Analytical Issues in Disaster Management in India
Constitutional Provision – is there need for a separate entry for Disaster Management in the 3 Lists?
- Disaster management doesn’t figure in any of the 3 lists. So the parliament has the competence to legislate on this subject. However, by practice and convention the primary responsibility for managing disasters rests with the State Governments
- The Disaster Management Act, 2005 was enacted by invoking entry 23 namely ‘Social security and social insurance, employment and unemployment’ in the Concurrent List even though all aspects of crisis management cannot be said to be covered by this entry.
- There are already various entries in the three lists, which deal with some aspect or other of disaster management. ‘Public order’ finds a place in the State List, as does Public Health. Entries 14 and 17 in the State List deal with Agriculture and Water respectively. Environment and Social Security are included in the Concurrent List. Atomic energy and Railways are part of the Union List.
- Due to the cross cutting nature of activities that constitute disaster management and linkages required which involve coordination between the Union, State and local governments on the one hand and a host of government departments and agencies on the other; setting up of a broadly uniform institutional framework at all levels is of paramount importance.
- There is need to ensure congruence and coherence with regard to the division of labor among the agencies at the Union, State and other levels. This could best be achieved if the subject of Disaster Management is placed in the Concurrent List of the Constitution.
What should a law on crisis management provide?
- Centralization versus decentralization
- A totally centralized or totally decentralized mechanism would be ineffective because while the response should be made from the local level, the level of coordination required necessitates involvement of the central government. It is best if certain functions of disaster management are centralized while others are decentralized down to the lowest level.
- Immediate rescue, relief and then rehabilitation should be the responsibility of the level of government closest to the affected population. This logically has to be the district administration and the local self-governments.
- The district administration is part of the State Government and the primary responsibility for managing any disaster is with the State Governments.
- The resources of states being limited they seek and get assistance from the Union Government. This arrangement of ‘bottom-up’ responsibilities regarding implementation is appropriate and has worked well in the past and should not be disturbed.
- On the other hand, disaster management planning requires wider perspective and expertise. Developments in science and technology, specialized manpower and equipment, repository of best practices, early warning systems, standard capacity building and awareness generation programmes call for an agency to coordinate efforts at the state and the national levels.
- Thus, the legislation needs to create agencies at all levels. The responsibility and the authority assigned to each one of these have to be distinct. National level planning, research, analysis and adoption of best practices, development of standard operating procedures (national level), development of training and capacity building programmes, administration of early warning systems and formulating policy on disaster management are best entrusted to a national body. Local planning and the actual work of implementation are better left with State Governments, local governments and the district administration with support from the Union Government’s implementing agencies.
- Mobilization of resources: The law needs to empower authorities handling disasters to requisition such resources for specified periods and the issue of compensation should not be a hindrance in crisis management efforts.
- Information dissemination: Even with good early warning technologies, the human element involved in the transmission process is crucial. Prompt transmission of information should be made a statutory duty of each concerned functionary and SoPs devised. Responsibilities of citizens should also be defined in the process.
- Misutilization of funds: Funds meant for disaster relief often tend to get misused as normal procedures are not followed because of urgency. While enforcing stringent procurement procedures may become a hurdle in the disaster management effort, the penalty for misutilization of funds meant for disaster relief should be stringent and could form part of the law itself.
Analysis of the Disaster Management Act, 2005
- It defines disaster as natural or man made event that causes substantial loss to life, property and environment. The scope of this definition does not cover a variety of other crisis situations that may or may not culminate in a disaster.
- It concentrates very comprehensive powers at the national level for dealing with disasters.
- The NDMA as well as the NEC have been given the role not just of planning, coordinating, monitoring and providing assistance during a disaster but also executive functions related to implementation of the emergency relief and disaster response.
- What, in fact, is however needed is further empowerment and delegation to the front-end functionaries. In any crisis situation the field functionaries and the State Governments being aware of the field situation would be in the best position to provide timely and effective response.
- International practices also do not normally involve setting up centralized authorities with command and control functions to deal with disasters.
- The integration of the institutional structure prescribed under the Act with the existing administrative framework of the country may pose several problems.
- The NDMA and the NEC will also lay down guidelines for the state authorities, coordinate the enforcement and implementation of these policies and ensure timely response.
- All these functions traditionally have been performed by State Governments.
- Cabinet Secretary at the union level is more appropriate authority for the coordination of disaster management efforts rather than the NEC under department secretary.
Recommendations on the DMA, 2005
- Disaster Management should continue to be the primary responsibility of the State Governments and the Union Government should play a supportive role.
- The functions of the NDMA should be: to recommend policies, to lay down guidelines, to promote research, to advise on parameters of categorization of disasters, documentation and dissemination of knowledge, capacity building, early warning systems, to deploy resources in support of local/State Governments, and to give recommendations to the government.
