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Pathways to Permanence: Need for a strong disaster resilient housing policy



Lakhisarai: A view of the flood-affected Lakhisarai, Bihar on Oct 3, 2019. (Photo: IANS)

flash floods and earthquakes The displacement of communities on account of natural calamities like rain-triggered floods has assumed catastrophic proportions in ecologically sensitive zones (ECZs) across the country.

Rehabilitating displaced communities and restoring normalcy in their life is of paramount importance in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Safe, decent shelter provides the platform upon which much of post-disaster assistance is built: health, water, sanitation, livelihoods, safety, education and so on. The need of the hour is to build nation-wide ‘pathways to permanence’ focused on placing the disaster-affected families on a path to durable, permanent and sustainable disaster resilient shelter solutions.

While responding to natural disasters, a phase-wise disaster management approach is required as there are multiple pathways toward permanent, durable shelter. In the initial phase of ensuring immediate relief, government agencies like the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) provide the first level of on-ground rescue and relief operations. The nodal agency responsible for disaster management operations in the country helps in the provision of essential supplies and basic necessities like food, water, medicines and clothes. NDMA also plays an instrumental role in setting up relief camps and emergency community dwellings for ensuring safety and security of families and prevention of any outbreak of diseases. NGOs also support the rescue and relief operations through the provision of humanitarian aid kits, clothing, clean water, hygiene material and other essentials.

In phase two of the relief effort, relief agencies like NGOs and grassroots-level local self-governance bodies like Gram Panchayats are involved in setting up transitional shelters to support the displaced families. In the final phase of development work, leading disaster response organizations undertake home repairs, core house construction, disaster mitigation training at the community level to help families rebuild their lives.

There is a need to constitute a Rapid Response Disaster Financial Pledge – a financial commitment required to support a disaster response initiative. The seed capital for the pledge can be provided by the government. Socially responsible corporates can come forward and pledge a part of their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) spend towards the fund.

The startup fraternity in the country also needs to be increasingly engaged in helping displaced communities through technological support. The emphasis should be on gathering real time data, building prefabricated, sustainable and cost effective shelters and sanitation units. The government should come up with schemes to incentivize such startups to formulate innovative housing solutions for disaster-affected populations.

In any disaster situation, families and communities should not be viewed as victims of a disaster, but as partners in their redevelopment process. Interventions in either a development or disaster response setting are more successful when the affected population participates in the decision-making process. During the flash floods in 2018 that affected millions of families in Kerala, the participation of the government, local authorities and the community played a vital role in rebuilding the lives of people. Key agencies like urban local bodies, corporates and NGOs complimented in the state disaster providing relief to millions of families affected by the floods.

The term Pathways to Permanence refers to the process of reducing vulnerability and supporting disaster-affected families and communities using holistic program interventions that enable incremental progress toward the achievement of permanent, durable shelter and settlements. Government agencies, non-govermental organisations (NGOs), the corporate sector and the community have a crucial role to play in disaster response.

(Rajan Samuel is managing director, Habitat for Humanity India. The views expressed are personal)

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Rahul Gandhi returning to lead Congress again?




scindia rahul gandhi priyanka gandhi

New Delhi/Wayanad (Kerala), Dec 6 : Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi is all set to return to lead the party and is likely to take over after the Delhi assembly polls early next year. A hint to this effect was dropped by Congress General Secretary, Organisation, K.C. Venugopal who said that country wants his leadership more now.

Venugopal, who is accompanying Gandhi to his Kerala constituency Wayanad, told reporters: “The nation is going through a critical phase… The party needs his leadership and there is loud chorus from the workers to bring him again and we hope he will listen to them.”

A Congress session is scheduled in the next few months to ratify the appointment of interim President Sonia Gandhi. A source said that in the same meet, a chorus will grow to bring again Rahul Gandhi as planned by young leaders in the party.

Rahul Gandhi’s elevation to the party organisation was first demanded at the AICC’s Hyderabad session in 2006 where workers from UP raised slogans in his favour and he was made party General Secretary in 2007. After that, the demand to make him Vice President was raised at the brainstorming session in Jaipur in 2013.

He was elected President unopposed in 2017 after demand from different quarters of the party, but during the 2019 General Elections, the party was routed under his leadership and he resigned in May taking the responsibility of poll debacle and did not budge to the party’s repeated requests to reconsider. In August, Sonia Gandhi was appointed interim party chief.

