Cyclone Biparjoy made landfall in Gujarat’s coastal area recently. Thousands of people were rescued on time, and two people lost their lives. Only 47 people were injured during the cyclone, according to the report. Notably, this is the result of India’s high level of preparedness and years of hard work that the country has become a leading role model for the world in the area of disaster management. Several countries are facing multiple challenges of natural, anthropogenic and technological disasters. The struggle of many is for effective risk mitigation and proactive preparedness to primarily reduce disaster occurrence or size, prompt and effective response and relief, and the framework of post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation. Prime Minister’s own experience of the Bhuj earthquake relief and recovery programme and his understanding of the miseries that diverse disasters bring to people as he visited almost all the parts of the nation brings in his vision and guidance as Prime Minister’s 10 Point Agenda on Disaster Risk Management.
New story writing began with 2014, when the twin but diverse experience of recent past – Uttarakhand flash flood of 2013 and Cyclone Phailin of Odisha were in analysis in the government and outside, as well as globally. The review of Hyogo Framework achievements and shortfalls almost commonly made ‘addressing underlying causes of risk and vulnerability’ as least achieved of the priorities. This led to India’s own revamping process and focus on planning, localisation, adaptation centric, proactive and all-inclusive concerted approaches. The National Executive Committee on Disaster Management (NEC) with Ministry of Home Affairs, with National Institute of Disaster Management came up with the first even National Plan for Disaster Management in consultation with all key Ministries/Departments and State Governments in 2014 that was then contextualised and released by NDMA to befit the needs of Sendai Framework of Disaster Risk Reduction in 2016 under the guidance of Prime Minister as its Chair.
Major past disasters, like Bhopal disaster, Odisha super-cyclone, Chamoli earthquake and Bhuj earthquake were the key push for bringing the National Disaster Management Bill in 2002 that finally became National Disaster Management Act in 2005. Making of it used the analysis of past scenarios of dealing with disasters in 1990s or even earlier which was primarily ad-hoc and relief oriented. For long and in the past the approach was due to disasters as synonym to famines, fog, hails and later as riverine floods. Recognition of diverse arena of disasters in natural, environmental, developmental and technical domains and the need of greater coordination and resource mobilisation, besides specialised institutional mechanism, brought disaster management to shift from Ministry of Agriculture to Ministry of Home Affairs in 2003. This year also lead to creation of National Institute of Disaster Management, and followed by the tiered approach of institutions, viz. National Disaster Management Authority, and same at State, District and envisaged for local levels.
India hosted the first after the Sendai Framework (7th in serial) Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) in 2016, attended by more than 55 countries, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who put in his experience and vision in most simplest way “10 Point Agenda on Disaster Risk Management’. Following year in 2017 the 2nd National Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction (NPDRR-2) focused on mainstreaming into all the key sectors with disaster management curriculum across six key disciplines of academia, capacities at local levels, strengthening and spread of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), use of science-technology and social-media, and international response cooperation in disasters. The recent addresses including in the 3rd NPDRR and the Prime Minister’s Mann-ki-baat, the top leader’s commitment reflected towards making disaster risk reduction a mass movement and a concerted effort of cooperation between central, state and local agencies and key resource actors including civil society, private, academia and scientific bodies, benefits of which reflected well in successful dealing with recent disasters including zero death approach for cyclone Biporjoy in the state of Gujarat, and response to the unfortunate train accident at Balasore in Odisha. These have added to success story of reducing mortalities in heat wave disasters over the recent years too. Key strands of India’s high-flag in disaster management endeavours include the following:
All stages of Disaster Management cycle: A major shift is from ‘response & relief’ centric to more proactive holistic approach focused on mitigation of risk and prevention of disaster’ loss and damage (particularly life)’. For this, greater investment in science-technology and innovations, early warning capacities and communication up to last mile, improving development planning to include adaptation and sustainability yardsticks, and ‘built back better’ approach in recovery, have been envisaged. Bharat’s approach of ‘Sabka sath – Sabka vikas’ as ‘inclusive, green and sustainable’ has become a cross-cutting agenda in all disaster management projects and strategies during the recent years. For a ‘zero casualty’ approach, the role of early warning agencies were strengthened and made more responsible, for example, of India Meteorology Department, Central Water Commission, Geological Survey of India, Indian Centre for Ocean, Snow & Avalanche Study Establishment, etc. are now in greater cooperation and prudence. In the recent years, even the agencies in some of the states enabled exemplary framework for monitoring, predictions and early warning for climatic extreme disasters at sub-district and local levels. Risk mitigation approaches including blend of technology, environment, social and governance solutions were woven in the guidelines of Disaster Management Authorities at National and State levels, with thought process from national vision of disaster resilience with adaptation and sustainability.
