Sample Material of Public Administration Study Kit: Significant issues in Indian Administration: Disaster management

Sample Material of Public Administration Study Kit (Paper - II)

Significant issues in Indian Administration: Disaster management


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 on account of calamities/disasters. The approach has been translated into a National Disaster Framework [a roadmap] covering institutional mechanisms, disaster prevention strategy, early warning system, disaster mitigation, preparedness and response andhuman resource development. The expected inputs, areas of intervention andagencies to be involved at the National, State and district levels have been identified and listed in the roadmap. This roadmap has been shared with all the State Governments and Union Territory Administrations. Ministries and Departments of Government of India, and the State Governments/UT Administrations have been advised to develop their respective roadmaps taking the national roadmap as a broad guideline. There is, therefore, now a common strategy underpinning the action being taken by all the participating organisations/stakeholders. The institutional and policy mechanisms for carrying out esponse, relief and rehabilitation have been well-established since Independence. These mechanisms have proved to be robust and effective insofar as response, relief and rehabilitation are concerned.

The broad features of the draft national policy on disaster management are enunciated below:-

(i) A holistic and pro-active approach for prevention, mitigation andpreparedness will be adopted for disaster management.
(ii) Each Ministry/Department of the Central/ State Government will set apart an appropriate quantum of funds under the Plan for specific schemes/projects addressing vulnerability reduction and preparedness.
(iii) Where there is a shelf of projects, projects addressing mitigation will be given priority. Mitigation measures shall be built into the on-going schemes/programmes
(iv) Each project in a hazard prone area will have mitigation as an essentialterm of reference. The project report will include a statement as to how the project addresses vulnerability reduction.
(v) Community involvement and awareness generation, particularly that of the vulnerable segments of population and women has been emphasized as necessary for sustainable disaster risk reduction. This is a critical component of the policy since communities are the first responders to disasters and, therefore, unless they are empowered and made capable of managing disasters, any amount of external support cannot lead to optimal results.
(vi) There will be close interaction with the corporate sector, nongovernmental organisations and the media in the national efforts for disaster prevention/vulnerability reduction.
(vii) Institutional structures/appropriate chain of command will be built up and appropriate training imparted to disaster managers at various levels to ensure coordinated and quick response at all levels; and development of inter-State arrangements for sharing of resources during emergencies.
(viii) A culture of planning and preparedness is to be inculcated at all levels for capacity building measures.
(ix) Standard operating procedures and disaster management plans at state and district levels as well as by relevant central government departments for handling specific disasters will be laid down.
(x) Construction designs must correspond to the requirements as laid down in relevant Indian Standards.
(xi) All lifeline buildings in seismic zones III, IV & V – hospitals, railway stations, airports/airport control towers, fire station buildings, bus stands major administrative centres will need to be evaluated and, if necessary, retro-fitted.
(xii) The existing relief codes in the States will be revised to develop them into disaster management codes/manuals for institutionalizing the planning process with particular attention to mitigation and preparedness.


Disaster is an event or series of events, which gives rise to casualties and damage or loss of properties, infrastructures, environment, essential services or means of livelihood on such a scalewhich is beyond the normal capacity of the affected community to cope with. Disaster is also sometimes described as a “catastrophic situation in which the normal pattern of life or eco-system has been disrupted and extra-ordinary emergency interventions are required to save and preserve lives and or the environment”.

The Disaster Management Act, 2005 defines disaster as “a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man made 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”.

The United Nations defines disaster as “the occurrence of sudden or major misfortune which disrupts the basic fabric and normal functioning of the society or community”.

Evolution of Disaster Management in India

Disaster management in India has evolved from an activity-based reactive setup to a proactive institutionalized structure; from single faculty domain to a multi-stakeholder setup; and from a relief-based approach to a ‘multidimensional pro-active holistic approach for reducing risk’. The beginnings of an institutional structure for disaster management can be traced to the British period following the series of disasters such as famines of 1900, 1905, 1907 & 1943, and the Bihar-Nepal earthquake of 1937. Over the past century, the disaster management in India has undergone substantive changes in its composition, nature and policy.

