Natural disasters: Act of God or man?

Natural disasters have always devastated human lives miserably. Be it an earthquake, hurricane, flood, tsunami or any other kind. The human life in the worse affected area reaches to a zero. Almost everything from  food, clothing and shelter to the luxuries are to be restored from scratch.

Series of scams and frauds that follow any natural disaster compel me to think ‘if natural disasters are really an act of God or man?’

Though economists keep studying the affects of natural disasters from an economic perspective, there is much more that is still largely unexplored and neglected. Natural disasters are often described as synonymous to act of God. There is also something relating to these disasters which is not an act of God. It is rather an act of man. On one hand, man has always tried to protect himself against natural disasters through technological inventions and innovations that result in an early warning system. Which offers enough time to take preventive measures. But a series of scams and frauds that follow any natural disaster compel me to think ‘if natural disasters are really an act of God or man?’

Relief and reconstruction in natural disasters

It is not that humanity has lost its meaning. As soon as a natural disaster occurs, relief in the form of money starts flowing from all parts of the globe. 

But the irony lies in the fact that not much of this aid never reaches the victims. The funds contributed by individuals, government of the country, governments of other countries, corporate houses, charitable trusts and organizations are often misused. Either the funds are never distributed or they are distributed against bribes. But this is not all about natural disasters and man. Misuse of relief and reconstruction funds is just a small aspect of the problem. The situation is even worse. The researches on natural disasters prove that crime rates often increase after natural disasters. Now let’s have a look at various types of crimes or various acts of human beings that usually follow a natural disaster, making the lives of victims even more miserable.

Life in refugee camps

With a view to offer instant relief to the victims, refugee camps are often organized providing the much needed basic necessities of food, clothing, shelter and first-aid. But the life in refugee camps is not always the same as it is reported in media. The picture is larger than it is often portrayed. Refugee camps act as good business opportunities for drug mafia selling drugs to the depressed victims and making them addicted. The crimes against women and children also get a hike. Sexual assaults and violence against women are very common in refugee camps. There are hardly any security measures to safeguard women. The brutality however does not end here. Even the children who have either lost their parents or are separated from them in the crisis. Lot of times they are also illegally sold. Child trafficking is another inhuman aspect of natural disasters.

Identity theft

The sudden emergence of natural disasters often does not offer enough time to the victims to carry along their important documents with them. The victims lose their birth and academic certificates, passports, ration cards, bank related documents and other important documents in a hurry. As such, the people do not only lose their documents but their identity also in a number of cases. Though identity theft through online means is common in developed nations, ‘shoulder surfing’ is the commonest mode in India. It is very normal to observe strangers peeping into the personal details of people standing nearby as they fill some form or express it verbally. Identity theft can have serious repercussions in the long-run if the identity is misused for committing some crime or indulging into any illegal acts.

Stockpiling and price gouging

Yet another act of man that further worsens the miseries of victims is stockpiling. Whenever a natural disaster is predicted, the traders start stocking up necessities like milk, grains, and many other items. This results into a shortage of these stocks in the market leading to demand-supply imbalance. Stockpiling gives birth to price gouging and the commodities are sold at much higher than their normal prices. But we cannot simply curse such traders. There is another aspect of the situation too. The governments take measures to control stockpiling and price gouging and even offer commodities of daily consumption at subsidized rates. But most of the times it results into storing and over-consumption. The greed factor takes birth and the help never reaches the needy. Hence, the misfortune of the victims continues.

Now, after addressing to all the common acts of man that follow a natural disaster. It is very obvious to ask ourselves ‘if natural disasters are an act of God or man’. Recovery from God-created disasters is perhaps easier as compared to the ones resulting from misdeeds of humans. So, it is high time to realize our duties and act humanly.

References

  1. Grant, K. (November 5, 2012). “New Danger From Sandy: Scams.” Retrieved from: http://www.smartmoney.com/plan/insurance/new-danger-from-sandy-scams-1351897552712/
  2. Futrelle, D. (November 2, 2012). “Post-Sandy Price Gouging: Economically Sound, Ethically Dubious.” Retrieved from: http://business.time.com/2012/11/02/post-sandy-price-gouging-economically-sound-ethically-dubious/
  3. Lipka, M. (November 5, 2012). “Beware of scams that follow natural disasters.” Retrieved from: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/05/us-storm-sandy-scams-idUSBRE8A41BJ20121105
  4. Reuters (November 6, 2012). “Beware of scams that follow natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy.” The Economic Times. Retrieved from: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-11-06/news/34946504_1_scams-natural-disasters-disaster-victims
  5. Constitutional Daily (November 14, 2012). Price Gouging After A Natural Disaster Could Actually Help People.”Retrieved from: http://www.businessinsider.com/in-defense-of-price-gouging-2012-11

Ankita Agarwal

Analyst at Project Guru
Ankita is working with the editorial board of Project Guru as a Research Analyst and Writer. With Masters in Commerce and Business Studies, Ankita learned much of what she knows about management through experience. She has previously worked in various financial institutions like Birla Global, HDFC Ltd. and Citi Financial. She is self-motivated and writes for the Knowledge Tank section of Project Guru. She has authored more than 80 articles so far in Human Resources Management, Strategic Management, Finance and Marketing. She likes to pen her thoughts about the latest issues gripping these areas across the world.
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