Hari Balaji, Managing Country’s Distaster

By Amrita Guha

In an era where almost everyone wants to leave the nation and settle to the foreign lands of US and UK because of attractive salary offers and other allowances, an NRI leaving a lucrative job and returning to his own motherland for a cause, which is really astonishing.

Hari Balaji was amazed by how the United States dealt with the disaster of 9/11 in the New York City which he got to know in a workshop he attended after few years from the fateful event. Later on he encountered another disaster of hurricane Katrina which left serious impact on the lands. All these made him realise how much India had to develop its own disaster management community in order to deal with the disasters. It was only after the 2004 tsunami that India formed a centralized body for disaster management with the Disaster Management Act coming into effect on 2005.

Balaji realised that he wanted to be an independent trainer for the government projects of Disaster Management. With the humanitarian cause of helping his own motherland, Hari Balaji left his career as a General Manager of a US hotel chains, canceled his green card process and came back to India. He took up formal education of second post graduate degree, an MBA in Hospital and Health Systems Management. Thus he started his journey of guiding the people of India for disaster management. After completing his MBA from Chennai, based on his project work in disaster management and his active participation in the Chennai Emergency Management Exercise, he was deployed by the National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India, through United Nations Children’s Fund in Assam to coordinate Guwahati Emergency Management Exercise 2012.

He started to conduct public workshops on disaster management which also involved the various teams of disaster management as it is more important to work efficiently together during a crisis. However, he also provides psychological assistance along with physical help as people are also injured mentally after losing everything within a night. He has been providing consulting services of disaster preparedness to nongovernmental organizations, for UNICEF projects and also to the various educational institutions across the nation. His workshops teach an array of things from controlling human trafficking issues to gender-based violence. 

The ex NRI and the present disaster management consultant aims to spread awareness among the Indian citizens about being mentally and physically prepared for facing a disaster. He has managed the humanitarian assistance programs for Post disaster scenarios for both the Tamil Nadu flood of 2015 and Kerala flood of 2018. He has managed and coordinated the emergency Management Exercise in Chennai and Guwahati where more than thousand participants from cross cutting industries were trained for a week with 20 International and 40 National faculties and experts. He maintained an active status during the Kerala floods and assisted in every possible way.

Being deployed as a Kerala State Team Lead in August 2018, he coordinated all the members of the Inter agency Group. He also assisted in core team of the Multi Sector Joint Detailed Needs Assessment which was organized after the disaster in Kerala in order to collect the needs of disaster survivors. The various sectors he covered included shelter, health, livelihood,, education, nutrition, protection and many others.  He also conducted an effective recovery phase and took an initiative in bringing all the department Section heads of District administration to interface with all NGOs and INGOs held by Collector. He has managed an array of projects that included several communities affected by the disaster. He also managed and coordinated various activities and programmes like ZOHAR, NAVAKERALAM, PARIVARTHAN, ABHAYA and MITRA to help communities prepare in various segments for a disaster. 

Not all NRIs come back for a humanitarian cause. Persons like Mr Hari Balaji has a vision of taking India to a position of confronting any kind of disaster easily and with proper expertise disaster management team. Not everyone is capable of leaving lucrative offers of foreign lands to be in one’s own country for the sake of development and humanity.