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The Disaster Management Act, 2005

India has been traditionally vulnerable to natural disasters on account of its unique geo-climatic conditions. Floods, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes and landslides have been a recurrent phenomena. Being highly vulnerable to natural disaster, 25 states out of a total of 35 states/UTs in India are considered disaster prone. 68% of Indian land is draught prone, 12% to flood and 8% to cyclone. The loss in terms of private, community and public assets has been astronomical. Therefore disaster management occupies an important place in this country’s policy framework as it is the poor and the under-privileged who are worst affected on account of calamities/disasters. At the global level too, there has been considerable concern over natural disasters. Approach to Disaster Management Till recently, the approach to Disaster Management has been reactive and relief centric. A paradigm shift has now taken place at the national level from the relief centric syndrome to holistic and integrated approach with emphasis on prevention, mitigation and preparedness. These efforts are aimed to conserve developmental gains as also minimize losses to lives, livelihood and property. A typical Disaster Management continuum as shown below, comprising of six elements i.e., Prevention, Mitigation and Preparedness in pre-disaster phase, and Response, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction in post-disaster phase, defines the complete approach to Disaster Management. The Disaster Management Act – 2005 is aimed at preparedness, prevention and early planning towards disaster. By this Act three authorities namely, National Disaster Management Authority, State Disaster Management Authority and District Disaster Management Authority have been established. As stated in the act,  there shall be no discrimination on the of ground of gender, caste and community in providing compensation and relief. The act also provides penalties for obstruction, false claims etc and ensures the establishment of Disaster Response fund and Disaster Mitigation fund at central, state and district level. The Disaster Management Division of Ministry of Home Affairs is the nodal agency for all issues related to disaster management except the drought which is looked after by the Ministry of Agriculture. The Act comprises of 79 sections and 11 chapters. The President of India gave his assent to the Disaster Management Bill 2005 on January 9, 2006. Chapter I -Definition Section 2 of the Act defines ‘Disaster’ as a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from either natural or man made causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering, or damage to and destruction of property or damage to or degradation of environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area. ‘Disaster Management’ is defined as a continuous and integrated process of planning, organizing, coordinating and implementing measures which are necessary or expedient to prevent danger or threat of any disaster, mitigation or reduce the risk or severity or consequences of any disaster, capacity-building and preparedness to deal with any disaster, prompt response to any threatening disaster situation or disaster, assessing the severity or magnitude of effects of any disaster, evacuation, rescue and relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Chapter II- National disaster management authority The Act empowers the Central Government to appoint the National Disaster Management Authority with the Prime Minister of India as the Chairperson and such number of other members, not exceeding nine. The Central Government is to provide the National Authority with such officers, consultants and employees, as it considers necessary for carrying out the functions of the National Authority. The National Authority has the responsibility to lay down, approve the policies, plans and guidelines for disaster management prepared by various departments of Government of India to ensure timely and effective response to disaster. Further the chapter also details about the meetings, executive committee and plans. Chapter III - State Disaster Management Authorities Similar to National Authority at the Centre, the State Government is to establish a State Disaster Management Authority for the State. The State Authority is to be headed by the Chief Minister of the State as the Chairperson and such number of other members, not exceeding nine. The State Authority is empowered as and when it considers necessary to constitute an advisory committee, consisting of experts in the field of disaster management. The State Authority is supposed to lay down the State disaster management policy, approve the State Plan in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the National Authority.  Chapter III also specifies on meetings, state executive committee and plans. Chapter IV - District Disaster Management Authorities Every State Government, in turn is to establish a District Disaster Management Authority for every district in the State with the Collector or District Collector or Deputy Commissioner as the Chairperson and such number of other members, not exceeding seven. The District Authority is to act as the district planning, coordinating and implementing body for disaster management and take all measures for the purposes of disaster management in the district in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the National Authority and the State Authority. Chapter V - Measures by the Government and International Agencies for Disaster Management The Central Government is empowered to take measures as it deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of disaster management like deployment of naval, military and air forces, other armed forces of the Union or any other civilian personnel as may be required for the purposes of this Act, coordination with the United Nations agencies, international organizations and governments of foreign countries for the purposes of this Act and establish institutions for research, training and developmental programmes in the field of disaster management. It is also empowered to deal with all such other matters as it deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of securing effective implementation of the provisions of the Act. Chapter VI - Local Authorities Subject to the directions of the District Authority, the local authorities shall ensure that the officers and employees are trained, resources are so maintained as to be readily available, carry out relief rehabiliation and reconstruction activities in the affected areas and may take such other measures as may be necessary for the disaster management. Chapter VII - National Institute of Disaster Management The Central Government is empowered to constitute an institute to be called the National Institute of Disaster Management. The institute  functions within the broad policies and guidelines laid down by the National Authority and is responsible for planning and promoting training and research in the area of disaster management, documentation and development of national level information base relating to disaster management policies, prevention mechanisms and mitigation measures. Chapter VIII - National Disaster Response Force A National Disaster Response Force for the purpose of specialist response to a threatening disaster situation or disaster is to be constituted. The general superintendence, direction and control of the Force shall be vested and exercised by the National Authority and the command and supervision of the Force shall vest in an officer to be appointed by the Central Government as the Director General of the National Disaster Response Force. Chapter IX - Finance, Accounts and Audits The Central Government is empowered to constitute a fund to be called as the National disaster Response fund for meeting any threatening disaster situation or disaster and there shall be credited thereto an amount which Centarl Government may, after due appropraiation made by parliament by law in this behalf provide any grants that may be made by any person or institution for the purpose of disaster management. Chapter X -Offences and Penalties The Act imposes punishments to persons/companies for contravening the provisions of this Act, 2005 such as obstructing or abandoning, refusing to comply with any of the provisions of this Act, making false claims, misappropriation of money or materials or false warning, etc. The punishment in such cases could be imprisonment or fine or both. Chapter XI-Miscellaneous The National Authority, the State Authority, or a District Authority is empowered to recommend the Government to give direction to any authority or person in control of any audio or audiovisual media or such other means of communication as may be available to carry any warning or advisories regarding any threatening disaster situation or disaster, and the said means of communication and media as designated shall comply with such direction. Recent Initiatives Coordinated mock drills under simulated situations like terror attack, earthquake, bomb blast, fire breakouts, flyover collapse etc., are being organised by the National, State & District Management Authorities from time to time. The most calamitous situations had been planned out to test Delhi's disaster preparedness and the venues included Metro stations, schools, colleges, markets, temples, government buildings and five star hotels. Mock drills will built the awareness of the general population and increase their coping capacity during disaster. This will help all the stakeholders especially the community to know what needs to be done to prevent and safeguard and avoid casualty. Conclusion Disaster results not only in the loss of life & shelter but also creates lack of food, increase in diseases and disturb socio-economic activities. Therefore it is one of the major area of concern for a developing country like India. Disaster Management has to be a multi-disciplinary and pro-active approach. Besides various measures for putting in place institutional and policy framework, disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness initiatives taken by the Central and State Governments the INGOs and NGOs, the community, civil society organizations and the media also have a key role to play in achieving the goal of moving together, towards a safer India.   ******
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