[Solved] Discuss the recent measures initiated in disaster management by the Government of India departing from the earlier reactive approach (UPSC GS-3 mains 2020)

Disaster is a severe disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources. Recent measures initiated in disaster management by the Government of India are discussed below

  • The historical trajectory and institutional framework of disaster management in India has been explained in the earlier module.
  • Traditionally, disasters in India have been addressed after the incident has occurred, for instance the Bhopal gas tragedy (1984) or the Latur earthquake (1993).
  • A review of the 5 year plan points the fact that understanding of disasters was to mitigate droughts and floods. (Planning Commission, 2002) In certain disasters the failure of governmental mechanism itself led to the emergence of disasters as evident in the Bengal Famine (1943).

National Disaster Management Act 2005

  • The Government of India took a defining step on 23 December by enacting the Disaster Management Act, 2005. The Act envisaged the establishment of dedicated institutional structure for disaster management in India and strengthening disaster risk reduction efforts across the nation.
  • It mandated the formation of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) and District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMAs).
  • It provided detailed guidelines on the structure, responsibility and functioning of these Authorities and incorporated multidisciplinary integrated and holistic approach in disaster management.
  • It also proposes the development of the national Plan for disaster management. For disaster research and training purposes, the establishment of NIDM was envisaged.
  • For special response to impending hazard strike or disaster event, National Disaster Response Force was formed.
  • Specific funds like Disaster Response Fund at national (National Disaster Response Fund), state (State Disaster Response Fund) and district (Distirct Disaster Response Fund) level and Disaster Mitigation Fund at national (National Disaster Mitigation Fund), state (State Disaster Mitigation Fund) and district (Distirct Disaster Mitigation Fund) level were set up as part of the Act.

National Policy on Disaster Management, 2009

 The policy sums up the existing institutional and financial arrangements for addressing disasters in the nation. It also sums up the phase wise components of disaster management. The objectives of the policy promote a culture of prevention, encourage risk reduction and aim at mainstreaming disaster management in development processes.

National Disaster Management Plan, 2015

The plan provides a framework and direction to the government agencies for disaster management and risk reduction.

Paradigm shift in Action

To operationalize the paradigm shift in disaster management, multiple initiatives have been undertaken by the Indian government in association with non-governmental and community based bodies.

Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction in Developmental Planning

  • The Integrated Watershed Management Programme, by the Department of Land Resources, Government of India, aims “to restore the ecological balance by harnessing, conserving and developing degraded natural resources such as soil, vegetative cover and water.
  • The outcomes are prevention of soil run-off, regeneration of natural vegetation, rain water harvesting and recharging of the ground water table” enabling multi-cropping and the introduction of diverse agro-based activities.
  • (Department of Land Resources) With the development planning of the watershed, the hazard of drought is also mitigated.
  • Similarly, the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) has also been extensively used not only to provide livelihood security but also to create flood mitigation structures like dykes, reservoirs and rejuvenation of canals and natural water systems.
  • Thus through MGNREGA, the economic vulnerability of the population is addressed as well as disaster prevention and mitigation measures are getting incorporated.

National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC): Cabinet Secretary, who is the highest executive officer, heads the NCMC.

  • Secretaries of all the concerned Ministries /Departments as well as organizations are the members of the Committee The NCMC gives direction to the Crisis Management Group as deemed necessary.
  • The Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs is responsible for ensuring that all developments are brought to the notice of the NCMC promptly.
  • The NCMC can give directions to any Ministry/Department/Organization for specific action needed for meeting the crisis situation.

Crisis Management Group:

  • The Central Relief Commissioner in the Ministry of Home Affairs is the Chairman of the CMG, consisting of senior officers (called nodal officers) from various concerned Ministries.
  • The CMG’s functions are to review every year contingency plans formulated by various Ministries/Departments/Organizations in their respective sectors, measures required for dealing with a natural disasters, coordinate the activities of the Central Ministries and the State Governments in relation to disaster preparedness and relief and to obtain information from the nodal officers on measures relating to above.
  • The CMG, in the event of a natural disaster, meets frequently to review the relief operations and extend all possible assistance required by the affected States to overcome the situation effectively. The Resident Commissioner of the affected State is also associated with such meetings.
  • 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.
  • 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 had been periodically updated. It facilitates the launching of relief operations without delay.

The government has put up for public consideration and comment the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020.The draft is seen as an attempt to weaken environmental regulation and silence the affected communities.

What is the idea behind?

  • The basis in global environmental law for the EIA is the “precautionary principle”.
  • Environmental harm is often irreparable.
  • It is thus cheaper to avoid damage to the environment than to remedy it.
  • Various international environmental treaties and obligations as well as Supreme Court judgments are based on this principle.
  • Environmental regulation must balance damage to the environment with sustainable development and possible benefits of a project.
  • In this line, any project that involves environmental factors needs an unbiased assessment made on a precautionary basis.
  • It is with this idea that the Environmental Impact Assessment is carried out.
  • However, industries and business interests have long regarded EIA as a constraint to them.

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