(Sample Material) Gist of Important Articles from IIPA
Topic: Natural Disaster Management in India Vinod K. Sharma
NATURAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT IN INDIA
India is a parliamentary democracy with a federal structure.
An integrated disaster management mechanism exists within this government
framework. The essential responsibility of disaster management lies with the
State Government where the disaster has occurred. However, in the event of
disasters which spread over several states and assume uncontrollable
proportions, then the Central Government may be required to supplement
appropriate measures in the fields of rescue, relief and preparedness. At the
Central level, the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) oversees all
disaster related efforts. The NCMC comprises the nodal Ministry and other
support Ministries. For natural disasters, the nodal Ministry is Ministry of
In the past, the government response to natural disasters has
improved in terms of its effectiveness. This is chiefly due to the emergence of
well-organised administrative machinery, presence of Relief Manuals at district
level, predetermined allocation of duties and recognised public-private
partnerships. However, absence of an integrated policy at national level has led
to overlooking of some of the vital aspects of disaster management. As such,
presence of a policy helps clearly define the government’s basic approaches on a
continuing basis. It provides for an appropriate legislation and associated
regulations in this regard, besides an overall national competence and self
reliance vis-a-vis international initiatives.
Administrative Structure at Central Level
In the federal set-up of India, the responsibility to
formulate the Government’s response to a natural calamity is essentially that of
the concerned State government. However, the Central Government, with its
resources, physical and financial does provide the needed help and assistance to
buttress relief efforts in the wake of major natural disasters. The dimensions
of the response at the level of Central Government are determined in accordance
with the existing policy of financing the relief expenditure and keeping in view
the factors like: (1) the gravity of a natural calamity, (2) the scale of the
relief operation necessary, and (3) the requirements of Central assistance for
augmenting the financial resources at the disposal of the State Government.
Agriculture Ministry-The Nodal Agency
The Department of Agriculture and Co-operation (DAC) in the
Agriculture Ministry is the nodal department for all matters concerning natural
disasters relief at the Centre. The National Contingency Action Plan (CAP)
facilitates launching of relief and rescue operations without delay. The CAP
identifies initiatives required to be taken by various Central ministries, and
Public departments in the wake of natural calamities, sets down procedures and
determines the focal points in the administrative machinery.
In the DAC, the Relief Commissioner functions as the nodal
officer to co-ordinate relief operations for all natural disasters. The Central
Relief Commissioner receives information relating to forecast/warning of the
natural calamity from the Director General, India Meteorological Department (IMD)
or from the Central Water Commission on a continuing basis. Besides, he also
monitors the developments taking place and provides the necessary feed-back,
through the Agriculture Secretary to the Agriculture Minister, Prime Minister
and the Cabinet.
Committees at National Level
Working of various other committees at the national level for disaster
management is discussed in the following paras.
The Cabinet may set up a committee for effective
implementation of Relief measures in the wake of natural disaster. The Secretary
in the Ministry of Agriculture acts as the secretary of this committee. In the
absence of such a committee, all matters related to the relief shall be reported
to the Cabinet Secretary.
National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC)
Under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary, the NCMC has
been constituted in the Cabinet Secretariat. The other members of this committee
include the Secretary to Prime Minister, Secretaries of Ministry of Home
Affairs, Defence, Research and Analysis Wing and Agriculture and Co-operation
along with Director, Intelligence Bureau and an officer of Cabinet Secretariat.
The NCMC gives direction to the crises management group as and when deemed
Crisis Management Group (CMG)
A group under the chairmanship of the Central Relief
Commissioner, comprising senior officers drawn from various ministries and other
concerned departments, reviews every year contingency plan formulated by Central
Ministries/Departments. It reviews various measures required for dealing with a
natural disaster, and co-ordinates activities of the Central ministries and the
state governments pertaining to disaster preparedness and relief and obtains
information from nodal officers on measures relating to the above. The Joint
Secretary (NDM) and Additional Central Relief Commissioner is the convener of
CMG. The CMG meet-s every six months.
