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Himachal Pradesh Appeals for National Disaster Declaration Following Monsoon Devastation

Context:

Himachal Pradesh has urgently appealed to the Indian Prime Minister for the declaration of the extensive damage caused by heavy rains in the state as a National Disaster. The region has incurred losses amounting to Rs 10,000 crore, and there have been unfortunate casualties with around 418 people losing their lives in rain-related incidents during the Monsoon of 2023. In such grave calamities, the state seeks additional Central assistance from the National Disaster Response Fund.

Relevance:

GS III: Disaster Management

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Assisting States During Natural Disasters
  2. National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF)
  3. Severe Calamity
  4. Procedure for Disaster Relief in India

Assisting States During Natural Disasters:

No Defined “National Disasters” Category:

  • There is no specific, officially defined category of “National Disasters.”

Definition under Disaster Management Act 2005:

  • Natural disasters fall under the purview of the Disaster Management Act 2005.
  • The Act defines a “disaster” as a significant event arising from natural or man-made causes, accidents, or negligence.
  • It results in substantial loss of life, human suffering, property damage, or environmental degradation.
  • Such events must exceed the coping capacity of the affected community.

Role of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA):

  • The Act established the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), led by the Prime Minister.
  • The NDMA plays a central role in coordinating disaster response at the national level.

State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs):

  • The Act also mandates the creation of State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs), each headed by the respective Chief Minister.
  • SDMAs oversee disaster preparedness and response within their states.

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF):

  • The Act led to the formation of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
  • NDRF comprises multiple battalions or teams responsible for on-ground relief and rescue operations in various states.

National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF)

  • National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) is established under Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
  • Managed by the Central Government, it serves to provide financial resources for emergency response, relief, and rehabilitation in the wake of threatening disaster situations or disasters.
Funding and Management:
  • The NDRF is placed in the “Public Account” of the Government of India (GOI), categorized as “reserve funds not bearing interest.”
  • It is intended to supplement the funds available in State Disaster Response Funds (SDRF) when a severe disaster occurs, and the state’s resources are inadequate.
Eligibility Criteria:
  • NDRF provides financial assistance for natural calamities such as cyclones, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloud burst, pest attack, cold wave, and frost.
  • These calamities must be of severe nature as determined by the Government of India (GoI), requiring expenditures beyond what a state’s SDRF can cover.
Claiming Assistance:
  • States submit a memorandum detailing sector-wise damage and funding requirements to the Centre.
  • The Centre assesses the damage and decides whether to grant additional funds from NDRF.
  • NDRF funds are for immediate relief, not compensation for property or crop loss. They cover emergency response, relief, and rehabilitation efforts.
Decision Authority:
  • The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) takes decisions regarding the utilization of funds from the NDRF.
Sources of Financing:
  • NDRF is financed through a cess (levy) on specific items subject to excise and customs duty.
  • The cess amount is approved annually through the Finance Bill.
  • If NDRF resources are insufficient, additional funds are allocated from the general budgetary resources.
Significance:
  • NDRF plays a critical role in enabling prompt and effective response to disasters, ensuring that states have access to financial resources beyond their SDRF capacities.
  • It exemplifies the cooperative federalism approach where the Central Government supports states during times of severe crises.

Severe Calamity:

  • A severe calamity is a catastrophic event or disaster of significant magnitude and intensity.
  • It results in widespread damage, loss of life, and disruption of normal life.
  • When a calamity is declared to be of severe nature, it triggers a specific procedure for disaster relief and financial assistance.

Procedure for Disaster Relief in India:

Memorandum Submission:

  • The state government submits a memorandum detailing the extent of damage caused by the disaster and its financial requirements for relief operations.

On-Spot Assessment:

  • An inter-ministerial central team conducts an on-the-spot assessment of the damage and financial requirements for relief efforts.

Assessment Review:

  • Committees review the assessment reports, and a High-Level Committee must approve the amount of immediate relief to be released from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).

Support and Monitoring:

  • The Disaster Management Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs provides support and monitors the utilization of funds.

State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF):

  • SDRF is the primary fund available with State Governments for responses to notified disasters.

National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF):

  • If the resources in the SDRF are insufficient, additional assistance may be considered from the NDRF, which is fully funded by the Central Government.

Budgetary Allocations:

  • Funds for the NDRF and SDRFs are allocated by the government as part of budgetary allocations.

Relief Measures:

  • Relief measures may include providing relief in the repayment of loans or offering fresh loans to affected individuals on concessional terms.

Finance Commission Recommendations:

  • Funds for immediate relief are recommended by the Finance Commission, which adopts a methodology for state-wise allocations based on factors like past expenditure, risk exposure (area and population), and hazard and vulnerability of states.

Central Contributions:

  • Central contributions for disaster relief are released in two equal installments, contingent upon the submission of utilization certificates and reports on activities undertaken by state governments.

-Source: The Hindu


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