- The task of implementation of mitigation/prevention and response measures may be left to the State Governments and the district and local authorities with the line ministries of the union playing a supportive role.
- The role of the local governments should be brought to the forefront for disaster management.
- The Act should provide categorization of disasters (say, local, district, state or national level). This categorization along with intensity of each type of disaster will help in determining the level of authority primarily responsible for dealing with the disaster as well as the scale of response.
- The law should cast a duty on every public functionary, to promptly inform the concerned authority about any crisis.
- The law should make provisions for stringent punishment for misutilization of funds meant for disaster management.
- The NEC as stipulated under the Disaster Management Act need not be constituted, and the NCMC should continue to be the apex coordination body. At the state level, the existing coordination mechanism under the Chief Secretary should continue.
Is There a Case for a Separate Ministry/Department of Disaster/Crisis Management?
- The functions expected of the ministry were networking and coordination of national resources while the concerned ‘functional’ ministries would continue to discharge their responsibilities and functions in accordance with their respective disaster management plans.
- Given the multi-disciplinary nature of activities in crisis management, creation of a separate ministry is likely to lead to conflict and delays rather than coordination. For planning, research, capacity building and coordination of national resources; such a coordination mechanism is now available with the formation of the NDMA. And for the purposes of implementation, a coordination mechanism headed by the Cabinet Secretary would be more effective.
NCMC vs NEC
- The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) headed by the Cabinet Secretary coordinates and guides the work of different departments of Government of India in times of crisis. The NEC would be duplicating the role of NCMC to a great extent.
- The NCMC has inherent advantages of ensuring quick decisions and immediate implementation. If parallel bodies are created the possibility of the pre-existing and newly formed committees trespassing on each other and creating confusion cannot be ruled out.
NDRF vs Army
- NDRF would be a highly trained quick response agency to respond to the needs of disaster response. To a large extent, this role has been filled by the Army.
- The lessons learnt from the devastating disasters around the world is that extraordinarily severe disasters could overwhelm specialized agencies and that in such situations the Armed Forces remain the ‘measure of last resort’.
- It is imperative that even after the NDRF becomes fully functional, the ‘enabling role’ of the Armed Forces in assisting the civil authorities be retained and the Armed Forces continue to maintain capabilities.
Role of Local Self-Governments
- Local bodies are closest to the people but too small in their reach and capabilities to lead the response operations on their own. They thus need to play an important role in crisis management under the overall leadership of the District Administration.
- State Governments may examine the need to incorporate provisions in the state disaster management law and also the state laws governing local bodies to provide for a well defined role to the PRIs.
- In major cities, Municipal Corporations have a large administrative system including departments like engineering, public health and revenue, and sometimes fire services. These should provide a good response.
Need for Holistic Water Management to Reduce Water Disasters
- Water related disasters can’t be addressed unless larger issues like water management through a National Water Policy are properly addressed.
- Central Water Commission
- A major impediment is the ‘segmented policy attention’ from a number of departments and there are multiple union departments involved with different aspects of water management. This leads to time-consuming repeated consultations, constant inter-departmental references and meetings and weak coordination and lack of a holistic approach.
- So the CWC should be restructured into a statutory autonomous inter-disciplinary Commission, with maximum powers, in order to deal with policy and reforms, center – state and inter-state issues.
- Using powers under Entry 56 in the Union List, a Law may be enacted to set up mechanisms for collection of data, managing flow in rivers and release of water from reservoirs, so as to prevent disasters, with interstate ramifications.
Steps to Improve Education and Awareness in Disaster Management
- Strengthening of National Institute of Disaster Management.
- Disaster Management should be introduced as a subject in Management and Public Administration.
- Professionalisation of disaster management is a desirable objective.
Improving Disaster Management Plans by Better Information and Practices
- It has been noticed that the district plans are usually not based on proper hazard and vulnerability analysis of the district.
- Preparing Seismic Micro Maps
- The seismic zone based categorization of the entire country on 1:1.25 million scale is a good indication of the seismic hazards at a macro level, but is inadequate for undertaking seismic activities at the city level. This requires advanced micro maps in 1:1000 scale, based on local geological, soil and ground water surveys.
- The preparation of such maps was taken up on a pilot basis for the selected cities, but none of the studies has been completed with common standards and protocols that can be accepted at national level.
- Use of GIS and GPS: It is also possible to use GIS tools to integrate various spatial data such as topography, hydrology, land use, land cover, settlement pattern, built up structures etc and non-spatial data such as demography, socio-economic conditions and infrastructure like road, rail network, communication system, hospital etc. on a common platform. This can be further integrated with GPS for real time monitoring of crisis.
