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Examining The National Disaster Management Policy Information Technology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Information Technology
Wordcount: 5382 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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1. Till recently, the approach to Disaster Management has been reactive and relief centric. A paradigm shift has now taken place at the national level from the relief centric syndrome to holistic and integrated approach with emphasis on prevention, mitigation and preparedness [1] . These efforts are aimed to conserve development gains as also minimise losses to lives, livelihood and property.

2. Natural calamities have had a more devastating impact in India because of inadequate policies relating to disaster management and no institutional support systems. However off late, the government has initiated a series of measures towards institutionalized and integrated approach to disaster relief in the country.


3. Brief History. The history of disaster management in the Indian context can be traced back to the Great Famine of 1876-1878, which led to the setting up of the Famine Commission in 1880 [2] . The famine relief code was adopted thereafter, and contained the details of relief to be provided by the government to famine stricken people. India thus had the world’s first disaster relief code.

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Erstwhile Disaster Management Set Up

4. Disaster management and relief as a function of the Civil Government were entrusted to the Agriculture Ministry [3] . The Central Government laid down general policy and exercised overall control and co-ordination. Relief operations were planned and executed by the state and local authorities within their own areas [4] . The salient aspects were as follows:-

(a) National Policy on Disaster Management. The role of the centre was restricted to policy formulation and allocation of resources for disaster management. The quantum of assistance to be provided depended upon Gravity of the natural calamity, scale of relief operations and requirement of central assistance.

(b) Calamities Relief Fund. The Centre had earmarked two funds i.e. Calamities Relief Fund (CRF) and National Fund for Calamities (NFCR). The nodal agency for monitoring natural disasters and recommending the release of these funds was the Crisis Management Group (CMG) in the Ministry of Agriculture headed by the Central Relief Commissioner.

(c) Government Response. The Government response to disaster broadly was in two ways viz. Policy and Administrative Response. At policy level, the Prime Minister and Cabinet Committee and the nodal agency i.e. Agriculture Ministry took initiatives to activate administrative machinery to assist and monitor relief operations. The salient aspects of government response were: –

(i) Preparatory Stage. This involved formulation of National Policy, installation of forecasting and warning system, and advise and assistance to states in policy formulation.

(ii) Emergency Stage. Emergency stage involved provision of additional relief assistance, provision of assistance from armed forces and other CPOs, and arrangement and coordination of assistance from foreign countries.

(iii) Rehabilitation and Reconstruction. This stage involved assessment of damage and allocation of financial resource for long term relief.

5. National Crisis Management Committee. This committee (NCMC) was constituted in the Cabinet Secretariat with the Cabinet Secretary as its chairman and secretaries of important ministries as its members [5] . It gave directions to the crisis management group. The Crisis Management Group was constituted under aegis of Ministry of Agriculture. The Additional Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture was the Relief Commissioner. He was also the Chairman of CMG and looked after matters relating to relief. The resident commissioners of the states affected by the calamity were to be co-opted during the period of crisis.

6. State and District Level Organisation. The state and district level organization was similar to the existing organization with disaster management committees functional at the state and the district level, with the Chief Minister and the District Commissioners responsible for coordination [6] .

Drawbacks of the Erstwhile Setup

7. The erstwhile setup had a few drawbacks, some of which are as listed below:-

(a) The National policy was not comprehensive and measures were adhoc.

(b) The implementation was influenced by power groups with vested interests.

(c) The central plans lacked coordination, as plans, procedures, organisation and even damage assessment differed widely from state to state.

(d) Forecasting and warning though fairly well developed, did not meet requirements completely.

(e) There was a lack of national coordination.

(f) Inadequate community involvement.

(g) An excessive compartmentalisation or sectorisation led to duplication of efforts and consequently development planning drifted away from an integrated nature.

Present Disaster Management Set up

8. Background [7] . In 1999, the Government of India set up a High Powered Committee (HPC) to develop disaster management plans at the national, state and district levels. While the HPC was engaged in consultations with various stakeholder groups around the country, the super cyclone which hit Orissa in October 1999 and the Bhuj earthquake which hit Gujarat on 26th January 2001 exposed major weaknesses in our disaster preparedness and emergency response capacities. The National Committee on Disaster Management constituted by the Government of India reviewed the High Powered Committee Report and approved some of the recommendations, one of the most significant ones being the shifting of the primary responsibility for disaster management from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Home Affairs in Government of India. India became one of the first countries after the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004 to declare a national commitment to set up appropriate institutional mechanisms for more effective disaster management at the national, state and district levels.

