In Kumarganj block of South Dinajpur district, West Bengal, while giving a training on disaster management to the government officials and local elected representatives of the block, during the discussion on relief management, an interesting issue came up. The issue raised was how to ensure damage and needs assessments are realistic and point towards immediate steps that need to be taken for relief in periods immediately after a disaster, with minimum coloring of political or other sectoral manipulation. The officers in Kumarganj said, "The current system of engaging the same group of people for assessment and response, although they may not be personally the same, but come from the same category, is equal to a examinee correcting his own paper, with no reference to any question or answer at the time of correction! The suggestion is, therefore, segregate the officers doing the assessment from those who give the relief." It can be done in two ways: (a) Let relief be given by the elected representatives with minimum supervision by the administration. But all damage and need assessment must be done by the executive staff only. No elected representatives or political class in it. (b) To strengthen the system further let executive officers from outside the affected area or specially designated persons with appropriate knowledge and skills at the state and district level be entrusted with the task of assessment and the local executive and political class take care of relief distribution. This would minimize the controversies surrounding too much demand for too little relief.
Does someone have any data on, actually what percentage of tarpaulins out of those distributed have been used for setting up temporary shelters ? All such critical data will help re-plan emergency response strategies. Are some of our relief materials really feeding into the "wants" of people rather than "needs of people?