The Disaster Management Act, 2005
It defines a ‘disaster’ as a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area – arising from natural or man-made causes, or by accident or negligence – which results in substantial loss of life, human suffering, or damage to and destruction of property or the environment; and its nature or magnitude is beyond the coping capacity of the community in the affected area.
‘Disaster management’ is defined as a continuous and integrated process of planning, organising, coordinating and implementing measures necessary to prevent the danger or threat of a disaster; mitigating or reducing the risk of a disaster or its consequences; capacity-building; preparedness to deal with a disaster; prompt responses to a disaster; assessing the severity or magnitude of a disaster; evacuation, rescue or relief; and rehabilitation and reconstruction.
The Act includes the measures to be taken by the government for disaster management, the role of local authorities, and offences and penalties. It also mandates the establishment of a National Institute of Disaster Management.
What is the role of the NDMA?
It is the responsibility of the NDMA, the Act states, to lay down policies, plans and guidelines to ensure a timely and effective response to disasters.
Chaired by the prime minister of India, it shall formulate policies on disaster management; approve a National Plan; approve plans prepared by the ministries and departments of the government of India in accordance with the National Plan, and lay down guidelines for the same; coordinate the enforcement and implementation of the policy and plan for disaster management; recommend provision of funds for mitigation; provide support to countries affected by major disasters as may be determined by the central government; and outline broad policies for the functioning of the National Institute of Disaster Management.
What is a ‘National Plan’?
The central government shall – under this Act – constitute a National Executive Committee (NEC) to assist the NDMA in performing the functions listed by this Act. The NEC shall draw up a plan for disaster management for the whole of India, called the ‘National Plan’, in consultation with state governments and expert bodies or organisations.
The National Plan shall include measures for preventing and mitigating disasters and their effects, integrating mitigation measures in development plans, and preparedness and capacity building to respond to any threatening or dangerous disaster; and the roles and responsibilities of different ministries or departments of the government of India.
What are the minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by a disaster?
The minimum standards of relief include shelter, food, drinking water, medical cover and sanitation in relief camps; special provisions for widows and orphans; assistance on account of loss of life and damage to houses, and for restoration of means of livelihood; and such other relief as may be necessary.
In cases of disasters of severe magnitude, the NDMA may recommend the repayment of loans or granting fresh loans to persons affected by disasters.
There shall be no discrimination on grounds of gender, caste, community, descent, or religion while providing such compensation.
How are funds for disaster management to be allocated?
The central government may constitute a National Disaster Response Fund to meet expenses for any threatening disaster situation or disaster. The fund shall include an amount provided by the central government as well as grants by persons or institutions. The fund shall be made available to the NEC to meet the expenses for any emergency response, relief or rehabilitation.
State and district authorities shall constitute the State Disaster Response Fund and District Disaster Response Fund, respectively.
What does the Act say about the requisition of the resources of any authority or persons at the time of disaster?
If it appears to the NDMA or its equivalent state and district authorities, or any officer authorised by them, that any resources, premises of vehicles – belonging to a person or authority – are needed or likely to be needed for the purpose of disaster management, they may requisition such resources by an order in writing. The period of requisition shall not extend beyond the period for which the resource, premises or vehicle is required.
Here, ‘resource’ includes men and material resource; ‘premises’ means any land, building or part of building, including a hut, shed, or any other structure; ‘vehicle’ refers to any vehicle used or capable of being used for transport, propelled by mechanical power or otherwise.
What does this Act list as offences and penalties?
The Act states that whoever – without reasonable cause – obstructs an officer or employee of the central or state government, or a person authorised by them to discharge of their functions under this Act, or refuses to comply with a direction given by or on behalf of the central or state government under this Act, shall be punishable with imprisonment for up to one year, or a fine, or both. If such obstruction or refusal to comply results in the loss of lives or ‘imminent danger’, it shall be punishable with imprisonment of up to two years.
Whoever knowingly makes a claim which they have reason to believe to be false for obtaining relief, assistance, repair, reconstruction or other benefits consequent to disaster from any officer of the central or state government shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, and also with fine. Whoever makes or circulates a false alarm about a disaster or its magnitude, leading to panic, shall be punishable with imprisonment of up to one year or a fine.
Whoever, being entrusted with money or materials meant for providing relief in any threatening disaster situation or disaster, misappropriates such money or materials or wilfully compels any other person to do so, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term of up to two years, and a fine.
Where an offence under this Act is committed by any department of the government, the head of the department shall be considered guilty of the offence, unless they prove that the offence was committed without their knowledge or that they exercised all due diligence to prevent the offence.
An officer who refuses to perform or withdraws themselves from the duties of their office under this Act shall, be punishable with imprisonment for up to one year or a fine – unless they have obtained the express written permission of their official superior.
If a person contravenes an order regarding the requisition of their resources under this Act, they shall be punishable with imprisonment of up to one year or a fine, or both.
Focus and Factoids by Riya Behl.
Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India
Government of India, New Delhi
26 Dec, 2005