Disaster Management during British

Administration and Post Independence During the British administration, relief departments were set up for emergencies during disasters. Such an activity-based setup with a reactive approach was functional only in the
postdisaster scenarios. The policy was relieforiented and activities included designing the relief codes and initialising food for work programmes. Post-Independence, the task for managing disasters continued to rest with the Relief Commissioners in each state, who functioned under the Central Relief Commissioner, with their role limited to delegation of relief material and money in the affected areas. Every five-year plan addressed flood disasters under “Irrigation, Command Area Development and Flood Control”. Until this stage, the disaster management structure was activity-based, functioning under the Relief Departments.

List of various Disasters

i. Water and climate related disasters

(a) Floods and drainage management
(b) Cyclones
(c) Tornadoes and hurricanes
(d) Hailstorm
(e) Cloud burst
(f) Heat wave and cold wave
(g) Snow avalanches
(h) Droughts
(i) Sea erosion
(j) Thunder and lightening
(k) Tsunami

ii. Geological related disasters a) Landslides and mudflows

(a) Earthquakes
(b) Dam failures/ Dam bursts
(c) Minor fires

iii. Chemical, industrial and nuclear related disasters

(a) Chemical and industrial disasters
(b) Nuclear disasters

iv. Accident related disasters

(a) Forest fires
(b) Urban fires
(c) Mine flooding
(d) Oil spills
(e) Major building collapse
(f) Serial bomb blasts
(g) Festival related disasters
(h) Electrical disasters and fires
(i) Air, road and rail accidents
(j) Boat capsizing
(k) Village fire

v. Biological related disasters a) Biological disasters and epidemics

(a) Pest attacks
(b) Cattle epidemics
(c) Food poisoning

Source: High Powered Committee Report- 1999

Prevention and Mitigation

The Yokohama message emanating from the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction in May 1994 underlined the need for an emphatic shift in the strategy for disaster mitigation. It inter-alia stressed that disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness and relief were four elements, which contribute to and gain from the implementation of the sustainable development policies. These elements along with environmental protection and sustainable development, are closely inter related. Nations, therefore should incorporate them in their development plans and ensure efficient follow up measures at the community, sub-regional, regional, national and international levels. Disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness are better than disaster response in achieving the goals and objectives of vulnerability reduction.

Effective planning and focus on prevention and mitigation would greatly help in ensuring that the hazards do not transform itself into disasters and the coping capacities of the vulnerable population is greatly increased. This would again need systematic planning and coordination to ensure that the Disaster Risk Reduction is constantly promoted and mainstreamed in the regular programmes of each department. Recently planning commission has constituted a committee for inclusion of DRR measures in the 12th five year plan.

Preparedness and Response

Facing disaster by way of mitigation, prevention, preparedness, response, evacuation, relief and rehabilitation has been part of the administrative ethos. India has a long history of rendering relief in an organized fashion in times of drought and famine. The states have antiquated relief code which deals with the general principles of administration of relief.

It starts with the responsibility of the Government for combating distress, defining scope of object of such measures etc. India, with a vast agrarian economy in the past had focused on distress relief mainly related to agricultural activities.

Preparedness included collection of statistical data on the rainfall, weather conditions, crop pattern activities relating to management of cattle etc. The relief work focused on departmental work and village work for generation of employment during drought. With the changing pattern of disaster and with the introduction of technology, material and new financial terms into disaster management, several modifications have been incorporated in the administrative measures for relief work

The scope of disaster has since changed and so the response thereto. With the constitution of successive Finance Commission under the provision of the Constitution, the measures for relief and the scope of disaster have enlarged. An attempt has been made in the succeeding aragraphs to capture the information relating to timely prediction/forecasting of different kind of disasters and development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for responding such disasters. The preparedness and response phase in the Disaster management cycle are critical in reducing the impact of disasters. The involvement of multivarious stakeholders, therefore, need to ensure efficient inter-departmental coordination and need to constantly review and improve the systems in place. It has to be kept in mind to ensure that the focus on these two areas help in bringing a tangible improvement in handling the disasters.


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