Specialised knowledge and skills: Bharat’s greater emphasis to invest in knowledge and skill promotion including in disaster incident and related policy-planning analysis, professional advances, and skills promotion towards risk-vulnerability analysis, rapid situational coordination, impact – damage & loss assessment, recovery and mitigation planning, and integrating disaster management with adaptation and resilience all sectoral plans and actions, emerged as guiding elements for Disaster management authorities, Institutions (NDMA, NIDM) and professional/higher educational institutions. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) emerged as unique model globally, and tested at several times outside the country as well. In the recent years, NDRF’s skills were upgraded, capacity and geographical coverage expanded with 16 battalions. States were encouraged and supported to raise own specialised disaster response cadres – SDRF, and volunteer corps, etc. Government’s coordinated innovation to raise, train and equip ‘Apda Mitra (Friends in Disasters)’ in the recent years emerged an excellent model towards enabling local capacities in disaster management.
Financial capacity and innovations: Bharat, through its 15th Finance Commission, brought great transformation in financial capacities and provisions towards erstwhile National Disaster Response Fund and State Disaster Response Fund (NDRF, SDRF) to National and State Disaster Risk Management Fund, comprising of funds for risk reduction and capacity building interventions (NDRMF, SDRMF). This brought critical enabling of state governments to invest in proactive and preventive risk mitigation and preparedness, rather than previously only in emergency response.
International Cooperation: Support, collaboration and cooperation in disasters and emergencies in recent years has been capitalised by Bharat as “Vishva Bandhutva” and “Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam (One earth – One Family)” – as new diplomacy. There emerged all side initiatives of Bharat’s government, sectoral and independent entities, academia – research, and Bharat’s diaspora too. Bharat as first to help the neighbour – presence in Nepal in earthquake response, relief and recovery programme, is just one example. In recent past, the support of Bharat’s Disaster Response (NDRF) to Turkey and Syria, and sharing of forecast, early warning and advisory to Pakistan in the recent devastating cyclone Biparjoy, are among several examples. Bharat’s endeavour of promoting DRR cooperation at BIMSTEC (for countries sharing Bay of Bengal), ICIMOD (countries sharing Hindu Kush Himalaya), and several other fronts – multi-laternal, regional, bilateral and global fronts, made strategic impacts in recent times. Bharat has also emerged as major academic partner in extending capacity building and professional development programmes to the officials and delegations from countries and organisations in cooperation, including across continents.
Organisational and localisation strengths: Bharat’s focus of ‘zero casualty’ in disasters utilised the approach of vertical and horizontal coordination effectiveness in quickest time and ways. Cooperation and coordination between central and state agencies including the district/local ones, as well as horizontal coordination of Government agencies, civil society, private players, community volunteers and knowledge providers, is positive manner, has resulted in excellent results. Cyclone Biparjoy in Gujarat reinforced this confidence and performance that generated from past incidences including cyclone Phailin, Fani, recent Train Tragedy and others.
Improvement in Planning and Integration: Prime Minister’s 10 point agenda on Disaster Risk Management also called for all sectors to imbibe the principles of DRR which also integrated to adaptation and means to achieve SDGs. On the call, not only the Ministries/Departments of the states but several Central Ministries (e.g Agriculture and Formers Welfare, Ministry of AYUSH, Ministry of Environment Forests & Climate change, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers, Food & Public Distribution, etc.) have come with comprehensive National Disaster Management Plan of their sectors which also outlines inter-sectoral and with states and districts coordination. The revision and customisation of National Drought Management Manual in 2020 brings in prudent, scientific and practical operationalisation of drought risk proofing and in time declaration, enabling effective relief to farmers and future resilience. Planning for DRR at Municipal and Panchayat levels, under emphasis, would go a long way in integrating adaptation and resilience in developmental and structural investments.
The preceding sections bring some account of recent breakthrough Bharat stroked inside and outside the country towards making DRR a key priority of government, businesses and people at large, globally. Results are visible as quotable examples to serve as role models too.
By its recent strides and accomplishments in dealing with diverse types of disasters, India has set global examples, and its cooperation strategy is on the road to expansion in terms of education, research, know-how and strategic support and in brining transformation in not only in disaster response and recovery but in adaptation, resilience and reducing the risk of disaster’ losses and damages’ in and outside the boundaries. Though the time is to praise but equal or higher goals ahead are to multiply the excellence for the safety and wellbeing of all, on the lines of Bharat’s “Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam’ matra.
From Disaster-Relief to Disaster-Resilience
- The Modi government has adopted a holistic and integrated approach to strengthen the disaster management system in the country
- In this regard, the Home Ministry announced 3 major schemes worth more than Rs 8,000 crore for disaster management
- The plans include a Rs 5,000-crore project to expand and modernise fire services in all states
- Rs 2,500 crore project to reduce the risk of urban flooding in the seven most populous metros
- Rs 825 crore National Landslide Risk Mitigation Project in 17 states and UTs
- Earlier IMD used to forecast rainfall and consequential floods three days in advance, now it is issued 5 days in advance
- Provision has been made to implement an SMS-based Common Alerting Protocol at a cost of Rs 354 crore
- Steps like Disaster Management Information System Portal and 112 Emergency Response Support System have also been implemented
- PM Modi also started the tradition of giving Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar to individuals and organisations
- PM Modi launched the International Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) during the UN Climate Action Summit
- Global Initiative on ‘Infrastructure for Resilient Island States’ was also launched at COP26 by PM Modi to further the cause of disaster resilience in small Island countries