9. The Disaster Management Bill was unanimously adopted by both houses of Parliament and the Disaster Management Act 2005 demonstrated the national vision of a paradigm shift from post-disaster response to improving the pre-disaster disaster preparedness, initiating disaster mitigation projects and strengthening emergency response capacities in the country. The Disaster Management Act, 2005 stipulated the establishment of requisite institutional mechanisms for drawing up and monitoring the implementation of disaster management plans, ensuring measures by various wings of the government for prevention and mitigating the effects of disasters, and for undertaking a holistic, co-ordinated, and prompt response to any disaster situation.

The New Legal and Institutional Framework

10. The Disaster Management Act 2005 envisaged the establishment of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), chaired by the Prime Minister of India, as the apex body for disaster management in the country, the State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) chaired by the respective Chief Ministers at the state level and the District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMAs) chaired by the respective District Collectors and co-chaired by the elected representative of the Zilla Parishad in the respective districts.

11. A dedicated agency called the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has been established with personnel from the para military forces for strengthening the preparedness and emergency response in the country. Ten battalions of the NDRF (see appx ) have been setup and deployed in strategic locations in the country and the NDRF personnel are being trained and equipped with state-of-the-art life saving equipments, search and rescue equipments, inflatable boats, etc. The NDRF personnel are also being trained for preparing and responding to Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) emergencies. Since their inception, NDRF personnel have been deployed in many natural disaster situations to assist the local administration. During the Kosi floods in Bihar in 2008, the NDRF personnel evacuated more than 100,000 people from the flood-affected villages through the sustained effort of NDRF search and rescue teams using inflatable boats, bauts and local country boats.

12. The National Institute for Disaster Management (NIDM) has been established as the apex training institute for disaster management in India. NIDM coordinates the capacity building efforts of disaster management faculty in State Training Institutes and is also offering a few distance education programmes in disaster management in collaboration with the World Bank Institute. The NIDM also hosts the SAARC Centre for Disaster Management.

The National Vision [8] 

13. The Disaster Management Act 2005 envisages a paradigm shift from the erstwhile relief-centric response to a proactive prevention, mitigation and preparedness-driven approach, so as to conserve the developmental gains and also minimize losses to lives, livelihoods and property. The National Vision for disaster management is to build a safer and disaster-resilient India by developing a holistic, proactive, multi-hazard and technology-driven strategy. This will be achieved through a culture of prevention, mitigation and preparedness to generate a prompt and efficient response at the time of disasters. The entire process will centre-stage the community and will be provided momentum and sustenance through the collective efforts of all Government agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

14. The National Disaster Management Act. The National Disaster Management Bill was introduced by the Government on 08 May 2005 and promulgated into an act on 25 Dec 2005 [9] . The law on disaster management provides for requisite institutional mechanisms for drawing up and monitoring the implementation of the disaster management plans, ensuring measures by various wings of Government for prevention and mitigating effects of disasters and for undertaking a holistic, coordinated and prompt response to any disaster situation.

15. The Disaster Management Bill, 2005 provides for setting up the following:-

National Disaster Management Authority under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister.

State Disaster Management Authorities under the Chairmanship of the Chief Ministers.

District Disaster Management Authorities under the Chairmanship of District Magistrates.

Ministries / Departments to draw up department-wise plans in accordance with the national disaster management plan.

National Disaster Response Force.

National Institute of Disaster Management.

National Fund for Disaster Response and the National Fund for Disaster Mitigation and similar Funds at the State and District levels.

(h) Specific role for Local Bodies in disaster management including Panchayati Raj Institutions as well as Urban Local Bodies like Municipalities.

16. National Disaster Management Policy. The National Disaster Management Policy is a comprehensive document that articulates the vision of the Government of India towards achieving the goal of a disaster resilient India [10] . The objectives of the policy:-.

Promoting a culture of prevention, preparedness and resilience at all levels through knowledge, innovation and education.

Encouraging mitigation measures based on technology, traditional wisdom and environmental sustainability.

Mainstreaming disaster management into the developmental planning process.

Establishing institutional and techno-legal frameworks to create an enabling regulatory environment and a compliance regime.

Ensuring efficient mechanism for identification, assessment and monitoring of disaster risks.

Developing contemporary forecasting and early warning systems backed by responsive and failsafe communication with information technology support.

Promoting a productive partnership with the media to create awareness and contributing towards capacity development.

