Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Event - MIST - Talk by Mr Gagandeep Singh

MIST Session By
Mr. Gagandeep Singh Bedi
Director Rural Development & Panchayati Raj
12th March, 2007

The MIST (Management Insights for Social Transformation) chapter of the Department of Management Studies held a talk by Mr. Gagandeep Singh Bedi Director Rural Development & Panchayati Raj. He shared his views on “Natural Disasters and Human Response for Socio-economic Development”. Mr. Bedi had strategized and implemented the entire relief program in Cuddalore as its District Collector.

On 26th December 2004, Tsunami waves, hit India for the first time wrecking havoc across the southern coastline. The Cuddalore shelf was the worst affected by the tsunami surge. Mr. Bedi coordinated the disaster relief and rehabilitation works to tsunami recovery and was awarded the best collector award by the Indian Red Cross Society in 2006 for his commendable work in the rescue and relief operations.

In 2006 he also achieved his vision of making Cuddalore, “The Model district of the State” with his 13 years of experience in DISASTER MANAGEMENT by various innovative and explorative initiatives.

The Cuddalore Model has been appreciated internationally. Mr. Clinton on visiting Tsunami affected regions in 2006 had remarked that “Florida can learn from Cuddalore”.

The talk focused on the entire gamut of relief operations carried out at Cuddalore. He expertly brought out the similarities between administrators and managers. Mr. Bedi focused on the various skills necessary for a manager by expertly quoting examples from his own field of action. He built on the various statistical figures by showing numerous pictures & practical insights.

Mr. Bedi stressed on the fact that getting help was never the problem. The challenge lay in distributing the resources. He cited examples from the Orissa Cyclone or the Kashmir Earthquake where the goods do not reach the victims. To make the process more efficient at Cuddalore a software system was used for material management.

He laid emphasis on the importance of building a rapport with people & accepting the culture. This may be the reason he was able to convince the people to bury the dead in a predominantly Hindu region. This enabled the administration to focus on other issues on hand.

Mr. Bedi brought up the fact that when one is in authority, one can use the power to get help from numerous sources. For e.g. Mr. Bedi had asked for Rs 1 crore relief fund help but was able to obtain a help of Rs 2 crores from the government. He also stressed that as long as one is apolitical in one’s views one need not worry about political pressure. He cited his own example saying that he had been the collector for 5 years which by itself is a record of sorts.

As Mr. Bedi is a telecommunications engineer, post tsunami various innovative measures like the Wireless Linked Public Address System have been implemented at Cuddalore. Through this system one can notify neighboring villagers regarding any cyclone warning.

He went on to describe the various stages of relief operations carried out at Cuddalore. The relief operations were divided in three stages

Immediate Relief
Temporary Relief & Rehab. Measures
Long term Relief.

The immediate relief operations focused on providing medical care, food & water to the survivors. The temporary measures included electricity supply (which was restored in 72 hours), temporary houses, temporary mobile network coverage (temporary towers were set up in a day) shallow hand pumps etc. The Long term relief measures covered building pucca houses, greening farmlands (The farmlands had been rendered useless by salt deposits), Buying of boats etc.

Various measures like introduction of counseling for women & children, building of children parks gave the whole project a human touch. Mr. Bedi readily admitted that certain schemes like the Help Line served a mere cosmetic purpose and were useful for attracting funds.

The talk was inspiring to the core. Mr. Bedi spoke with humility and ease. This person and his team had won international acclaim yet they remained down to earth and open to questions. The whole session lends credence to the fact that one person can make a lot of difference. One just needs to show dedication & perseverance.


  1. The session showed the power of thinking on your feet. Just see the way he channelized his resources at the eleventh hour.

  2. The key takeaway - 'During disasters, there is everyone around to help you - as a manager u only need to know whom to ask what'. The way he mobilized NLC, Army, localites etc is commendable.


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