- Enforcement of Plans
- Normally, it is understood that plans incorporate only developmental measures such as construction of shelters, construction of embankments etc.
- But disaster mitigation plans should also incorporate a schedule of ‘enforcement measures’ and the functionaries who will be held responsible for these.
- Such enforcement measures being ‘unpleasant’ and unpopular are very often not contemplated leave aside acted upon.
- These measures could include enforcement of building regulations in urban areas, removal of encroachments from natural watercourses or environmentally fragile areas, and strict enforcement of environmental, safety and public health regulations.
- Integration of Disaster and Developmental Planning
- The activities in the disaster management plans should be included in the development plans of the line agencies and local bodies.
- The supervisory level of each agency should ensure that the annual plan of that agency incorporates the activities listed out in the disaster management plan.
- Incorporation of disaster mitigation plans into the development plans should be specially monitored at the five year and annual plan discussions at State and Planning Commission levels.
- Environment management should be made an integral part of all plans.
- National Building Code of India 2005
- Its guidelines are seldom used. The main reason for this is ignorance about them and escalation of the costs if they are followed.
- A balance has to be struck between safety and cost.
- As a pre-requisite, it should be in public domain and freely available on Internet.
- Simplified versions should be made available. The BIS should convert the norms (at least for small dwelling units) into commonly understood principles, which could be followed and enforced even by village panchayats.
- The approach of drafting model rules and circulating them to the states for incorporation by the local bodies has not produced the desired results. Adoption of these model regulations would require periodic monitoring. Targets should be fixed each year and financial incentives should be used.
- For retrofitting old buildings, a suitable financial package may be worked out by the state governments along with banks and insurance agencies. Even non-financial incentives like relaxation on extent of built up areas could act as an incentive to motivate private owners to take up retrofitting.
- Zoning regulations
- They could be used to prevent settlements in hazard prone areas like the riverbanks or areas near coasts or ecologically sensitive areas. They could also be used to spread out the population so that impact of any hazard is limited.
- However, at present zoning regulations exist only in big cities. In small towns and rural areas the concept of zoning regulations is almost non-existent.
- Even in bigger cities, they are often not prepared with an intention to mitigate hazards.
- Another weakness of these zoning regulations is their poor enforcement.
- Communications networks, with sufficient redundancies should be established.
- Undertaking location specific training programmes for the community should be a part of the disaster management plan right from the PRI level.
Emergency Plan at the District Level
- Emergency Response Plans should be up-to-date and should lay down the ‘trigger points’ in unambiguous terms.
- The district emergency response plan should be prepared in consultation with all concerned. The plan should be known and accepted by all the role players.
- SoPs should be developed. Handbooks, checklists, manuals etc should be developed and disseminated.
- Unity of command should be the underlying principle.
- Mock drills and capability building efforts must be regularly carried out.
- It must be remembered that plans are no substitute for sound judgement at the time of crisis.
- Handling of crisis should be made a parameter for evaluating the performance of officers.
- Institutions such as civil defense, home guards must be revived and integrated with disaster response at field level.
Gender Issues in Disaster Management
- More women are affected in disasters they have little say in decision making, are comparatively less literate, have lesser mobility and are dependent on men folk. This disadvantaged situation obviously gets aggravated in crisis situation. So the special needs and concerns of women need to be kept in mind.
- The vulnerability analysis should bring out the specific vulnerabilities of women and these should be addressed in any mitigation effort. Disaster mitigation plans should be prepared, in consultation with womens’ groups.
- Rescue and relief operations should focus on the most vulnerable groups – women, children, the elderly and the physically challenged.
- In the recovery phase, efforts should focus on making women economically independent.
- Camp managing committees should have adequate number of women representatives.
- The complex nature of control of epidemics is evident from the fact that in the Constitution of India all the three legislative lists of the Seventh Schedule enumerate some aspects of the matter as follows: List-I; entry 28 “quarantine” and entry 81 “inter-State quarantine”; List-II; entry 6 “Public health and sanitation”; List-III; entry 29 “prevention of the extension from one State to another of infectious or contagious diseases”.
- The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 continues to deal with management of epidemic related diseases. It is an omnibus legislation which essentially supercedes all laws in force in the event of outbreak or a threatened outbreak of a ‘dangerous epidemic disease’ and authorizes the Union and State Governments (when authorized by the Union), to resort to all necessary measures to deal with the emergency. The Act also empowers search of vessels and other means of transport and detention and segregation of any persons suspected to be suffering from an epidemic disease.
- The Public Health Emergency Bill
- It enables the Union or State Governments to declare a particular area as ‘epidemic or bio-terrorism affected’.
- Upon such declaration, action can be initiated which apart from measures like inspection and quarantine etc., also empowers government to prohibit activities which lead to or are likely to lead to epidemics or bio-terrorism.
