With 60% of the landmass prone to earthquake, over 40 million hectares prone to floods, about 8% of the total area prone to cyclones and 68% of the area susceptible to drought, India is indeed very vulnerable to the natural disasters.
Disaster Management in India
Humans had made huge progress while adjusting with the nature over the millions of years but the progress is negligible to control the natural disasters. As of now, it is unthinkable to eliminate the natural disasters knowing the limits of science but a swift, planned and well coordinated response to such disasters can drastically reduce the loss suffered by humans due to such disasters. This well manage response in the wake of a disaster is called as disaster management.
Disaster can be manmade or natural but the disaster management is primarily concerned with the natural disasters. Disaster Management includes a multi dimensional endeavour involving diverse scientific, engineering, financial and social processes with a need to adopt multi disciplinary and multi sectoral approach incorporating risk reduction in the developmental of plans and strategies.
Giant tsunami which devastated the eastern coast of the country was an eye opener for the government and it was decided to institutionalise the disaster management in India in order to mitigate the future disasters and there aftermath. Disaster management occupies an important place in this country’s policy framework as it is the poor and the under-privileged who are worst affected because of natural disasters and calamities. The National Disaster Management policy covers institutional mechanisms, disaster prevention strategy, early warning system, disaster mitigation, preparedness and response and human resource development where areas of intervention and agencies to be involved at the National, State and district levels are identified.
The National Disaster Management Act 2005 Act defines ‘Disaster’ as a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from either natural or manmade causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering, or damage to and destruction of property or damage to or degradation of environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area. ‘Disaster Management’ is defined as a continuous and integrated process of planning, organizing, coordinating and implementing measures which are necessary or expedient to prevent danger or threat of any disaster, mitigation or reduce the risk or severity or consequences of any disaster, capacity-building and preparedness to deal with any disaster, prompt response to any threatening disaster situation or disaster, assessing the severity or magnitude of effects of any disaster, evacuation, rescue and relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
National Disaster Management Authority(NDMA)
The Act empowers the Central Government to appoint the National Disaster Management Authority with the Prime Minister of India as the Chairperson to build a safer and disaster resilient India by developing a holistic, pro-active, multi-disaster and technology-driven strategy for disaster management through collective efforts of all Government Agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations. Its members cannot exceed nine. The Central Government is to provide the National Authority with such officers, consultants and employees, as it considers necessary for carrying out the functions of the National Authority.
The National Authority has the responsibility to lay down, approve the policies, plans and guidelines for disaster management prepared by various departments of Government of India to ensure timely and effective response to disaster. Along with the creation of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the Disaster Management Act also mandated, creation of State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) headed by respective Chief Ministers of the States. Every State Government, in turn, is to establish a District Disaster Management Authority(DDMA) for every district in the State with the District Collector as the Chairperson and such number of other members, not exceeding seven. The District Authority is to act as the district planning, coordinating and implementing body for disaster management and take all measures for the purposes of disaster management in the district in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the National Authority and the State Authority.
The Disaster Management Act, 2005 has mandated constitution of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), a specialist response force, for the purpose of specialized response to natural and man-made disasters. This Force functions under the National Disaster Management Authority’s direction and general superintendence. This is a multi-disciplinary, multi-skilled, high-tech force for all types of disasters capable of insertion by air, sea and land. The command and supervision of the Force is vested in an officer appointed by the Central Government as the Director General of the National Disaster Response Force.
All the eight battalions of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are equipped and trained for all natural disasters including four battalions in combating nuclear, biological and chemical disasters.
Despite of organised structure of disaster management in India, timely response to natural disasters remains a difficult task in, where a majority of people live in dispersed rural settlements with inadequate communication facilities. Involvement of multiple actors, especially NGOs, makes it possible to reach humanitarian aid to marooned victims and initiating restoration work in remote zones.
Disaster management policy of India is criticised on following accounts-
1.Kosi floods way back three years before , unregulated water discharge
from Nepal originated rivers, Tsunami and Mumbai floods have
demonstrated that much needs to be done.
2.Growing economy and urbanization have exposed more areas, assets and
people to risks.
3.Enforcement of building codes and zonal regulations in rural and
urban areas still a huge task.
4.Communicating early warning to the last mile must be a priority in reducing risks.
5.The Act do not explicitly say what will happen if states fail to perform.
The role of NGOs was clearly recognised during the aftermath of 2004 tsunami when four hundred fifteen NGOs came to respond to the tsunami, apart from numerous non-affiliated spontaneous volunteers. South India Federation of Fishermen Society, and Social Need Education for Human Awareness initiated a NGO Coordination and Resource Center (NCRC) with the support of district administration and United Nations Development Program. After the response and relief work, the NCRC also worked for reconstruction, although with less than 50 NGOs.
In the post NDM act , the major disasters inflict India were earthquake in Jammu and Kashmir, Kosi floods in Bihar, Mumbai terror strike apart from the numerous floods, droughts, train accidents etc resulting in huge economic and human loss. Though the National Disaster Management Authority and its state counterparts had played their role in mitigating the risks associated with these disasters but desired impact was not realised due to the lack of coordination between the various agencies engaged in the task. It is because of this reason that we are unable to find noticeable reduction in the losses due to such disasters.
When many NGOs are engaged in the rehabilitation works during such crisis, role of such NGOs and local communities must be recognised in the policy of disaster management as they provide most urgent response to such incidents. During the Kalka Mail accident local community were the first to start rehabilitation work. Therefore it will be of great help if the local community organisation are utilized for such operations. Under the NDM Act, District Disaster Management Authority must be entrusted with training of Panchayat organisations and there must be a disaster management cell in every panchayat.
This will allow local communities to engage i such activities in a more professional manner and will definitely help in mitigation of risks. Apart from this, many disasters at local level didn’t catch the headlines at national or state level like road accidents, fire etc, which result in no response from the administration. Such incidents can be duly taken care of by the Panchayat Disaster Management cell. As far as NGOs are concerned, they can be instrumental in the reform and rehabilitation work in the event of any disaster and their appreciable performance is already seen in rehabilitation works during floods in Bihar and tsunami in Tamil Nadu. Such NGOs must also be engaged with the management so as to make the efforts better coordinated and more effective.
The upshot of the entire analysis clearly demonstrate that India came along way in managing its disasters but still there are loopholes present which needs to be filled in order to mitigate the disaster risks. According to UNDP, India is second most disaster prone country after China and therefore the disaster management India must also be at least second best in the world.. The disaster Management in India requires clear division of roles and responsibilities of all the players. Further it needs the participation of all agents of development like NGOs, private sector and community as well because no one is devoid of brunt of disaster.
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