesy Pavitra Roy
    • 3.6 Krishna Uses Mount Govardhana as an Umbrella to Heavy Rain. Courtesy Pavitra Roy
    • 3.7 Kali, the Protector and Destroyer of Disasters. Courtesy Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Indian Art Special Purpose Fund
    • 3.8 Pleasing the Rain Gods. Courtesy
    • 5.1 Tri-forces Restoring Order. Courtesy Bhagat Khanna

    About the Author

    Anu Kapur is Associate Professor of Geography, Delhi School of Economics and a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (2003–06). Her recent books are Disasters in India: Studies of Grim Reality and On Disasters in India.

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