Disaster management

Devastating floods of September last laid bare the chinks in the disaster management programme of the State administration. The issue of  providing relief to the flood affected people is on the priority list of the Governor. Though the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is in place, yet from the experience gained from previous floods, it had become necessary to review the existing SOP and modify it in a manner that flood sufferers receive aid quickly and without hassles. It has been observed that the administratie structure has to be involved in more practical and realistic manner than what has been the procedure till date. In particular, the Deputy Commissioners,  Divisional Commissioners and Commissioner Finance (Revenue) have to be at the centre of all relief work as well as decision making bodies in regard to what should be done to reduce the impact of disaster and natural calamity on the people of respective regions and sectors. In other words it may be called more decentralization of relief operations when some calamity happens. We have elaborate structure from Divisional Commissioner down to the Naib Tehsildar and Patwari on the one hand and on the other hand we have also the structure in engineering and agricultural areas. The idea is to make full use of these structures when assessment of losses of houses, crops, cattle etc. is to be made and relief is to be distribute among the beneficiaies.
Modified Standard Operating Procedure provides more powers to the DCs and Divisional Commissioners not only in terms of enhanced funds placed at their disposal for relief works and their empowerment for spending enhanced funds but also in monitoring the work of disbursement of relief by constituting various committees which include senior officers from other departments like PWD, R&B, Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Floods etc. The Committees are to meet according to stipuated schedule, and submit the report on the progress of relief work to higher authorities. Thus we find that the Government wants to employ two-pronged strategy for meeting the challenge posed by natural calamity and disasters. This is a welcome step and the revised SOP is more realistic in mitigating the suffering of the people who are affected by calamities. Of course, the revised SOP is flexible in the sense that each calamity or disaster has to be assessed on the basis of ground realities and it is not that all disasters have to be dealt with one measuring rod.
In the first place, disasters can be of various types and intensity. Floods, draught, fire, epedemics, landslides, earthquakes and sinking land etc. are some of the common calamities which have occured in different parts of the State in different times. In Kashmir for instance, fires in winter are common and in the same way in Jammu region, floods during monsoon rains are also very common. But other calamities like earthquakes or landslides are unpredictable. Therefore, various categories of disasters have to be treated according to their merit. This is precisely what the new SOP takes into account and rightly so. We strongly believe that the primary and most crucial agency that is charged with the duty of assessing, reporting and remedying the disaster is the Deputy Commissioner of the district concerned. He has to be the nodel point for all activity pertaining to the disaster. It is in the fitness of administrarive efficiency to re-charge the Deputy Commissioners with that duty and along with that also provide them with wherewithal to enable them to deliver the goods.Moreover, it is more convenient and hassle free for the affected people to refer their problems to the DC and seek redress from him instead of waiting at the doorsteps of ministers who are rarely available.
We appreciate the approach of the Governor in empowering the echelons of District and Divisional administration with adequate powers of dispensation and space because it is the right way of meeting the challenge. We know that our District administrative machinery comprises efficient and experienced officers and other functionaries who are certainly capable of delivering the goods once the Government reposes trust in them. They can easily mobilize the entire machinery and reduce the impact of the disaster.


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