An examination of the natural disasters of India reveal a disturbing fact — many of these disasters could have been averted, or at least the scale and extent of damage could have been significantly controlled through adequate socio-political vigil. This fact has been highlighted in a recently-released book titled Vulnerable India - A Geographical Study of Disasters.
The author Anu Kapur, associate professor of geography, Delhi School of Economics and a former fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, presents a national-level analysis of disasters in the backdrop of the vulnerability of the Indian population. The book re-conceptualises the discourse on disaster and persuasively argues the necessity of examining socio-economic vulnerability in relation to geography.
According to Peter D’ Souza, director, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, the book marks perceptual changes in more than one direction. “Till now all written discourses in the domain of sociology followed a code of austerity. In other words, the language is somewhat sanitised and, hence, more often than not -politically correct. However, in this book a conscious attempt to refrain from political appropriateness is evident. The language is lucid yet gripping and reflects popular human sentiment and passions,” observes D’ Souza.
“The term vulnerable has been specifically and repeatedly coined to reiterate the myriad vulnerabilities faced by the nation from political establishments. The book is in fact a bold attempt to chronicle the specific failures of our democracy that have propelled natural disasters,” he adds. D’ Souza is of the view that this paradigm shift in language has been long felt in sociology. “Books on sociology have to successfully capture complex transformations of society and this is possible only if the language employed is contemporary and reflects the collective social psyche,” he opines.
This book will be a valuable resource for disaster research institutes and centres of disaster management studies. “It is an ideal reference material for students of disaster management, environment science, environmental sociology, geography, development studies and social work as the author has introduced new terms such as disasterscape, disaster index and vulnerability cluster. These terms shall open fresh ground for interdisciplinary studies and research to ascertain the actual causes that are responsible for the recurrence of natural disasters in our country,” says D’ Souza.