Context:

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) invoked the Disaster Management Act, after several states, including Delhi, cried foul over the shortage of medical oxygen.
  • Political leaders even accused neighboring states of blocking the supply of oxygen at a time when India is battling the second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Relevance:

GS-III: Disaster Management (Disaster Management, Government Policies & Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Disaster Management Act, 2005
  2. Where does Disaster Management stand in the Lists?
  3. Challenges
  4. What does the recent MHA order say?

Disaster Management Act, 2005

  • The Disaster Management Act, 2005, (23 December 2005) received the assent of The President of India on 9 January 2006.
  • The Act extends to the whole of India.
  • The Act provides for “the effective management of disasters and for matters connected there with or incidental thereto.”
  • The Act calls for the establishment of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
  • The Act enjoins the Central Government to Constitute a National Executive Committee (NEC).
  • All State Governments are mandated under the act to establish a State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA).
  • The Chairperson of District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) will be the Collector or District Magistrate or Deputy Commissioner of the district.
  • The Act provides for constituting a National Disaster Response Force “for the purpose of specialist response to a threatening disaster situation or disaster” under a Director General to be appointed by the Central Government.
  • Definition of a “disaster” in 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.
  • The objective of the Act is to manage disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building and more.
  • The Act 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.
  • The Act also devotes several sections various civil and criminal liabilities resulting from violation of provisions of the act.

So, what exactly does the Disaster Management Act do?

  • The Disaster Management Act allows the Centre to issue guidelines, directions or orders to the States for mitigating the effects of any disaster.
  • The definition of ‘disaster’ under the Act is quite broad and, literally speaking, would include a pandemic too.

Where does Disaster Management stand in the Lists?

  • Disaster management as a field of legislation does NOT find mention in either List II or List III, nor does any particular entry in List I specifically deal with this.
  • Thus, the Disaster Management Act could only have been enacted by Parliament in exercise of its residuary powers of legislation under Article 248 read with Entry 97 of List I.

Challenges

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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’.
  • 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.

What does the recent MHA order say?

  • In its order, the MHA said no restriction shall be imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between the states.
  • The MHA order also says no restrictions shall be imposed on oxygen manufacturers and suppliers to limit the oxygen supplies only to the hospitals of the state/UT in which they are located.
  • Free movement of vehicles carrying oxygen must be enabled in cities without any restriction of timing, while also enabling inter-city supply without any restrictions.
  • No authority shall attach the oxygen carrying vehicles passing through the district or areas for making supplies specific to any particular district(s) or area.
  • Supply of oxygen for industrial purposes, except those exempted by the Government, is prohibited with effect from April 22 until further orders.
  • Slates/UTs shall strictly abide by the supply plan of medical oxygen prepared by Empowered Group ll and as revised from time to time.

-Source: The Hindu

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