In this article we will discuss about the role of various agencies in disaster management in India.
1. Role of the Union Government:
Although the State Government concerned has the primary responsibility for crisis management, the Union Government plays a key supportive role in terms of physical and financial resources and providing complementary measures, such as early warning and co-ordination of efforts of all union ministries, departments and organisations. At the apex level, a Cabinet Committee on Natural Calamities reviews the crisis situation.
A high level committee of ministers under the chairmanship of Minister of Agriculture deals with the issue of financial support to be provided to the State Governments from the National Disaster Response Fund, if the funds available with the State Governments under State Disaster Response Fund are not adequate. Matters relating to nuclear, biological and chemical emergencies are looked after by the Cabinet Committee on Security.
2. National Crisis Management Committee:
The Cabinet Secretary, as the highest executive officer, heads the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC). Secretaries of ministries and departments concerned and heads of other organisations are members of NCMC, which reviews and monitors crisis situations on a regular basis and gives directions to the Crisis Management Group, as deemed necessary. The NCMC can give directions to any ministry, department or organisation for specific action needed for meeting the crisis situation.
As disaster management is a multi-disciplinary process, all Central Ministries and Departments have a key role in the field of disaster management. In view of the highly technical and specific nature of certain disaster events such as aviation disasters, rail accidents, chemical disasters and biological disasters etc.; the ministries dealing with that particular subject have the nodal responsibility for handling that particular type of disaster.
Nodal Ministries/Department for Disaster Management at the National Level:
i. Droughts – Ministry of agriculture
ii. Epidemics and Biological Disasters – Ministry of Health
iii. Chemical or Industrial Chemical Disasters – Ministry of Environment & Forest
iv. Nuclear Accidents – Department of Atomic Energy
v. Railway Accidents – Ministry of Railways
vi. Air Accidents – Ministry of Civil Aviation
vii. Natural Disasters except Drought & Epidemics and Civil Strife – Ministry of Home Affairs
The Secretaries of the Nodal Ministries and Departments of GOI, i.e. the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Agriculture, Civil Aviation, Environment and Forests, Health, Atomic Energy, Space, Earth Sciences, Water Resources, Mines, Railways etc. are all members of the NEC and function as nodal agencies for specific disasters based on their core competencies or as assigned to them.
The coordination between various nodal ministries/departments is done by National Executive Committee (NEC), which is headed by Home Secretary. The NEC has to prepare the national plan for disaster management based on the National Disaster Management Policy.
3. Crisis Management Group:
The Crisis Management Group (CMG) consists of nodal officers from various concerned ministries. Apart from CMG, the National Executive Committee headed by the Home Secretary performs the statutory coordination and functions as per the DM Act, 2005.
The CMG’s functions are to review annual contingency plans formulated by various ministries, departments and organisations in their respective sectors, measures required for dealing with natural disasters, coordinate the activities of the Union Ministries and State Governments in relation to disaster preparedness and relief, and to obtain information from the nodal officers on all these issues.
In the event of a disaster, the CMG meets frequently to review relief operations and extends all possible assistance required by the affected states to overcome the situation. The Resident Commissioner of the affected state is also associated with such meetings.
4. Funding Mechanism:
Each state has a corpus of funds, called State Disaster Response Fund, administered by a state level committee headed by the Chief Secretary of the State Government. The size of the corpus is determined with reference to the expenditure normally incurred by the state on relief and rehabilitation over the past ten years.
In case the funds under State Disaster Response Fund are not sufficient to meet the specific requirements, State Governments can seek assistance from the National Disaster Response Fund—a fund created at Central Government level. Both these funds, as the names suggest, are meant for relief and rehabilitation and do not cover either mitigation or reconstruction works, which have to be funded separately by the State or Union Government.
5. Role of State Government:
In India, the basic responsibility to undertake rescue, relief and rehabilitation measures in the event of natural disasters rests with the state government. Since the very beginning, the entire structure of crisis administration in the state governments had been oriented towards post disaster relief and rehabilitation.
Most of the states have Relief Commissioners who are in charge of the relief and rehabilitation measures. Most of the states have switched over to a Disaster Management Department with the required linkages with the various development and regulatory departments concerned with prevention, mitigation and preparedness.
Every state has a Crisis Management Committee under the chairpersonship of the Chief Secretary, consisting of secretaries in charge of concerned departments, which reviews crisis situations on a day-to-day basis at the time of crisis, coordinates the activities of all departments and provides decision support system to the district administration. At the ministers’ level, a Cabinet Committee on Natural Calamities under the chairpersonship of the Chief Minister takes stock of situations and is responsible for all important policy decisions.
6. Role of District Administration:
The District Magistrate/Collector has the responsibility for overall management of disasters in the district. He has the authority to mobilise the response machinery and has been given financial powers to draw money under the provisions of the General Financial Rules/Treasury Codes.
All departments of the State Government, including the police, fire services, public works, irrigation etc., work in a coordinated manner under the leadership of the Collector during a disaster, except in metropolitan areas where the municipal body plays a major role. The District Collector also enjoys the authority to request for assistance from the Armed Forces if circumstances so demand. NGOs have also been effective in providing relief, rescue and rehabilitation in recent times.
7. Role of Local Self-Governments:
Local self-governments, both rural and urban, have emerged as important tiers of governance, after the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution. For the people, they are also the nearest units of administration and are among the first responders to any crisis besides being closely knit with the communities. These units can thus play an important role in crisis management under the overall leadership of the District Administration.
