May 3 2019. The Indian state of Odisha’s coastal belt was at the receiving end of nature’s wrath when Cyclone Fani, one of the biggest, rarest of the rare summer cyclone in the Bay of Bengal wreaked havoc, blew off roofs, damaged power lines and uprooted countless trees in Puri, the nerve centre of Odisha- Bhubaneswar and Cuttack affecting 14 districts of Odisha. Storm surges and powerful winds reaching 125mph- 140mph broke the anemometer after measuring 240 km/hr in Puri. Despite being a powerful category four cyclone and coming to notice at a later stage, the Odisha government carried out mammoth evacuation exercise 2 days before the landfall.
Odisha has been successful in keeping the loss of life and numbers of affected people to a minimum. This is the result of a very effective strategy of disaster preparation and quick response under the leadership of Shri Naveen Patnaik. The lessons from 1999 became the blueprint for action to face such super cyclones. KIIT & KISS faced a massive loss of infrastructure, but all the students and staff were safe, and in less than 24 hours, life was back to track with power back, thanks to the resilient spirit of our staff. KIIT and KISS family was involved in relief work post Fani.
Fast forward to May 3 2020. One word grapples all minds – Coronavirus. The lessons from cyclones and natural disasters have made Odisha prepared to take on any challenge head-on. 5T became ethos behind Odisha fighting back.
Teamwork: Whether it was Fani or the current crisis, there has been a seamless integration of political leaders and permanent executive, civil society, corporate and all official heads in Government. The moment crisis appears accountability and responsibility are fixed on officers and is led from the front.
Technology: Technology has been the key to handle any crisis. During Fani, despite the loss of towers, the police started clearing of roads and stayed in contact with nerve centres with VHF. Even during Corona, the technology has been bolstering lockdown efforts, surveillance, self-quarantine of returnees, passes to travelers for essential services, registration through portals.
Transparency: Roughly 2.6m text messages were sent to locals in a clear language before cyclone Fani hit, keeping those potentially affected alert. Regular press briefings were made by officials to update people of the approaching cyclone. People were repeatedly advised over all forms of media not to panic and given clear “do and don’ts”. Similarly, the information has been very transparent. There are press briefings every day, and a spokesperson has been appointed for the same.
Time leading: Odisha has been on the firsts for many innovative measures. During Fani, an effective evacuation was on time. Restoration, relief and rehabilitation were delivered on time. During the ongoing crisis, Odisha is the first state to establish dedicated COVID hospitals run by professional hospitals. It is the first state to have dedicated COVID hospitals in all its districts. Odisha is also the first and only state to offer a four-month salary ahead of all health workers. It is the only state to offer a first four-month pension to seniors, healthcare students, four months of pre-service students and the right to receive a three-month PDS grant from government beneficiaries.
Transformation: The above four factors usher in transformation. Every measure in Odisha has kept People’s first. An empowered Odisha where poverty would be a thing of the past, where women are equal partners in growth and development, a state that is inclusive of all vulnerable sections in its landscape of development, and where the ambitions of youth come true is his brave new dream. Odisha has arrived, whether Fani or Coronacrisis.