From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : National Calamity
Mains level : Disaster management
Under the existing Scheme of State Disaster Response Fund / National Response Fund of the Ministry of Home Affairs, there is no provision to declare any disaster including flood as a National Calamity.
How does the law define a disaster?
- A natural disaster includes earthquake, flood, landslide, cyclone, tsunami, urban flood, heatwave; a man-made disaster can be nuclear, biological and chemical.
- As per the Disaster Management Act, 2005, “disaster” means:
- A catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man-made causes, or
- It results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment, and
- Damage is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area.
How can any of these be classified as a national disaster?
- There is no provision, executive or legal, to declare a natural calamity as a national calamity.
- The existing guidelines of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)/ National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), do not contemplate declaring a disaster as a National Calamity.
Has there ever been an attempt to define a national calamity?
- In 2001, the National Committee under the chairmanship of the then PM was mandated to look into the parameters that should define a national calamity.
- However, the committee did not suggest any fixed criterion.
How, then, does the government classify disasters/calamities?
- The 10th Finance Commission (1995-2000) examined a proposal that a disaster be termed “a national calamity of rarest severity” if it affects one-third of the population of a state.
- The panel did not define a “calamity of rare severity” but stated that a calamity of rare severity would necessarily have to be adjudged on a case-to-case basis taking into account.
What happens if a calamity is so declared?
- When a calamity is declared to be of “rare severity/severe nature”, support to the state government is provided at the national level.
- The Centre also considers additional assistance from the NDRF.
- A Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) is set up, with the corpus shared 3:1 between Centre and state.
- When resources in the CRF are inadequate, additional assistance is considered from the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF), funded 100% by the Centre.
- Relief in repayment of loans or for grant of fresh loans to the persons affected on concessional terms, too, are considered once a calamity is declared “severe”.