Though he may not be the party chief, but Rahul Gandhi’s decisions are evident within the party’s decisions as evinced by appointment of Nitin Raut as minister in the Shiv Sena-Congress-Nationalist Congress Party coalition government in Maharashtra and of Nana Patole as the Assembly Speaker.

The party is finalising a venue for the AICC session, which could be held in the Congress-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan in January and February, a source said.


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RBI holding repo rate bodes well for savings: Economists




Reserve Bank of India RBI

New Delhi, Dec 6 : Even as many see the RBI’s pause on repo rate as a setback for the growth, some economists argue that any further cut could have affected households savings which have already seen a decline in recent times.

“Reduction in interest rate will work negatively. The interest rate is like a double-edged sword. It will have an impact on savings and it will have an impact on investments. We know very clearly that it does not have much impact on investments. Now, what is it doing? It is basically hampering the savings,” said N.R. Bhanumurthy of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP).

He also said that monetary policy is not just about interest rates.

“There are many things which monetary policy does. It can ensure that credit flow is better and the banking sector is in good shape. They can create money supply. So, it can do many things. They have to now see how savings could be improved,” the NIPFP professor said.

M. Govinda Rao, Chief Economic Advisor, Brickwork Ratings, said that transmission of the reduction in the policy (repo rate) requires the lending rates to fall. Further, that would also require the deposit rates to fall, which could result in reduced saving by households.

“When the inflation rate is perking up, if the banks also reduce the deposit rates, the rate of return on savings will decline which could not only reduce the incentive to save but also can hurt the elderly who maintain themselves from the interest income,” he said.

As per Economic Survey of FY19, gross savings fell nearly 60 basis points as a share of GDP in two years to 30.5 per cent in 2017-18. Household savings led the decline as its share contracted from as high as 23.6 per cent of GDP in 2011-12 to 17.2 per cent of GDP in 2017-18.

“The household sector savings declined from 23.6 per cent of GDP in 2011-12 to 17.2 per cent in 2017-18 and its net financial savings and a ratio of GDP declined from 7.2 per cent to 6.5 per cent during the same period. Thus, besides inflationary expectations, ensuring adequate real rate of return on the savings could be an objective of keeping the repo rate constant,” Govinda Rao said.

As against market expectations of a rate cut, the RBI on Thursday maintained the policy repo rate at 5.15 per cent. With this, the reverse repo rate also stands unchanged at 4.9 per cent. The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) was unanimous in its decision to maintain status quo on both rates and ‘accommodative’ stance.

(Nirbhay Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])

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Immediately probe the encounter: Legal experts




Hyderabad Murder Encounter

New Delhi, Dec 6 : Legal experts say as per the law a probe should be immediately set up into the mysterious encounter of the four accused in the rape and murder of a Hyderabad-based veterinarian.

“The rule of law should prevail in the country, there should be an immediate inquiry into the encounter of the accused,” said senior advocate Vikas Singh, former President of Supreme Court Bar Association.

A week after the brutal gang rape and murder of the young veterinarian in Hyderabad, police shot dead all the four accused in an alleged ‘encounter’ near Shadnagar town.

The accused were killed in the early hours of Friday when they allegedly snatched weapons from the police and tried to escape from Chatanpally near Shadnagar, about 50 kms from Hyderabad.

Singh emphasised that there should be balance between justice delivery system and human rights of the citizens. “The authorities should immediately begin an inquiry into this encounter, and this probe should be completed as soon as possible. The authorities should ascertain whether it was a genuine encounter or it was stage managed by the police,” added Singh.

The four accused killed in the encounter were identified as lorry drivers Mohammed Arif (26) and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu (20), and lorry cleaners Jollu Shiva (20) and Jollu Naveen (20). All hailed from the Narayanpet district of Telangana.

Senior advocate Puneet Mittal said that there should immediately be a judicial probe into the matter to unearth the real picture behind this mysterious encounter. “The probe should be on the factors that were behind this encounter. The families of the accused could also move the court seeking inquiry into the matter,” added Mittal.

Senior advocate Sanjay Parekh said according to the law the encounter should be looked into as killings. “As per law, a case should be registered against the police officials involved in the alleged encounter followed by a probe,” said Parekh.

He also insisted that usually the action of the police officials claiming self defence comes into the picture at the stage of the trial, but at this stage of the case there should be a probe immediately to verify the encounter.

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