The Centre plays a major role as far as mobilisation of
financial resources are concerned. The policy and arrangement for financing
State Governments to provide relief and rehabilitation measures in areas
affected by natural calamities are governed by the recommendations of the
Finance Commissions on the subject made from time to time. The scheme in force
for the period 1995-2000 is based on the recommendations of the Tenth Finance
Commission. Under the present scheme, a Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) has been
constituted for each State with contribution from the Central and state
governments to undertake relief and rehabilitation measures. The annual
allocations of the CRF to the various States are based on their trend of
expenditure on natural calamities during the past ten years. The Central share
of Calamity relief fund is released to the State Governments in four equal
quarterly instalments. As recommended by the Tenth Finance Commission, a
Committee of Experts and Representatives of the States has drawn up a list of
items, expenditure on which alone will be chargeable to the CRF. A State Level
Committee headed by the Chief Secretary decides the norms of assistance under
each of the approved scheme. The norms so fixed could be modified by the
Ministry of Agriculture, if these are significantly out of line.
In addition to the CRF, a National Fund for Calamity Relief (NFCR)
has also been constituted to deal with calamities of rare severity. NFCR is
available with the Government of India with an allocation of Rs. 700 crore for
the period 1995-2000. The Fund is managed by the National Calamity Relief
Committee, which is a Sub-Committee of the National Development Council, headed
by the Union Agriculture Minister. In normal circumstances, the State
Governments are required to undertake relief and rehabilitation measures
utilising the annual CRF allocations. They can, however, seek additional
assistance from the NFCR in the event of calamity of rare severity.
Administrative Structure at State Level
As pointed out earlier, the Central government only
supplements the efforts of the State government. The State governments are
autonomous in organising relief operations in the event of natural disaster and
also long-term preparedness/rehabilitation measures.
The States have Relief Commissioners, who are in charge of
the relief measures in the wake of natural disasters in their respective states.
In the absence of the Relief Commissioner, the Chief Secretary or an officer
nominated by him is in overall charge of the relief operations in the concerned
The Chief Secretary is the head of the State Administration.
The State Headquarters has, in addition, a number of Secretaries who head the
various Departments handling specific subjects under the overall supervision and
co-ordination of the Chief Secretary. At the level of the State Government,
natural disasters are usually the responsibility of the Revenue Department or
the Relief Department. While important policy decisions are taken at the State
Headquarters by the Cabinet of the State headed by the Chief Minister,
day-to-day decisions involving policy matters are taken or exercised by the
Secretary in the Department.
States Crisis Management Group
There is a State Crisis Management Group (SCMG) under the
Chairmanship of Chief Secretary/Relief Commissioner of Chief Secretary/Relief
Commissioner. This Group comprises Senior Officers from the Departments of
revenue relief, home, civil supplies, power, irrigation, water supply, panchayat
(local-self Government), agriculture, forests, rural development, health
planning, public works and finance.
The SCMG is required to take into consideration the infrastructure and
guidance received, from time to time, from Government of India and formulate
action plans for dealing with different natural disasters.
It is also the duty of the Relief Commission of the State to
establish an emergency operation centre as soon as a disaster situation
develops. Besides having all updated information on forecasting and warning of
disaster, the centre would a\so be the contact point for the various concerned
Administrative Structure at District Level
States are further divided into districts, each headed by the
District Collector (also known as the District Magistrate or Deputy
Commissioner), who is the focal point at the district level for directing,
supervising and monitoring relief measures for disaster and for preparation of
district level plans.
The Collector exercises coordinating and supervisory powers
over functionaries of all the departments at the District level. During actual
operations for disaster mitigation or relief, the powers of the Collector are
considerably enhanced, generally, by standing instructions or orders on the
subject, or by specific Governments orders, if so required. Sometimes, the
administrative culture of the concerned State permits, although informally, the
Collector to exercise higher powers in emergency situations and the decisions
are later ratified by the competent authority.
A District is sub-divided into sub-divisions and Tehsils or
Talukas. The head of a sub-division is called the Sub-Division Officer (SDO)
while the head of a Tehsil is generally known as the Tehsildar (Talukdar or
Mamlatdar in some States). Contact with the individual villages is through the
village Officer or Patwari who has one or more villages in his charge. When a
disaster is apprehended, the entire machinery of the District, including
officers of technical and other Departments, swings into action and maintains
almost continuous contact with each village in the disaster threatened area. In
the case of extensive disasters, like drought, contact is maintained over a
short cycle of a few days.
The various measures undertaken by the District Administration area are
discussed in the following paras.
At the district level, the disaster relief plans are prepared which provide
for specific tasks and agencies for their implementation in respect of areas in
relation to different types of disasters.
A contingency plan for the district for different disasters
is drawn up by the Collector/Deputy Commissioner and approved by the State
Government. The Collector/Deputy Commissioner also co-ordinates and secures the
input from the local defence forces unit in preparation of the contingency
plans. These contingency plans lay down specific action points, key personnel
and contact points relating to all aspects.