Declaring Disaster as National Calamity

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    Recently, the Standing Committee on Water Resources recommended setting up a permanent National Integrated Flood Management Group (NIFMG ). 

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    • As frequent floods ravage different parts of the country, a Parliamentary panel has recommended that the Union Government should take up the responsibility of flood management, in the form of a National Integrated Flood Management Group, chaired by the Union Minister of Jal Shakti 
    • The committee also recommended that chief ministers of the states concerned should be the members of this group and the group should meet at least once a year.
    • And, States have often demanded natural calamities to be declared as national ones, especially after floods in a region
    How does the Law define a Disaster?

    •  Disaster Management Act, 2005 defines a ‘disaster’ as a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area – arising from natural or man-made causes, or by accident or negligence. 
      • A natural disaster includes earthquake, flood, landslide, cyclone, tsunami, urban flood, heatwave; a man-made disaster can be nuclear, biological and chemical.
        • It 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: It is defined as a continuous and integrated process of planning, organising, coordinating and implementing measures necessary to prevent the danger or threat of a disaster, mitigating or reducing the risk of a disaster or its consequences; capacity-building; preparedness to deal with a disaster; and rehabilitation and reconstruction.
      • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), headed by the Prime Minister of India, is the apex body for Disaster Management in India. 
      • Setting up of NDMA and the creation of an enabling environment for institutional mechanisms at the State and District levels is mandated by the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

    Provisions to  Classify a National Calamity

    • There is no provision, executive or legal, to declare a natural calamity as a national calamity.
      • The existing guidelines of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)/ National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), do not contemplate declaring a disaster as a ‘National Calamity.”

    Earlier Attempts in this Direction 

    • The 10th Finance Commission (1995-2000) examined a proposal that a disaster is termed “a national calamity of rarest severity” if it affects one-third of the population of a state.
      • The panel did not define a “calamity of rare severity” but stated that a calamity of rare severity would necessarily have to be adjudged on a case-to-case basis taking into account.
        • The intensity and magnitude of the calamity
        • Level of assistance needed
        • The capacity of the state to tackle the problem
        • The alternatives and flexibility were available within the plans to provide succour and relief, etc. 
      • In 2001, the National Committee on Disaster Management under the chairmanship of the then Prime Minister was mandated to look into the parameters that should define a national calamity. 
      • However, the committee did not suggest any fixed criterion.

    Implications of Declaration 

    • When a calamity is declared to be of “rare severity”/”severe nature”, support to the state government is provided at the national level.
    •  The Centre also considers additional assistance from the NDRF
    • A Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) is set up, with the corpus shared 3:1 between Centre and state. 
      • When resources in the CRF are inadequate, additional assistance is considered from the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF), funded 100% by the Centre. 
    • Relief in repayment of loans or for grant of fresh loans to the persons affected on concessional terms, too, are considered once a calamity is declared “severe”.
    State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)

    • It is constituted under Section 48 (1) (a) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
    • It is the primary fund available with State Governments for responses to notified disasters. 
    • The Central Government contributes 75% of SDRF allocation for general category States/UTs and 90% for special category States/UTs (NE States, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir). 
    • The annual Central contribution is released in two equal instalments as per the recommendation of the Finance Commission. SDRF shall be used only for meeting the expenditure for providing immediate relief to the victims.
    • Disaster (s) covered under SDRF: Cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost and cold waves.
    • Local Disaster: A State Government may use up to 10 per cent of the funds available under the SDRF for providing immediate relief to the victims of natural disasters that they consider to be ‘disasters’ within the local context in the State and which are not included in the notified list of disasters of the Ministry of Home Affairs subject to the condition that the State Government has listed the State-specific natural disasters and notified clear and transparent norms and guidelines for such disasters with the approval of the State Authority, i.e., the State Executive Authority (SEC).

    National Disaster Response Fund

    • The National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), constituted under Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, supplements the SDRF of a State, in case of a disaster of severe nature, provided adequate funds are not available in SDRF.

    Source: DTH