Ensuring efficient response and relief with a caring approach towards the needs of the vulnerable sections of the society.

(j) Undertaking reconstruction as an opportunity to build disaster resilient structures and habitat for ensuring safer living.

(k) Promoting productive and proactive partnership with media in disaster management.

17. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). This has been established under the Chairperson of Prime Minister and nine members, including a Vice Chairperson nominated [11] . The duties of NDMA are as given below:-

Lay down policies on disaster management.

Approve the National Plan and plans prepared by the ministries or departments of the Government of India.

Lay down guidelines to be followed by the State Authorities in drawing up the State Plan and different ministries or departments for integrating the measures for prevention of disaster or the mitigation of its effects in their development plans and projects.

Coordinate the enforcement and implementation of the policies and plans for disaster management.

Recommend provisioning of funds for the purpose of mitigation.

Provide such support to other countries affected by major disasters as determined by the Government.

Lay down broad policies and guidelines for the functioning of the National Institute of Disaster Management.

18. The NDMA may constitute an advisory committee consisting of experts in the field of disaster management and having practical experience of disaster management at the National, State or District level to make recommendations on different aspects of disaster management.

(a) Organisation of NDMA. National Disaster Management Authority has been constituted with the Prime Minister of India as its Chairman, a Vice Chairman with the status of Cabinet Minister, and eight members with the status of Ministers of State.  Each of the members has a well defined functional domain covering various states as also disaster specific areas of focus and concern. A functional infrastructure has been built which is appropriate for disaster management involving uncertainties coupled with desired plans of action. Each member of the Authority heads disaster-specific divisions for specific disaster and functional domains. Each member has also been given the responsibility of specified states and UTs for close interaction and coordination. The NDMA organization is enclosed along with. The NDMA Secretariat, headed by a Secretary is responsible to provide secretarial support and continuity. It is proposed to have two Disaster Management Wings under the Secretariat. They are :-

(i) DM I Wing. This wing will deal with mitigation, preparedness, plans, reconstruction, community awareness and dealing with financial/administrative aspects.

(ii) DM II Wing. This wing is proposed to be composed of the National Disaster Management Operations Centre with the state-of-the-art multi-redundant communication systems, to carry out the tasks of capacity development, training and knowledge management.

19. The National Executive Committee. It consists of Secretary from Ministry of Home Affairs as the Chairperson and members as the Secretaries from the Ministries of Agriculture, Atomic Energy, Defence, Drinking Water Supply, Environment and Forests, Finance (expenditure), Health, Power, Rural Development, Science and Technology, Space, Telecommunication, Urban Development, Water Resources and the Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) [12] .

Duties. The duties of this committee include :-

Prepare the National Plan to be approved by the National Authority.

(ii) Coordinate and monitor the implementation of the National Policy.

(iii) Lay down guidelines and provide technical assistance for preparing disaster management plans by different ministries and the State Authorities.

(iv) Evaluate the preparedness at all governmental levels for the purpose of responding to any threatening disaster situation and give directions thereon.

(v) Plan and coordinate specialised training programmes for disaster management for different levels of officers, employees and voluntary workers.

(vi) Coordinate response in the event of a disaster situation and give directions to concerned ministries and State Governments.

(vii) Require any department or agency of the Government to make available to the National / State Authority such men or material resources as are available with it for the purposes of emergency response, rescue and relief.

The Mandate. The NEC is the executive committee of the NDMA, and is mandated to assist the NDMA in the discharge of its functions and also ensure compliance of the directions issued by the Central Government. NEC is to coordinate the response in the event of any threatening disaster situation or disaster. NEC will prepare the National Plan for Disaster Management based on the National Policy on Disaster Management. NEC will monitor the implementation of guidelines issued by NDMA. It will also perform such other functions as may be prescribed by the Central Government in consultation with the NDMA.

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20. The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC). For effective implementation of relief measures in the wake of a disaster, the cabinet has set up a National Crisis Management Committee. The concerned Secretary shall provide all necessary information and seek directions of the Cabinet Committee in all matters concerning relief and step for effective implementation of its directions. In the absence of such a Cabinet Committee all matters relating to relief shall be reported to the Cabinet Secretary. The composition of the committee will be as under :-

(a) Composition. The composition of the NCMC is as under: –

(i) Cabinet Secretary – Chairman.

(ii) Secretary to Prime Minister – Member.

(iii) Secretary (MHA) – Member.

(iv) Secretary (MOD) – Member.

(v) Director (IB) – Member.

