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Managing NDMA for better results

It is shocking that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), set up in 2006 with much fanfare to meet the challenge of natural and other hazards and calamities that strike India with regularity, appears to not to be in a position to meet disasters. An idea good on paper has unfortunately not been properly implemented properly at a cost to the nation. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in his latest report on the NDMA, has condemned this organisation as largely ineffective and incapable of action. The NDMA, set up as a high powered body, chaired by the prime minister himself, supposedly with ample funds and resources at its disposal as well as the legal authority to react in a proactive, holistic and integrated manner to disasters, appears to have been ignored and not taken seriously. The CAG has found serious lacunae and critical gaps in its preparedness that appear to make the disaster relief agency incapable of functioning properly. This lack of preparedness seems to run across the board and is not limited to one or two aspects of NDMA’s functioning.

It is inexplicable how even six years after the organisation was set up, it has failed to finalise a national disaster management plan, key to its disaster mitigation effort. Even more disastrously, it has not succeeded in completing most of the projects it has undertaken and which are vital to the disaster management effort. Besides, databanks and vulnerability mapping projects had not been executed leaving NDMA ill-equipped to meet disasters. Vital top level committees have not met, though disasters have occurred regularly, and the lack of coordination at several levels has made itself evident. The CAG has also found that the National Disaster Response Force on the ground lacks in training and resources.  Clearly the government of the day has much to answer for its negligence of the NDMA, which costs the taxpayer dear. India is particularly vulnerable to natural hazards such as earthquakes, floods, river erosion and droughts while its extensive coastline suffers from cyclones and tsunamis. Its large population is thus threatened regularly which makes it necessary for the existence of an efficient disaster relief agency. This is made all the more imperative as climate change will only worsen the cycle of natural disasters and as the possibility of manmade disasters such as chemical and nuclear calamities grows. The government must, therefore, take the NDMA in hand and ensure its efficiency and preparedness.
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