8. Role of Public/NGO/Civil Society/Media:
The local community is usually the first responder in case of a disaster. Local community also carries traditional knowledge and relevant counter measures regarding disaster management. So the role of local community must be utilised with the help of NGOs and media.
They should be encouraged to play an active role in all three phases of disaster management. District administration should also focus on capacity building, participation and empowerment of these stakeholders in disaster management.
Mobilisation of community action supported by local NGOs, along with government machinery is a must for quick, efficient and effective response. For this, healthy coordination must exist between local administration and local community/NGOs. Local NGOs and civil society must work on developing a deep culture of safety and prevention in society.
NGOs, civil society and media also play an active role as pressure groups in a democracy so that any laxity on part of the government can be traced and fixed. So, the public and the NGOs should keep a close vigil over the functioning of the government regarding disaster management and render their services as a watchdog.
What is Needed?
We cannot prevent natural hazards, which are endemic to our geology, geography, climate, social and cultural settings, but we can certainly strive to manage crisis more efficiently so that hazards do not degenerate into disasters. With a coherent and meaningful crisis management strategy in place, it is quite possible to visualize our country, despite its manifold hazards, as a place that will eventually be free of all disasters.
In the realm of crisis management, announcing a policy, or promulgating a law, or creating an institution is a relatively easy task; the challenge lies in implementing policies to achieve the desired outcomes. Crisis management, a governance issue that is both vital and complex, is at the core of India’s administrative system.
The system requires innovative thinking and fundamental changes in order to quicken the emergency responses of the administration and increase the effectiveness of the machinery to meet the crisis situation and enhance crisis preparedness. To that end, it is necessary that the apparatus of crisis management should perform and deliver. What is needed is ushering in a new paradigm in the quality and efficacy of our institutional capacity and delivery mechanisms while, at the same time, ensuring that they are embedded in both the structures of authority and the mechanisms of accountability.
Our aim should not only be having more efficient systems of governance but also innovative ways of capacity building and empowerment of all stakeholders at all levels, including panchayats and the community, strategic applications of science and technology, realisation of a sound emergency communication network, building safe homes and infrastructure, and learning from research and development, as also from the experiences of handling crisis situations in the past.
Each of these tasks is a challenge and calls for careful strategy of planning and implementation coupled with coordinated efforts of a variety of players, both within and outside the governmental structure. Our target should be establishing the synergy and convergence of advances in the technological and knowledge era with our rich socio-cultural practices and indigenous coping mechanisms. Systematic preparedness, early warning, quick response and sustainable recovery have been the cornerstones of approach to disaster management.
Institutional Support of Science and Technology Institutions for Disaster Management:
Disaster management depends heavily upon the inputs from various science and technology institutions. Indeed, major improvements in disaster management efforts may be attributed to developments in science and technology. As crisis management is multidisciplinary in nature, the relevant research is carried out in several sector-wise research and development organisations.
The 2nd Administrative Reforms Committee has recommended that The National Disaster Management Authority, assisted by NIDM, may facilitate a common platform between the science and technology organisations and the users of relevant technologies. Such mechanisms may be made operational both at the Union and State levels.
Professionalisation of Disaster Management:
Institutional development for disaster management in the country has clearly suffered on account of paucity of professionally qualified personnel. While civil servants and other senior personnel in organisations like the police, armed forces and municipal bodies have provided a leadership role and their leadership will continue to be required, it is time that special attention is paid to the long-felt need to professionalise disaster management in the country.
The best practices in disaster management are the strategies and methods perfected by several developed countries and India can take advantage from exposure to these practices. It is, therefore, desirable that the possibility of bilateral agreements with foreign governments for exchange of experiences and learning from their documentation and research efforts be fully explored.
Use of Mass Media and Social Media:
Mass media plays a very important role in spreading awareness about disasters. Immediately after a major disaster in any part of the world, the curiosity and apprehension among the communities about their own risk is at its maximum.
This is an opportune time to carry out public awareness campaigns and use media to focus on generating awareness about the risk the community is exposed to. This could best be achieved through a healthy partnership between the media and the disaster management machinery.
An important input in such awareness generation programmes could be the lessons that have been learnt from disasters in the past or from those in other areas. For this purpose, the details of all such disasters need to be properly documented and kept in the public domain. The District Disaster Management Authorities, the State Disaster Management Authorities and the NDMA should have these details along with the lessons learnt, on their respective websites.
Building Community Resilience:
The community is also a repository of knowledge and skills which have evolved traditionally and these need to be integrated in the risk reduction process. It is necessary to educate the community about the entire disaster risk reduction and even to impart skills and assign specific roles to the members of the community, so that the first response from the community is a well-coordinated one.
Focus on District Disaster Management Plan:
The District Administration should discuss the hazard, risk and vulnerability profile of the district. The Administration should know the vulnerability map of the district, historical profile of various disasters that have happened in the past, their impact on the district and how the district was able to cope up. What is the preparedness of the district now? Would the district be able to handle the disaster if it is hit now?
What is the present capacity of preparedness of the district administration or DDMA for search and rescue, relief distribution, logistics, ensuring life-line services, providing security and safety to the people, law and order situation, resource mobilisation, etc.? The administration needs to know the answers for all these questions. This would give an idea of the capacity, of the district and also give direction to start planning. The administration or DDMA then consolidates the risks of the district and take the level forward.