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CIVIL DEFENCE VOLUNTEERS

Context:

From being lauded for their work during the pandemic to facing allegations of high-handedness, the role of the civil defence volunteers in the national capital has come under intense scrutiny in the recent past.

Due to their identical khaki uniform, it often becomes difficult for people to distinguish between police and civil defence personnel, leading to arguments.

Relevance:

GS-II: Indian Polity (Government Policies and Schemes, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of policies and schemes)

Mains Questions:

The role of the civil defence volunteers in the national capital has come under intense scrutiny during the pandemic. Why? (10 Marks)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Who are civil defence volunteers?
  2. What is the primary role of civil defence volunteers?
  3. How are civil defence volunteers recruited?
  4. The role of DCDs

Who are civil defence volunteers?

  • In Delhi, these are men and women who work under the command of the district magistrates.
  • The overall command lies with the divisional commissioner, to which the DMs report.
  • These volunteers are governed by the Civil Defence Act, 1968 which has undergone multiple amendments, with the latest being in 2010, when disaster management was added as one of their roles.
  • With the Centre invoking the Disaster Management Act in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, the role of these volunteers came under the spotlight.

What is the primary role of civil defence volunteers?

  • According to the Civil Defence Act, 1968, civil defence is defined as any measure “not amounting to actual combat, that protects persons, property and places in India from hostile attack”. The 2010 amendment expanded the definition by including disaster management as one of the responsibilities.
  • The basic role of the volunteers is to assist the local administration. During the pandemic, the volunteers assumed the role of frontline workers by way of participating in screening hotspots and distributing food for the needy.
  • Before the Covid outbreak, a large number of DCD personnel were deployed as marshals in public buses to ensure safety of women.

How are civil defence volunteers recruited?

  • Recruitment drives are carried out from time to time by the Delhi government. Anyone aged above 18 years with primary level educational qualification can apply.
  • The candidates found eligible are made to undergo a week-long basic training course. At later stages, specialised training is also imparted.
  • A person who intends to apply must also be a citizen of India or a “subject of Sikkim or Bhutan or Nepal”, according to the Act.

The role of DCDs

  • The role of DCDs overlap with that of home guards in some ways, however, in Delhi, Directorate of Civil Defence was carved out of the Directorate of Home Guards through a 2009 notification issued by the then Lieutenant Governor.
  • DCDs are not authorised to issue challans for violations of Covid-19 norms. DMs and SDMs are authorised to issue such challans, and in many cases they get the DCD personnel to prosecute people.

-Source: Indian Express

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