(vi) Secretary (R&AW) – Member.

(vii) Secretary (Agriculture & Cooperation) – Co-opted Member.

(viii) An officer of Cabinet – Convener.

21. Cabinet Committee on Management of Natural Calamities(CCMNC). CCMNC has been constituted to oversee all aspects relating to the management of natural calamities including assessment of the situation and identification of measures and programmes considered necessary to reduce its impact, monitor and suggest long term measures for prevention of such calamities, formulate and recommend programmes for public awareness for building up society’s resilience to them [13] .

22. High Level Committees. In the case of calamities of severe nature, Inter-Ministerial Central Teams are to be deputed to the affected states for assessment of damage caused by the calamity and the amount of relief assistance required. The IMG, headed by the Union Home Secretary, will scrutinize the assessment made by the Central Teams and recommend the quantum of assistance to be provided to the States from the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF). The HLC comprising the Finance Minister as Chairman, and the Home Minister, Agriculture Minister & Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission as members approves the central assistance to be provided to the affected States based on the recommendations of the IMG. The constitution and composition of HLC may vary from time to time. The Vice Chairman, NDMA will be a special invitee to the HLC.

23. Role of Central Ministries. Nodal Ministries for various disasters have been designated. These are: –

(a) Natural Disasters – Agricultural and Cooperation.

(b) Chemical Disasters – Environment and Forest.

(c) Nuclear Disaster – Department of Atomic Energy.

(d) Biological Disaster – Health.

(e) Civil Strife – Home.

24. Control Room (Emergency Operation Room). An Emergency Operations Center (Control Room) exists in the nodal Ministry of Home Affairs, which functions round the clock, to assist the Central Relief Commissioner in the discharge of his duties [14] . The activities of the Control Room include collection and transmission of information concerning natural calamity and relief, keeping close contact with governments of the affected States, interaction with other Central Ministries / Departments / Organizations in connection with relief, maintaining records containing all relevant information relating to action points and contact points in Central Ministries etc., keeping up-to-date details of all concerned officers at the Central and State levels.

25. Contingency Action Plan. A National Contingency Action Plan (CAP) for dealing with contingencies arising in the wake of natural disasters has been formulated by the Government of India and it is being periodically updated. It facilitates the launching of relief operations without delay. The CAP identifies the initiatives required to be taken by various Central Ministries/Departments in the wake of natural calamities, sets down the procedure and determines the focal points in the administrative machinery.

26. State Level Organisation. The primary responsibility for disaster management rests with the States. In view of their autonomous jurisdiction, the States have evolved their own relief machinery. At State level the Relief Commissioner or Revenue Secretary, is the nodal agency for direction of relief effort. In most states, a state level committee, chaired by the Chief Minister, acts as a policy formulating forum and monitoring body. Some states have evolved efficient disaster management plans with the requisite infrastructure and organizational support. These as in the case of Maharashtra, include an Emergency Operations Centre in the State Secretariat, which is linked to the district by an efficient wireless and satellite based communication network. This is backed by a computerised District Management Information System Community Disaster Preparedness Programmes.

(a) State Disaster Management Committee. At the State level, the SDMA, headed by the Chief Minister, lays down policies and plans for disaster management in the State. It will, approves the State Plan in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the NDMA, coordinates the implementation of the State Plan, recommends provision of funds for mitigation and preparedness measures and review the developmental plans of the different departments of the State to ensure integration of prevention, preparedness and mitigation measures.

(b) State Executive Committee (SEC). This has state Chief Secretary as the Chairperson with four Secretaries of appropriate departments. It performs the same functions as the National Executive Committee as regards coordination, monitoring and implementation of State Plan in accordance to the National Plan, including all measures for prevention, mitigation and capacity building

27. District Level Organisation. At the district level, District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMAs), will act as the district planning, coordinating and implementing body for disaster management and will take all measures for the purposes of disaster management in the district in accordance with the guidelines laid by NDMA and SDMA. The District Control Rooms would be the nodal facility for directing all operations on disaster emergency situation, and hence are required to be supported by disaster management information and communications to function efficiently. The DDMAs would be established for every district in the State and shall consist of the Chairperson and seven members. It shall consist of the following:-

(a) The Collector / District Magistrate / Deputy Commissioner of the district as the Chairperson.

(b) The elected representative of the local authority who shall be the Co-Chairperson.

(c) The Chief Executive Officer of the District Authority.

The Superintendent of Police.

The Chief Medical Officer of the district.

(f) Two other district level officers, to be appointed by the State Government.

