With You, Japan

Posted on March 14, 2011 | View 562

But more than sentiment, that country needs non-debt capital for rebuilding.

Our heart goes out to Japan, as the country grapples with the aftermath of terrible earthquakes, the original gigantic one and its aftershocks, and a three-storey high tsunami.

But, as pictures unfold of buildings, ships, trains and hordes of cars being tossed and turned as so much flotsam and fiery jetsam on a swell of nature’s fury, our rational selves cannot but bow down in admiration for the systems and organisation in that country, which have successfully contained loss of human life at a few thousand.

The tsunami toll in 2004, in contrast, had been 10,000 in India alone and 2,00,000 in the mostly developing countries that were ravaged then. This just goes to show the scope for planned, institutional preparation to minimise and mitigate the impact of natural calamities when they occur.

At the very heart of effective preparedness to manage and mitigate disasters is conscious, coherent social acceptance of the discipline that is required to swiftly move tens of thousands of people out of danger zones and to nurture their existence in temporary shelters till they can return to their normal lives.

Reports that buoys deployed offshore as part of India’s early warning system on tsunamis have been destroyed by fishermen in order to raid their innards for metals and machinery offer a sad commentary on the evolution of our people into citizens with interdependent rights and duties.

While the technological fixes — for which committees of legislators and technocrats will, no doubt, traverse the globe — can be procured, hopefully without a scam, the social coherence that is required to make them work cannot be achieved through sectarian mobilisation, our politics’ mainstay.

How can India help Japan rebuild itself ? Advanced nations, research suggests, often use natural calamities to replace outdated, legacy infrastructure with modern, more efficient systems, making for faster growth. But debt-ridden Japan can do without yet more borrowed finance. Can a part of the global surpluses badly in need of recycling be redeployed as grants and risk capital for the reconstruction Japan needs? New Delhi should, probably, put this on the G20 agenda at the earliest.

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