by Vinson Kurian
The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, GeoHazards International and GeoHazards Society (GHS), New Delhi, organised the ‘Annual Tibetan School Shake-Out' (earthquake drill) on Monday at the Tibetan schools along the Indian Himalayan region.
The drill is an event executed on April 4 annually from 2009 to commemorate the Kangra Earthquake of 1905 which killed over 19,000 people on the same date.
By a strange coincidence, the Indo-Nepal border witnessed an earthquake of a magnitude of 5.7 on the Richter scale at around 5 p.m. on Monday, only hours after the drill was over.
It brought back to focus the kind of threat that the Himalayan region, and by extension the entire north India, has to live with.
Experts have been warning that a mega quake with a magnitude exceeding 8 on the Richter scale is due any time along the Indian Himalayas. Meanwhile, a spokesman for GHS told Business Line that the drill is based on a scenario of earthquake happening near enough to affect the school.
At 11 a.m. on April 4, all students and staff of Tibetan schools in hazard-prone areas practise the ‘Drop, Cover and Hold' drill and then evacuate to a pre-decided safe location.
In 2009, over 10,000 students in Tibetan schools in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi and Meghalaya had taken part in the drill.
The next year saw students from Tibetan schools in Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal joining, taking the number of participants to 16,000.
The participating States this year included Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Sikkim, West Bengal and Meghalaya.
Sikkim, with two school entrants, is a new inclusion.
Approximately, 17,500 students and teachers have attended this year's drill, the spokesman said.
GHS believes that it is important to keep the memories of past disasters alive so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.
The Tibetan School Shakeout drill is a way of getting these schools started on their path to preparedness.
With the recent reminders of our exposure to hazards coming in from such prepared nations as New Zealand and Japan, it is imperative that we in India start taking swift steps towards preparedness.
Even though a night-time event affects the community more by affecting the response capabilities of the administration, it has been seen that in day-time disastrous events, the percentage of children dying/injured is much higher due to unsafe, unprepared schools.
The drill is an effort to bring back the focus on school safety and to ensure that the right to education now crystallises into a right to a safe education.