Uttarakhand floods wash dust off reforms report on disaster management

Uttarakhand floodPersonnel from the Indian armed forces carry relief supplies from a helicopter for stranded people at Guptkashi. (Reuters)

In March, a task force on disaster management set up by the government in 2011 submitted its report, suggesting sweeping changes to the Disaster Management Act, 2005. But it did not get much attention. It took the devastation of Uttarakhand for the home ministry to take a serious look at the report.

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The task force, led by former NDMA secretary P K Mishra, suggested that the NDMA, which has faced much flak for its poor response to the calamity in Uttarakhand, be restructured, its functions redefined and the number of its members reduced from 9 to 4. It also suggested that in large cities such as Delhi and Mumbai, the NDMA be given a larger role in urban planning and the disaster authority should be made part of the city administration.

The state failed at every level

The report said the National Executive Committee headed by the home secretary, which drafts the National Disaster Management Plan, should be abolished. And the plan should instead be prepared by the NDMA, which, as of now, only clears it. The report said the NEC has not met for the past 6 years.

The report said the law in its present form was not clear on who would be the first respondents to a disaster and suggested that this role be entrusted to the home ministry, which should also coordinate relief and rescue work. It also called for a National Committee for Crisis Management headed by the cabinet secretary oversees response to an emergency situation.

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The ministry is now examining the suggestions, sources said. "The law may be amended to form two committees at the state level; one responsible for formulating policies and the other in charge of implementation," an official in the ministry said.

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