Book review: Amita Singh, Disaster Law: Emerging Thresholds

AuthorNirmal Kanti Chakrabarti
Publication Date01 December 2019
Date01 December 2019
SubjectBook Reviews
Book Reviews
Amita Singh, Disaster Law: Emerging Thresholds. Routledge India-South
Asia Edition, 2018, 389 pp., `1,295 (Hardbound). ISBN-10 1138036439.
The book Disaster Law: Emerging Thresholds, edited by Amita Singh is a refresh-
ing and path-breaking new addition to the social science perspective of disaster
research in the Asian region. Some of the leading scholars on governance, law,
politics and sociology have come together to generate a set of ideas which have
gone less noticed in disaster management studies due to the hegemonic control of
disaster management by ‘hazard-based’ research carried out in science institutions
only. It unequivocally captures the spirit of Hyogo Declaration (2005–2015) and
insists on understanding the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction
(2015–2030). The book is a passionate appeal to lawmakers to move beyond
environmental laws and identify human hand in turning non-compliance to envi-
ronmental laws into devastating disasters. It moves beyond the benign repetitive
idea of human greed to the active participation of decision-makers in culpable
homicide and generational slaughter.
The book highlights the changing pedagogy of disaster management since
the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) which emphasised and focused upon
building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters in complete
contrast to the previous focus on rescue and rehabilitation. It can be termed as
a major break from the past because the institutions which managed disasters
were all science-based such as remote sensing, geospatial and meteorological
organisations. Their algorithmic data were transferred to the government agencies
with the expectation that these agencies would take action. Experience shows
that these agencies were always caught unaware, and calamities continued to
demolish life from vulnerable regions about which enough scientific data existed.
In the absence of a legal framework, no government agency was accountable
enough to act in the dutiful manner so much required before, during and after the
disaster. The inconceivable spectra of death, devastation and human helplessness
which tsunami brought not only provoked humanity to think beyond science
but also beyond partial individual rescue to a holistic community survivability.
This task of care, of being a team and of transcending mechanically fixed
boundaries of duties to a mission of building community resilience was not an
easy one. Legislative acts do not overnight transform a predatory system to a
compassionate community-driven set of administrative offices created by law.
This is where the book on disaster law becomes important. It germinates an
innovative perspective in which the inseparability of law and governance finds
Indian Journal of Public
65(4) 951–964, 2019
© 2019 IIPA
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0019556119882161

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