Enunciation of Policy

28. Disaster Management : Tenets in Indian Context [15] . A disaster refers to a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence from natural or man-made causes, which is beyond the coping capacity of the affected community. Disaster Management involves a continuous and integrated process of planning, organising, coordinating and implementing measures which are necessary or expedient for the following :-

(a) Prevention of danger or threat of any disaster.

(b) Mitigation or reduction of risk of any disaster or its severity or consequences.

(c) Capacity building including research and knowledge management.

(d) Preparedness to deal with any disaster.

(e) Prompt response to any threatening disaster situation or disaster.

(f) Assessing the severity or magnitude of effects of any disaster.

(g) Evacuation, rescue and relief.

(h) Rehabilitation and reconstruction.

(j) Community involvement and awareness general.

(k) Close interaction with corporate sector Non Governmental Organisations and media.

Strengths and Weaknesses of National Disaster Management System

29. Weaknesses of India’s Disaster Management System.

(a) Political Interference and Myopic View. Our political system is dominant in all our policies and programmes. The policy makers look for short term gains to keep their vote banks intact, resulting in myopic view of entire disaster management system. Policies and programmes requiring long term planning and implementation take back seat.

(b) Relief centric approach. Our system is primarily focused on relief rather than prevention of disasters. Majority of the effort and organizations are preparing towards the actions after the occurrence of a calamity.

(c) Community Awareness and Development. During most of the disasters like earthquakes, cyclones, tsunamis, etc the main reason for the high loss to life is due to ignorance of the affected populace about the actions which they are required to do. There are number of incidents, specially during earthquakes, wherein people due to panic moved inside the buildings and got buried in the debris. The Therefore concerted effort in this direction is a mandatory requirement. The community needs to be well informed about the physical features of their location / settlement and the hazard events they are likely to experience. Such a social consciousness about disasters leads to building an organization / network within the community for risk reduction. But, due to lack of concerted efforts, the masses are still quite ignorant of the linkages between development and disasters, nature conservation and role of community in prevention, reduction and relief in case of disasters. A case in point is the tragedy wherein over 400 school children who were parading out in the open in Village Anjar (Gujarat) were taken inside the school building on occurrence of the earthquake. Nearly all the children died when the school building collapsed.

(d) Lack of Role Clarity and Integration of Role Players. Disaster Management is an exercise which involves a large No of players eg Central and State Govts, Armed Forces, Paramilitary Forces, Police Forces, NGOs, PSUs, Private Sector, Community and so on. The integration of disaster risk management functions within local institutions is key to achieving urban risk reduction. Their role has to be clearly defined during various stages of disaster management to avoid ambiguous situations. During the relief and rehabilitation stage post Gujarat Earthquake, a No of tasks were getting duplicated by various NGOs, State Govt and the army columns, resulting in wastages of efforts and confusion.

(e) Sub-Optimal Outcomes. Due to lack of integration of efforts, our disaster management system suffers from lack of synergy at various levels.

(f) Early Warning System, Forecasting and Communication Infrastructure. Not all disasters can be forecasted but areas vulnerable to disasters can be identified and measures taken in advance to reduce own losses to minimum eg in spite of knowing that Gujarat was in seismic Zone V, a large No of high-rise buildings were allowed to be built in Ahmedabad in the areas where water bodies existed a couple of years ago. Most of the buildings which collapsed were hose which had not complied to the Code of construction I earthquake prone areas.

(g) Disaster Management Training. The training culture in India leaves much to be desired. In the case of Gujarat earthquake, while the rescue equipment / heavy equipment eg iron & concrete cutters, excavators were provisioned, not many locals knew how to operate these. There is dearth of personnel who are trained in rescue and relief operations. Most are trained in elementary techniques.

(h) Absence of Strategic Thinking and Infirmities in Decision Making Process. There is an overall lack of strategic thinking and swift decision making in our system owing to bureaucracy and politicization of all issues. The two if taken care of will enhance our preparedness to a large extent.

(j) Financial Support and Corruption. One there is a deficiency of funds to plan and implement disaster Prevention and Reduction Programmes eg linking up of all the rivers, construction of dams etc. Two, of whatever funds get allotted only a small percentage gets to reach the grass roots level owing to rampant corruption in the system.

(k) Inadequacy of Specialized Equipment. A major weakness is the inadequacy of state-of-the-art equipment required for rescue and relief operations. A lot of equipment is requisitioned from foreign countries on being hit by a calamity.



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