In the aftermath of Uttarakhand’s worst disaster, the Centre is mulling changes in the Disaster Management Act and effect changes in the structuring and functioning of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) that makes guidelines and policies but has no mechanism to see their effective implementation by the stakeholders.
The recommendations suggested in the report of task force headed by former NDMA secretary PK Mishra are expected to make mitigation and pre and post disaster response more effective in times of exigencies like the Uttarakhand disaster. In its report, the task force have suggested slimming down the top heavy NDMA and integrate it effectively with other ministries, sources said. The report is currently being vetted by the Union home secretary RK Singh.
The NDMA has often been criticised for becoming a parking lot for bureaucrats and being of little use in times of response to natural or manmade disasters. Headed by the prime minister in the capacity of chairman, the NDMA has one vice-chairman who enjoys the rank of a cabinet minister and eight members, mostly former bureaucrats and defence personnel, who are given perks and salary in the rank of minister of state. Besides, it has a secretary, four joint secretaries and over 130 employees.
Many bureaucrats consider NDMA has served its utility after making most of the guidelines and policies on mitigation and all kinds of disasters and is not needed anymore in its present form.
The task force’s report also talks about answerability and accountability and calls for giving authority with accountability to NDMA and other stakeholders.
“For example NDMA has made policy on building bylaws for earthquake-prone zones and it is for the housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry to monitor their implementation. However, when questioned in case of disaster, they cite 74th amendment which under Article 243 has accorded these powers to municipalities,” said a senior official.