India’s apex statutory body for disaster management, National Disaster Management Authority of India (NDMA) is responsible for coordinating a response to natural disasters or man-made disasters. The organisation also works for capacity-building in disaster resiliency and crisis response. It lays down policies, plans and guidelines for disaster management.The country has evidently witnessed the work of NDMA during the COVID-19 pandemic wherein India successfully handled the minimization of loss of lives as well as to protect the economy.
Recognizing a comprehensive approach towards natural calamities, the central government set up a High-Powered Committee (HPC) in August 1999 and a National Committee after the devastating Gujarat earthquake of 2001. The committees were given a task of making recommendations on the preparation of Disaster Management plans along with suggesting mitigation plans. Which ultimately lead into government of India, enacting Disaster Management Act, and creation of NDMA.
National Policy on Disaster Management, 2009 is a national level policy prepared in accordance with the Disater Management Act, 2005. The policy lays down a framework/roadmap to deal with disaster in a comprehensive and holistic manner. It states that the primary responsibility of handling a disaster rests with the concerned state government. Further,the Disaster Management Authority is also being established at 3 levels- National, State and District.
NDMA is headed by the Prime Minister as its chairperson. Similarly the State Disaster Management Authority of a state is headed by the Chief Minister of the concerned state. In districts, The District Magistrate/ District Collector / Deputy Commissioner heads the District Disaster Management Authority.
Another major step taken by the government was the establishment of the National Disaster Reaction Force (NDRF), which is considered to be the world’s largest rapid reaction force solely dedicated towards disaster response. NDRF carries out a holistic disaster management approach by preparing plans and policies along with carrying out relief measures.
India’s new approach towards disaster management
Before the 90s we had a relief-centered approach, there was no scope for saving lives and property and it was not part of the plan, said Union Minister Amit Shah. The Minister made these remarks at the Conference on Capacity Building for Disaster Response – 2022.
Tracing India’s disaster management system, the country was more focused on providing relief measures rather than carrying out provisions related to the protection of lives and property. Learning from the shortcomings and rescue methods of the Chennai floods 2015, and the Uttarakhand floods 2013, India has considerably improved its policy initiatives as well as rescue operation tactics to minimize and mitigate such disasters.
From Relying on Foreign Aid to Providing Foreign Aid
In recent years, India has donated a substantial amount of foreign disaster relief to other countries and simultaneously provided foreign development assistance to various countries. The country has taken various steps to help the countries of South and Southeast Asia. Along with providing humanitarian assistance bilaterally to various countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Sri Lanka.
Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar
For the first time in the country, an award was constituted in 2022 towards recognising and honouring the invaluable contribution and selfless service performed by individuals and organisations in the field of disaster management. On 23 January 2022, Union Minister Amit Shah awarded the first award to the 8th Battalion of NDRF as an institution.
Technological advancements fueling efficient Disaster Management System
India has made considerable progress in making the disaster management system well equipped with modern technology. In 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “We must enhance our disaster management capabilities. The way to do this is to improve our human resources as well as technology.”
Space technology and satellite monitoring of the weather conditions, timely and accurately identification of the affected areas along with various such measures have led the government to lower down the effects of disaster.
Union Minister Amit Shah at a conference on Capacity Building for Disater Response – 2022 said, “Thousands of people died in the 1999 Odisha super cyclone and the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, but today we are standing at such a place that no matter how many cyclones come, we have brought the death down to less than one percent”
Various disasters related applications have also been created, like weather app which focuses on things like cyclones, heavy rain, heat and cold wave. Meghdoot App which targets farmers to make them conduct weather based agriculture management and Damini App for lightning alerts.
In the North-Eastern states, North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NESAC) an organisation which utilises space technology and satellite services to help the North East states in efficiently manage floods, help in road alignment and infrastructure construction based on the flow and course of water.
Aapada Mitra Programme – Community-Based Disaster Management
The scheme is based on the framework of a community-based disaster management system. Under this, the government is carrying out the operation in 350 districts of the country, intending to generate one lakh youth volunteers. The primary objective of the scheme is to provide a committed contingent of youth trained in disaster management discipline in every village, city, and ward of the country. Further, making the workforce present at the ground level to carry out basic relief and rescue tasks in times of emergency situations such as floods, flash- floods, and urban flooding.