Weeks ago, nearly 1,000 passengers on board Mahalaxmi Express were stuck on waterlogged tracks at Thane. The scene of the train standing amidst flood had shaken the national psyche. After 15 hours of rescue operations, every passenger in that train was saved.
Floods in Assam and Bihar during the monsoon is reality faced almost on a yearly basis. Every time, thousands of lives are saved thanks to a dedicated force. In this monsoon season, they have rescued more than 11,000 people.
Situations may vary from floods to building collapse or tunnel mishaps, but one constant is you can see these people in action. They form India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
A Little Background
In 2006, NDRF was formed with 8 battalions. At present, NDRF has a strength of 12 Battalions with each Battalion consisting of 1,149 personnel drawn from BSF, CRPF, CISF, ITBP, SSB.
Ever since the NDRF was formed it has demonstrated its rescue credentials in many instances. Some of them are:
In September 2014, when Jammu and Kashmir faced floods, NDRF had rescued more than 50,000 people and distributed nearly 80 tons of relief material. It was first to reach the ground when our neighbour, Nepal, faced earthquake situation on August 2015. In December 2015, it evacuated more than 14,000 flood-affected people of Chennai to safer zones.
Effective Disaster Management- Government’s Role
No doubt that the credit for dealing with the various calamities of recent times primarily goes to NDRF along with the other forces involved in the first response such as navy, army etc. But for effective disaster management, it also takes a responsive government to put the supporting apparatus in place. The present government seems to be interested in taking the journey of NDRF and disaster response mechanism towards larger coverage with more sophistication.
In its previous tenure, it had added more battalions to NDRF. Recently, the Home Minister had asked the NDRF to work on some specifics so that India can become best among the countries in managing disasters. This include:
- Building of a countrywide database of disaster-combat equipment and systems lying with the government, public sector undertakings and the private sector so that the information comes in handy when disaster strikes.
- A chain of command between various agencies, stakeholders and department should be decided and formed when dealing with a disaster.
- Collaborate with the DRDO and develop indigenous equipment to combat disaster not only for Indian agencies but also for neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka
Funds for Disaster Management
Apart from strengthening NDRF, the government has brought in changes in the funding structure as well by increasing its contribution to State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) from 75% to 90% since April 2018. The additional contribution by Central Government in SDRF on this account will be Rs. 1,690.35 crore for the year 2018-19 and Rs. 1,774.67 crore for the financial year 2019-20.
Based on the recommendations of 14th Finance Commission, the Government has significantly enhanced the allocation to SDRF.
- 2010-11 to 2014-15: Rs. 33,580.93 crore to SDRF
- 2015-16 to 2019-20: Rs. 61,220 crore
- An increase of 82.30%
Additional financial assistance to SDRF
- 2010-2014: Rs 14,098 crore
- 2014-2018: Rs 32,142 crore
In this season, when we often witness calamities such as floods and landslides in different parts of the country, we should also be aware of the exemplary service of NDRF and the efforts of the administration in making India more capable of dealing with the disasters.