- The manner in which the Disaster Management Act, 2005 defines the term ‘disaster’ leaves no doubt that an epidemic of extraordinary severity spreading rapidly is covered by it. The Act also overrides the provision of any other law (Section 72). As such, it is clear that management of epidemics-related crisis would also fall within the jurisdiction of the NDMA. NDRF needs to be equipped to handle the cases of bio-terrorism.
Civil Defence in Disaster Management
Civil Defence (Amendment) Act, 2010
- It was amended to cater to the needs of disaster management so as to utilize the Civil Defence volunteers effectively for greater public participation in disaster management related activities.
- The CD organisation is raised only in such areas which are considered vulnerable. This is reviewed periodically.
- CD Setup at national level: Three tier structure as given below has been created to formulate and implement CD policy.
- Civil Defence Advisory Committee under the Chairmanship of Union Home Minister.
- Civil Defence Committee under the Chairmanship of Home Secretary.
- Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff Committee under the Chairmanship of Director General Civil Defence.
- Civil Defence Setup in the States: The state government appoints a Director of Civil Defence and also may constitute, for any area within the state a body of a person to be called the Civil Defence Corps.
- However, often such organizations remain deactivated. Out of 225 towns from 35 states notified as CD towns, currently the CD organisations at only 130 towns have been activated.
- Civil defence setup at district level: Each town has nucleus of four Permanent Staff along with 400 CD Volunteers for a two lakh population.
- But current strength is < 50% of the target.
- CD Training: It is expected that each state will have one CD Training Institute.
- Role: The role of Home Guards is to serve as an auxiliary to the police in the maintenance of law and order, internal security and help the community in any kind of emergency.
- Statutory Mechanisms and Service Condition: They are recruited from a cross section of the population such as doctors, engineers, lawyers, private sector organisations, college and university students, agricultural and industrial workers, etc. Home Guards are provided free uniform, duty allowances and awards for gallantry, distinguished and meritorious services. Members of Home Guards with three year service in the organisation are trained to assist police.
National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP)ox 4.2: National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project
Aim: The scheme aims to upgrade cyclone forecasting, tracking and warning systems, build capacity in multi-hazard risk management and to construct major infrastructures including multi-purpose cyclone shelters and embankments.
Execution Authority: The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has been designated the implementing agency. The scheme is regularly monitored by NDMA and MHA.
Principal Components: The major components under the scheme are as follows;
• Community mobilisation and training,
• Cyclone Risk Mitigation Infrastructure (construction of cyclone shelters, roads/missing links and construction/repair of Saline Embankments etc.),
• Technical assistance for capacity building on Disaster Risk Management (risk assessment, damage and need assessment),
• Capacity Building and knowledge creation along with project management and implementation support.
Community Based DM
Community-Based Disaster Management (CBDM) gives communities the training required to protect themselves from disasters and its adverse affects.
Preparedness as the key
While the time of occurrence of a big earthquake cannot be predicted accurately with existing technology, the foreknowledge of potential danger areas can help mitigate the impact of a disaster.
The reason for earthquakes occurring in Nepal is known: the movement of the Indian tectonic plate against the Eurasian plate. Along the Himalayas lie two fault-lines: the Main Boundary Thrust and the Main Central Thrust. Running parallel to the Himalayan ranges to a width of 100 km to 120 km, this region has a history of earthquakes. In the last 120 years, there have been four major events: 1897 (Shillong), 1905 (Himachal Pradesh, Kangra), 1934 (Nepal-Bihar border), 1950 (Arunachal Pradesh, then a part of the North East Frontier Agency or NEFA).
The movement of the Indian tectonic plate against the Eurasian plate has created accumulated stress. This stress is released in a manner that makes predicting earthquakes impossible. When a major event happens, part of the stress is released at that point but accumulates in a different part of the belt.
Thus there is no natural escape for the region from susceptibility to earthquakes. The best-laid plans for disaster mitigation following quakes can go awry, but some lessons can be learnt from the past. However, as the gap between the occurrence of major earthquakes in a given region could stretch over more than a lifespan, memories can fade and mitigation plans may not be grounded in lived experience.
The real advancement that has been made recently in India is, for instance, the setting up of many seismological stations, especially after the Bhuj earthquake of 2001. Measurements from these stations and global positioning system data now tell us the Indian plate is moving north at a speed of 5 centimetres a year. This would contribute to stress accumulation and to seismic activity even in Zones 2, 3 and 4. We need to accept earthquakes as a reality and do everything in our power to redefine development plans, especially in terms of building quake-resistant buildings. There should be systematic resort to “disaster drills” to educate the public on what to do during an earthquake. Preparedness is the key to managing any more such disasters.