As natural disaster is not a new phenomena, institutional arrangements for carrying out response, relief and rehabilitation have been well-established since independence. We can’t deny the role of institutional set up of governments, and responsibilities of different levels of government in achieving emerging national disaster risk management systems.
However, the time has come to expand the structures beyond traditional response such as relief and rehabilitation. The changed policy mandates a priority to pre-disaster aspects of mitigations, prevention and preparedness. In light of this new approach new institutional mechanisms are being put in place at Central, State and Local levels to meet the potential challenges.
Although the primary responsibility for disaster management is of the concerned state Governments, the Central Government plays a key role for providing financial and logistic support in case of major disasters. At Central level, Cabinet Secretary is the highest executive officer who heads the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC). Its members are all secretaries of the concerned Ministries/Departments and Organisations.
The NCMC gives direction to the Crisis Management Group and to any Ministry, Department and Organisation for specific action needed for meeting the crisis situation. The Central Relief Commissioner in the Ministry of Home Affairs is the Chairman of the Crisis Management Group. In the event of disaster, the CMG meets frequently to review the relief operations and extend all possible assistance required by the affected States to overcome the situation effectively.
At the level of state, it has been asked to set up Disaster Management Authorities under the Chief Minister with Ministers of relevant Departments as members.
Eleven States and Union Territories – Tamil Nadu, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Orissa, Gujarat Kerala, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Administration and Chandigarh Administration have notified the constitution of the authority.
On the other hand, in some states the work of the Department of Relief and Rehabilitation has been restructured. The Government of India is working with the State Governments to restructure the Department into Departments of Disaster Management with an enhanced area of responsibility to include mitigation and preparedness.
The change-over has already been made in 11 States including Union Territories – Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttaranchal, Nagaland, Andaman and Nicobar Administration, Sikkim and Lakshadweep. The States have also been advised to make four groups of the officers and staff within the Department with a view to manage definite functions of hazard mitigation, preparedness and capacity building, relief & resources, and administration & finance, respectively.
The disaster management has also its structures at district, block and village levels. The District Coordination and Relief Committee is being redesigned into Disaster Management Committee with officers from relevant departments being added as members. At the district level, the District Magistrate, who is the chief coordinator, is the focal point for coordinating all activities relating to prevention, mitigation and preparedness. The District Disaster Management Committees have already been constituted in 256 districts in the country and are in the process of being constituted in the remaining districts.
Similarly, efforts have also been made to constitute the Disaster Management Committees at sub-divisional, block and village levels. At the village level both – Disaster Management Committees and Disaster Management Teams are being constituted.
The DMC will consist of elected representatives at the village level, local authorities; Government functionaries including doctors, paramedics of primary health centres located in the village, primary school teachers etc. The Disaster Management Teams at the village level will consist of members of youth organisations like Nehru Yuva Kendra Sanghathan (NYKS) and National Service Scheme (NSS) and other non-governmental organisations.
The disaster management and mitigation falls under global trends of causing policy makers to think in terms of risk reduction.
The term ‘Management’ can be defined as the body of policy and administrative decisions and operational activities which pertain to the various stages of a disaster at all levels. Mitigation includes hazard mapping, hazard and vulnerability assessment, structural and non-structural measures. It embraces all measures taken to reduce both the effect of the hazard itself and the vulnerable conditions to it, in order to reduce the scale of a future disaster.
In wider perspective disaster management can be divided into two situations pre-disaster and post-disaster. Under the purview of disaster management, there are three key stages of activity-before a disaster strikes, during the disaster and after a disaster.
The first one is precautionary and involves all activities taken to reduce human and property losses caused by the hazard and ensure that these losses are minimised when the disaster strikes. They are called mitigation and preparedness activities. In course of disaster occurrence some activities are done to ensure that the needs and provisions of victims are met and suffering is minimised. They are also called emergency response activities.
The activities taken after a disaster are called response and recovery activities. In the post-disaster phase, best results can be achieved by mobilising youth from affected communities themselves, and training them as psycho-social counsellors.
Experiences in Orissa and Gujarat have shown that these young people, frequently from working class backgrounds, have remarkably helped people heal emotionally, to come to terms with their profound grief and loss and to gather the resolve to pick up the threads of life once again.
Only honest efforts involving institutional reforms, improved analytical and methodological capabilities, education, awareness, financial planning and political commitment will reduce the risk and vulnerability of natural disaster.
In order to minimise the effects of disasters, we need to coordinate and cooperate the entire system of management and mitigation, not just from the Government of the country but from the whole of the world community. Let us hope and try our best to make a
world free of disasters, natural and unnatural.
Dr Rajkumar Singh


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