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Disaster Management Act, 2005 Invoked

  • 23 Apr 2021
  • 6 min read

Why in News

Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs invoked Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DM Act) and ordered free inter-state movement of oxygen carrying vehicles.

  • Earlier in March 2020 various government authorities invoked their respective powers under the DM Act to deal with the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak in the country.

Key Points

  • About:
    • The DM Act was passed by the government of India in 2005 for the ‘efficient management of disasters and other matters connected to it. However it came into force in January 2006.
  • Objective:
    • To manage disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building and more.
      • Definition of a “disaster” in Section 2 (d) of the DM Act states that a disaster means a “catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man made causes.
  • Major Features of The Act:
    • Nodal Agency:
      • The Act designates the Ministry of Home Affairs as the nodal ministry for steering the overall national disaster management.
    • Institutional Structure: It puts into place a systematic structure of institutions at the national, state and district levels.
      • National Level Important Entities:
        • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA):
          • It is tasked with laying down disaster management policies and ensuring timely and effective response mechanisms.
        • The National Executive Committee (NEC):
          • It is constituted under Section 8 of the DM Act to assist the National Disaster Management Authority in the performance of its functions.
          • The NEC is responsible for the preparation of the National Disaster Management Plan for the whole country and to ensure that it is “reviewed and updated annually.
        • The National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM):
          • It is an institute for training and capacity development programs for managing natural calamities.
        • National Disaster Response Force (NDRF):
          • It refers to trained professional units that are called upon for specialized response to disasters
      • State and District level:
        • The Act also provides for state and district level authorities responsible for, among other things, drawing plans for implementation of national plans and preparing local plans.
          • State Disaster Management Authority
          • District Disaster Management Authority.
    • Finance:
      • It contains the provisions for financial mechanisms such as the creation of funds for emergency response, National Disaster Response Fund and similar funds at the state and district levels.
    • Civil and Criminal Liabilities:
      • The Act also devotes several sections various civil and criminal liabilities resulting from violation of provisions of the act.
      • Under Section 51 of the Act, anyone refusing to comply with orders is liable for punishment with imprisonment up to one year, or fine, or both. In case this refusal leads to death of people, the person liable shall be punished with imprisonment up to two years.
  • Challenges:
    • Absence of Disaster Prone Zones:
      • One of the most glaring inadequacies in the Act is the absence of a provision for declaration of ‘disaster- prone zones’.
      • Almost all disaster related legislations in the world have mapped out disaster- prone zones within their respective jurisdictions.
      • The state cannot be expected to play a pro- active role unless an area is declared ‘disaster- prone’. Classification helps in determining the extent of damages as well.
    • Neglects Progressive Behavior of Disasters:
      • The Act portrays every disaster as a sudden occurrence and completely fails to take into account that disasters can be progressive in nature as well.
        • In 2006, over 3,500 people were affected by dengue, a disease with a history of outbreaks in India, yet no effective mechanism has been put in place to check such an ordeal.
        • Tuberculosis is known to kill thousands of people in the country each year but since its occurrence is not sudden or at once, it has not found a place in the Act.
    • Overlapping Functions:
      • The Act calls for establishment of multiple- national level bodies, the functions of which seem to be overlapping, making coordination between them cumbersome.
      • The local authorities, who have a very valuable role to play in the wake of any disaster as first responders, barely find a mention at all. There are no substantive provisions to guide them, merely a minor reference to taking ‘necessary measures’.
    • Procedural Delays and Inadequate Technology:
      • Added to that, delayed response, inappropriate implementation of the plans and policies, and procedural lags plague the disaster management scheme in India.
      • Inadequate technological capacity for accurate prediction and measurement of the disaster result in large scale damage.

Way Forward

  • Although the DM Act has undoubtedly filled a huge gap in the scheme of governmental actions towards dealing with disasters. Laying down elaborate plans on paper doesn’t serve the purpose unless they are translated into effective implementation.
  • Civil society, private enterprises and Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) can play a valuable role towards building a safer India.


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